THE David Granger Administration is being hailed for its decision to make agricultural lands available to ex-sugar workers, who, to date, are reaping the benefits.
Through the National Industrial and Commercial Investment Limited (NICIL), farming lands in Wales, Region Three, are being leased to former sugar workers, small businesses and investors, with the former given high priority.
According to the Site Supervisor of the former Wales Estate, Haribhajan Persaud, there is a “mad rush” for lands with strong interest being shown by the ex-sugar workers, prominent large-scale businessmen and foreign investors. It was noted that unlike other closed factories, Wales took a different approach owing to the fact that it no longer has a factory.
According to a statement issued by NICIL on Wednesday, lands are being leased for agricultural purposes with ex-sugar workers and small-scale farmers reaping the benefits. “Several of the former sugar workers who have secured lands here are into cash crops where they plant mainly passion fruits and citrus, while some are doing cattle rearing as they seek to continue creating employment for themselves,” Persaud said.
Cash crops are being planted on arable lands, which are fertile, while those into cattle rearing are doing this on marginal lands.
Among some of the ex-sugar workers who have secured lands for agricultural purposes are Jaipaul Thakur, Owen Phillips, Mohamed Rasheed, and Lindon Phoenix, all of whom engage in cattle rearing. Former sugar workers like Harry Ketwaroo and Dhanpaul Samaroo are farming cash Mohamed Rasheed said when the estate closed, he thought it best to engage in rearing to garner an income for himself and family, and, as such, he applied for marginal lands. “I opted to get into cattle rearing, as I found that it is what has the money that I can secure to take care of myself and family. After finding out that the lands were available, I decided to make the best use of it by getting into cattle rearing. I am deeply thankful for the land as it has afforded me an opportunity to continue earning,” he said.
The Estate Supervisor explained that while farming is being done, distribution of lands has not been completed due to the fact that applications are still being processed. Currently, the demands outweigh the available lands.crops.
These ex-sugar workers had all worked with the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) for in excess of 15 years. Samaroo, an ex-sugar worker, in applauding government’s move to make lands available, said he is financially empowered to live comfortably despite no longer being employed by GuySuCo.
Another farmer, Harry Ketwaroo, said having worked with GuySuCo for most of his life, he was excited to have secured a plot of land to plant mixed crops. “When many thought that it was the end for us because we all lost our jobs, I recognised that I can get into mixed-crops production and after the lands became available, I took full opportunity of it and, today, I am doing so well with my farming and earning enough to take care of myself and family,” Ketwaroo said.
t was disclosed that of the 7,943 acres of land that the estate owns, NICIL set aside 1,000 acres for its own cultivation of rice. Persaud explained that originally, it was NICIL’s idea to focus on seed paddy in an effort to assist the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB); however, it has ventured into rice production. Since 2017, it has cultivated five crops.
In January, President David Granger announced that a State Land Resettlement Commission will be established, should the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) coalition be re-elected to office. Such a commission, he explained, will address the needs of former sugar workers, who were displaced as a result of government’s decision to “right size” the sugar industry in its quest to make it viable.
The establishment of the State Land Resettlement Commission, he said, will provide another avenue for income generation for those affected. “We are going to establish a State Land Resettlement Commission so that people who have been put out of work because they had been in the sugar plantations will be given access to land so that they can start all over again,” he further assured.
Source: The Guyana Chronicle.