Six months after the August earthquake ripped apart 50 acres of prime agricultural lands in Los Iros, farmers say they have received no assistance from the Government.
During a protest at Royal Engineer (RE) Road, Erin, farmers showed off fields of parched crops.
President of the Los Iros Hillview Farmers Association Reshianand Ramraj said the fields of produce withered because most of the major ponds in the area had dried up. More than 20 irrigation ponds were damaged by the 6.9 magnitude earthquake.
Ramraj said days after the quake, Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat toured the area and promised to help by repairing the ponds and offering compensation for losses.
“The agricultural officers came and took reports of everything. It was submitted to the Ministry but to date, we have received not one cent to get back into production,” Ramraj said.
He noted that a few farmers garnered their savings and replanted but everything was lost.
“Without the ponds for irrigation, everything died. It made no sense planting,” Ramraj said.
He noted that more than 20 farmers were still waiting for help so that they could replant their fields. Standing next to a crop of dried pepper plants, Ramraj said, “This is unfair. We have a lease for this land and we pay taxes. We need help to at least get the ponds repaired. If they can send an excavator here and dig back the ponds we will be able to plant once again.”
Another farmer Sunil Balsingh said he spent $40,000 to replant a field of pepper.
“Last year, the minister came and said we will be compensated. They bring a backhoe from the corporation to fix a side road off RE Road and it stayed there for two months doing little work. The backhoe was not the right tool. We needed an excavator to fix back all the ponds that were damaged,” Balsingh said.
Saying he had planted over 15 acres of melongene, sweet pepper and hot peppers, Balsingh said his losses were over $60,000 last year and $40,000 this year.
Another farmer Dhanraj Sagar said he spent $27,000 to replant this year and like the other farmers, he also lost everything.
The farmers are calling on the Ministry of Agriculture to prepare the lands, dig the ponds and provide them with some financial incentive to resume planting. If not, the farmers said the fertile lands at Los Iros will remain abandoned.
Rambharat could not be reached for comment and messages sent to him via Whatsapp went unanswered.
Minister in the Ministry of Agriculture Avinash Singh also did not answer his cellular phone.
The August 21 earthquake caused landslides which severely damaged agricultural lands off RE Road.
- by Radhica De Silva. Photo by Ivan Toolsie.