The drought has begun battering Guyana’s agriculture sector, forcing authorities to begin pumping water into the drying up conservancies.
Briefing a high-level multi-sectoral meeting on the El Nino situation, Agriculture Minister Noel Holder said efforts would be made to pump water to support agricultural areas but also explore ways in which water can be retained in a controlled manner for use during the long dry season.
“Steps will have to be taken to pump water into the conservancies through other sources by the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority. While this has already commenced with the assistance of the MMA, we are now looking at pumping water from the Torani canal to assist GuySuCo though its 2017 first crop production will be affected if the situation continues,” he was quoted as saying in a statement.
Holder in delivering opening remarks gave an update on the ongoing national response by Government to tackle the effects of the current El Nino situation. As it stands, water supply levels are low and many farmers are affected. The weather pattern which has been persistent is anticipated to continue throughout the first quarter of 2016.
“This prolonged dry weather has impacted on our water resources and has been most seriously felt in the farming areas along the coast and within our hinterland communities” he said.
The National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) in conjunction with the Mahaica-Mahaicony-Abary Agricultural-Development Authority (MMA-ADA) are aware of the situation and are working vigorously to assist farmers with their drainage and irrigation needs.
Rice farmers are the ones heavily hit as their production was not only affected by the drought like condition but also by the intrusion of salt water.
General Manger of the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) , Nizam Hassan has disclosed that of the 177,734 acres sown thus far, 39,601 acres have been affected by the El Nino situation while an additional 27,800 acres have been affected by salt water intrusion.
The Ministries of Public Health and Communities, the Civil Defense Commission and the Guyana Water Incorporated are also actively involved and are looking at alternative ways in which water can be conserved.
Minister within the Ministry of Public Health, Dr. Karen Cummings while echoing similar sentiments of the Agriculture Minister, spoke of the need for safeguarding water supply especially in hinterland communities.
Recognizing the imminent threat of El Nino, the Government of Guyana has since established a national task force to deal with irrigation issues across the country.
Dr. Cummings added that recently there has been a gastro outbreak detected in Baramita, however, the situation is under control. A team of officials are still deployed to the area, to educate the residents about the illness and to look at measures they can take to avoid it.
Representative of the national task force and Director General of the Civil Defense Commission, Col Chabilall Ramsarup has disclosed that if the situation continues until the end of March, Government will be looking at providing aid to those affected.
The meeting which was held in the Boardroom of the Ministry of Agriculture also saw in attendance Minister of Communities, Hon. Ronald Bulkan, Permanent Secretary and Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Public Health, Mr. George Jervis and Ms. Collette Adams, Chief Executive Officer of the Guyana Water Inc. Mr. Van West-Charles, senior representatives of the Minister of Agriculture and Regional Executive Offices.