Devastated by August earthquake, Los Iros farmers still waiting for help

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.