Agriculture Minister confirms Cabinet approval of long-awaited leases for farmers across the country
“Most of the farmers in the Nariva / Mayaro district are farmers with absolutely no paperwork for the lands they currently occupy and it is for that reason that particular focus has been placed on them and other farmers around the country.”
Such was the assurance of the Minister of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries, Senator the Honourable Clarence Rambharat as he distributed letters conveying Cabinet approval to some twenty (20) farmers, entitling these farmers to receive standard agricultural leases for an initial period of thirty (30) years. The distribution ceremony – the second in three days – took place on Monday 10th September, 2018 at the Rio Claro Demonstration Station of the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries (MALF) in Ecclesville. Attending the event was the County Agricultural Officer (MALF) for Nariva/Mayaro, Ms. Florencia Beckles-Gangaram.
Apart from productive farmers on State Land without valid leases, the Minister identified with two (2) other categories of persons to whom consideration will be given in the allocation of agricultural leases. These were farmers who already had plots which were fully cultivated and wished to expand production on additional land, and those persons who clearly demonstrate the capacity to farm but did not currently have a lease nor access to agricultural land.
In treating with the decades-long delays in the agricultural land allocation and lease distribution, Minister Rambharat attributed this to the failure to introduce and use technology; poor leadership and administration; inadequate planning; delays with Ministerial and other political turnover and inadequate staffing during some periods. In being able to formally allocate plots and issue leases, Minister Rambharat looked forward to also allocating lands which are found to be vacant or underutilized. “In this process, I believe that some plots will be found vacant or made vacant as those persons who have not been maintaining cultivation up to its required levels, will have their names removed and replaced with people who are serious about agriculture,” the Minister said.
Minister Rambharat addressed too, the issue of land fraud as he alluded to corrupt persons who, by virtue of their tenured occupation or acquisition of a lease, would have felt empowered to sell these agricultural parcels owned by the State and in some cases, several times over. Such was an illegality and false sense of entitlement, the likes of which the Minister vowed to protect the assets of the State. He said he knew his hometown Rio Claro well enough to monitor and seek an intervention where any questionable State land uses and transactions occur.
According to Minister Rambharat, the letters conveying Cabinet approval of leases serve as a precursor to the engagement of the Office of the Commissioner of State Lands following which, the standard agricultural leases will go for preparation at the Chief State Solicitors Office. He said to the recipients: “Today, I trust that written confirmation from me of the Cabinet’s approval, is enough for you to get a good night’s rest and for you to plan for the productive use of this land for the next thirty (30) years.”