Guyana Agriculture Minister, Zulfikar Mustapha, has been praised for his Ministry’s handling of flood relief efforts, in particular doling out grants to affected farmers, homeowners, and victims at large over the last week. The public applaud the President and government for the immediate recovery and relief effort. The Ministry of Agriculture, in particular, is praised for its encouragement, support, and restoration of re-planting crops and re-stocking of animals.
The recent May/June flood left (and still leaves) much of the country helpless, impacting infrastructure, property, agriculture, livestock, and human lives. The government and the public at large have reached out to victims with urgency. Also, many people and some businesses responded generously (small businesses and middle class were far more generous than larger businesses and the upper class) helping victims.
The President, government, some Ministries (in particular Agriculture, Social Security, Local Government, Infrastructure, Housing, Information) was very quick with response with food hampers, relief materials, temporary shelter, and medical or health trauma-related aid and information. Community volunteers and NGOs were at the forefront in helping people and delivering relief materials. People have come forward wholeheartedly to help the people affected by the ravaging flood. Volunteers gave countless hours of service to help those in distress. Transportation was difficult to reach victims to rescue them. Volunteers had to make their way to flooded areas with all kinds of boats and vehicles in very difficult circumstances, packing materials spanning over weeks wading through deep waters to reach victims especially in interior areas cut off by flood waters. The contributions of volunteers must be recognized and rewarded if not with cash grants, certainly with a certificate (award) of appreciation. Donors must also be recognized for their generosity as well as all those from the Ministry and the tractor pump owners who played a meaningful role in draining flood waters. Some staff from the Ministry, not to mention the Minister himself, the Director General, the Chair of NDIA, etc., worked long hours daily, late in the evening, behind the scenes to mitigate flood effects. The Minister, the DG, Chair were praised for their hark work and for being on the ground night and day since the flooding began to offer relief to distressed farmers, initiating steps to re-start planting and livestock rearing.
The public would probably never know of the heroic role of several of them but they worked extremely hard.
I visited vast areas affected by floods, observing and hearing first hand of the financial losses and challenges victims faced. In a survey I conducted in July, victims requested and pleaded for relief grants. The public overwhelmingly supported such relief in my NACTA survey. As government rolled out flood relief grants in Berbice with four Ministers, Zulfi Mustapha, Nigel Dharamlall, Ashni Singh, and Anil Nandlall leading the effort about a week ago, I got a first-hand experience of the public response and reaction to the grants received at several centers, interviewing many recipients. The grant was meant to help farmers and other victims to start over and they express their appreciation for the assistance although some expressed frustration.
There was mixed feeling over receipt of flood relief grants as opposed to the “We Care” educational grants which was unanimously approved. Overall, victims are grateful for the flood relief grant, and the public, in the latest August survey, remains very supportive of giving financial relief to victims. They pointed out that the previous government did not give out relief to victims of flood. Some who felt deserving were disappointed with the amount or not seeing their names on list of beneficiaries. Some were very pleased with the amount. And some felt that neighbors or friends or relatives were not as deserving as them for flood relief. Some point to fraud with people receiving money for not suffering (significant) losses. I heard Ministers say that it was an initial list and phase of relief for victims and that other lists with grant checks would be forthcoming. Overall, the victims of flood losses feel that the financial grant provided by the government was timely and will help them “get back to their feet” to re-plant and or re-stock animals”.
The view of one respondent captures the mood of relief respondents: “Under the previous government, we got no assistance when we were flooded out and lost animals and cash crops”.