Col. Seedy Baldeh, the manager of the former president's rice fields in Pacharr, has informed the Minister of Agriculture that 1,350 hectares of rice fields in the area were uncultivated during the 2017 cropping season due to the floods.
Col. Baldeh made this revelation to the Agriculture Minister during day four of his six day nationwide tour at the Pacharr rice fields.
According to Col. Baldeh, 1,200 hectares of the 1,350 uncultivated hectares, belong to individual farmers who own plots while the 150 uncultivated hectares belong to the former president Yaya Jammeh.
"The communities in the area have their individual plots in the perimeter. That was the case in the first Republic until your boss took it from the people," said OJ
On his part, PS Sait Drammeh said "there should be a mechanism in which we could give it back to the community."
Col. Baldeh told the Minister that in order to address the problem at the Pacharr fields with due diligence and care with a view to giving back what belongs to the community; the tractors should be repaired for land preparation else the dry season production will fail.
The Minister of Agriculture said Government will develop policies and programmes for the final handing over of the rice fields to the communities who own them. He added, "We cannot leave the people to starve in the name of Commissions when we can develop strategy to ensure that production take place and the people benefit while we move on in development policy and programme for the final handing over of the fields to the community who own them". He added that they will not leave people to starve, noting the Government will develop strategies to ensure that production benefits the people.
Minister Jallow remarked, "The elders who are in the area would recall that there was lane in this rice field perimeter called Almamy Lane and when the World Bank came, Sir Dawda processed the ownership transfer of the lane and asked his family members to sign the document making it community own". "How on earth can somebody come and claim ownership of rice fields that belong to the community" OJ asked.
OJ told his PS to constitute a task force and invite Col. Baldeh for a discussion with the view of developing strategy to hand over the rice fields to the community.
Readers would recall that at the time of completion of the Pancharr Rice Project in 1988, the project had generally achieved its first objective to "increase self-sufficiency in rice, through the rehabilitation of 1,510 hectares of the Jahally Pancharr swamps, with an annual production of 7,396 tons of paddy rice. Following the completion of the project works, the average of the first three years of paddy rice production was 7,073 tons per annum and yields of over 6 tons per hectare was achieved.