|– Farmers want effective management and distribution of water President Bharrat Jagdeo says Guyanese must prepare to make “sacrifices” as the government struggles to irrigate rice and sugar lands to save the agriculture sector from the prolonged dry spell that could end up in losses of over $3.5 billion.Agriculture, hailed as the backbone of the economy, is taking a beating from drought-like conditions, causing the authorities to make hard choices in deciding where to deploy pumps and what farmlands to water, whether rice, sugar, other crops of pasture grounds.Farmers want an effective system put in place to manage the distribution of water.The President spoke with farmers from across the country at Red House in Georgetown yesterday, assuring farmers that resources will not be spared in crafting a strategy to manage and distribute water. However, farmers are getting impatient.“It’s just lip service,” lamented one Region Three farmer at a meeting called between stakeholders in the agriculture sector.Jagdeo delivered brief remarks at the meeting and stopped short of taking specific complaints, saying he would only answer questions about policy. He called for the cooperation of all farmers as the various government agencies look to ration the management and distribution of water.The President said too that emphasis will be placed on providing drinking water to those who have run out.The Hydromet Office predicts that the dry season could go well into April and the President was careful about offering any promises of rain anytime soon.“We don’t have a clue when the rain will come,” Jagdeo declared. The farmers who were called to the meeting showed little interest after speeches were made by the President and Minister of Agriculture Robert Persaud, both of whom had to leave for a Cabinet meeting.However, apart from agriculture lands, there is a grave threat posed to the livestock industry, with sprawling grounds scattered across the coast also devoid of water.The hinterland is also an area of focus. The government has allocated $49M for support to hinterland communities since there is much concern with regard to the availability of water and food in remote locations.Also, at the end of last year, $18 million was approved to purchase additional fuel for the operation of pumps in all regions. Other additional interventions costing in excess of $200 million were undertaken by the Ministry of Agriculture through the reallocation of resources and deployment of drainage support equipment.Further, the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) has redeployed 14 mobile pumps and 12 excavators to open new areas to access irrigation water.While conventional supplies of irrigation water from the conservancies are reducing, the NDIA is replenishing their levels by pumping.The spring rice crop of 2010 is currently in the growing phase and is experiencing difficulties due to the present dry conditions. At the end of January, 58,762 hectares were sowed and this represents 76.93 percent of the target for this crop.Regarding livestock, supplemental feed distribution is being conducted throughout the coastal regions. The Ministry of Agriculture is targeting affected areas with specific focus on groups and not individual farmers.In an effort to save some natural and established pastures and to have water accessible for the animals to drink, laying of some 6″ tubes and pumping of water was conducted.Excavation works are being undertaken to construct ponds for cattle at Leguan. Regarding sugar, Canje Creek which supplies the East Berbice estates is at a very low stage and saline intrusion is serious.The fear is that water would not be available to support the quantity of replanting programmed, unless substantial rainfall occurs. Water supply for Factory,Camiseta Real Madrid Tienda, Navigation and Irrigation would be a great challenge to the Sugar Industry for the first crop of 2010. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, all eight Estates are fully aware of the critical state of the water situation and are in varying states of preparedness. Additionally mobile pumps, ten (10) in total, are required on all Estates and permission would be required from Conservancy Boards to pump directly from the respective conservancies.The continued dry spell may affect development of the first crop relative to abandoning/replanting and impact on 2011 production; and jeopardize production in the second half of 2010 should this pattern continue into May 2010.Regional interventionsIn Region Two, irrigation services are provided by the operation of the Dawa pumps, the Capoey Lake, Lake Mainstay and the Golden Fleece Conservancy for approximately 32,000 hectares of lands. The NDIA supplemented the cost of operating the Dawa pumps providing31,104,000 gallons of water in an 18-hour shift, with additional funding of $4M are provided by the Water Users Association (WUA) to the Region as support for the operation of the Dawapumps.According to the NDIA, works are completed on the installation of four irrigation tubes and cutting of a new canal at Lima Sands to extract water from the swamp to provide water to some 20,000 acres of rice lands via the main canal.In Region Three, to cater for the needs of the Wales and Uitvlugt sugar estates, the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) has implemented a re-circulation method by the use of pumps to ensure adequate irrigation water. The NDIA also installed two irrigation pumps at Warima 5-door sluice to pump water from the Bonasika River into the Boerasirie Water Conservancy.In Region Four, daily monitoring and checks of the East Demerara Conservancy (EDWC) is being carried out. Also water is being taken in by gravity through the Lama and Maduni creeks at Spring tides only. The NDIA has installed irrigator pump at Cove and John and Cane Grove to re- circulate water.Excavation work was done in Mocha to provide irrigation water to 600 acres of farmlands. Water is currently being pumped from the EDWC to the Enmore and LBI estate, and to Lama Canal to provide water for the city.In Region Five, there was cause to provide drinking water to residents of Abary. In addition, sevices are provided by mechanical pumping at Mora Point and the river intake sluice at Hyde Park for approximately 21,000 acres of rice lands and approximately 45,000 acres of cattle grazing lands.In Region Six, among the interventions is the construction of a three-mile irrigation canal from GuySuCo Link Canal to Crabwood Creek.Near average to below average rainfall is likely to persist over most of Guyana throughout this month, while drier conditions will continue in the southernmost part of Guyana.