By Theresa Goodwin
A livestock farmer of more than 15 years says he is suffering huge losses in revenue as he tries to mitigate against the impact of an ongoing Chinese project in the North Sound area which he claims is threatening his livelihood.
Elton Ryan says he has already lost more than 50 sheep which strayed from his fenced 68-acre farm where they were grazing after someone allegedly cut an opening in the fence to gain entry. Days later he found the remains of his animals on a nearby farm.
Ryan told Observer yesterday that the November 2019 incident was just the beginning of his troubles with the Chinese firm, China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC), which is spearheading the major project.
It is unclear what exactly is being built at the site, which lies adjacent to Ryan’s farm, and efforts to find out were unsuccessful up to press time.
“The animals normally graze for a period of time and by 4pm or so they would come back down for bag feed. I realised when the time between 25 and 26 came down and even after I started calling none of them came.
“After a while I decided to go up to see what is happening. On my way up I saw a front-end grader coming down the path but I did not take it as nothing because they were clearing lands. When I went to the far eastern side of my fence, it was gone and it was covered in bushes so I could not see at first sight,” Ryan said.
He said following the discovery he visited the construction site and tried to engage in a conversation with Chinese workers there at the time. But he claimed that before he could get a word in, they ran off indicating that they did not speak English.
Ryan said he later filed a report at the Parham Police Station and this intervention led to a meeting with a representative of the Chinese company who reportedly acknowledged having removed a section of the fence.
The livestock farmer said, in the presence of officers, the representative agreed the company would take responsibility for repairing the fence but has so far failed to do so. Ryan later had to pay for the repairs himself.
In addition to the fence, Ryan also spoke to another issue which he says was putting his 45 goats at risk, forcing him to move them to his home for safety.
At the entrance of the construction site is a cement plant which provides material for the project. The farmer said dust from the plant is polluting fruit trees and other vegetation that his goats graze on.
The dust, he said, blankets the trees making them unhealthy for the animals to consume.
Ryan said he has made several complaints to the Department of Environment, Ministry of Agriculture and Development Control Authority but to no avail.
When Observer visited the farm on Thursday, Ryan pointed out a number of fruit trees and shrubs which he said would now have to be chopped down.
Exacerbating his financial problems is that he must now buy twice the amount of bag feed for his livestock.
“All the vegetation in my farm is now white; it is like snow on the mountain from the cement dust, and nobody cares,” the distraught farmer said.
He added, “If the government say they are serious about food safety and security, how can they sit back and see the degradation and say nothing? Isn’t my farm a part of food security?”
Ryan is also concerned that he no longer has vehicular access to one section of the farm. He claims the group has continued to wash down heavy-duty equipment at the entrance of the road which separates the farm from the project.
The water from the heavy-duty equipment and the constant driving on the pathway has made the road impassable without the use of an off-road vehicle. Ryan said he is not sure as to his next course of action.
Observer attempted to get a comment from the workers onsite but was unable due to the language barrier. Neither were there any clearly identified site maps or plans outlining the scope and details of the project.
A representative of the Livestock Division told Observer the department was aware of the issues and was waiting for Ryan to put his complaints in writing.