By Elesha George
Villagers and representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture have agreed to meet on Wednesday evening to discuss grievances voiced by Old Road farmers.
Residents in the community are furious about the allocation of seven to 10 acres of land in the area they believe has been rented to a private individual by the Ministry of Agriculture.
The individual apparently acquired access to the lands in 2018 but it was not until recently that they started clearing the land which caused local farmers to protest by planting trees on the cleared parcel.
Over the weekend, the farmers, who insist that the land belongs to the community, started to lay down plants in the small cleared area.
Senior Extension Officer within the Ministry of Agriculture, Owalabi Elabanjo, said he believed that the person had originally applied to plant coconuts in the area around three years ago.
During an hours-long encounter on Monday morning, farmers called for the land to be used to plant food to eat.
Farmer Kublai Mannix claimed that the land is the birthright of his family and others who grew up in the community and they don’t plan on giving it up anytime soon.
“Me nah have nothing personally against he, it’s just because of what he represents. He represents just what Gaston ah do to all ah we, which is the taking and the disenfranchisement of all ah we and we will never stand for that,” he explained.
Mannix also spoke of an agreement that was signed in 2001 between the villagers in Old Road and the then Lester Bird-led ALP government.
Mannix, who signed on behalf of the community, told Observer that it was a 15-point agreement that followed fierce pushback when the government wanted to hand acres of community land to the developers of Carlisle Bay Hotel.
“The lands must remain in the hands of the people of this village,” he remarked.
On Wednesday, the group will analyse who precisely holds claim to the land, due to the extended time that it was left uncultivated. They will also examine the 2001 agreement and seek to find ways to better assist farmers in the area. Their biggest constraint, they noted, is access to water to cultivate.
While the ministry is keen to reach an amicable solution, the farmers and villagers of Old Road insist that their position is non-negotiable.