The severe drought affecting South St Elizabeth has now reached crisis levels as crops wither and die in the fields, acres at a time. Farmers are desperate for help, Mr. Stephenson said.
The people in the area which is largely dependent on farming (produce and livestock) have suffered great loss and are unable to fulfill their day to day financial obligations.
As a result of the long drought, fires have broken out destroying millions of dollars worth of crops, irrigation equipment and hundreds of acres of farmland.
“The farmers have been left in a state of despair and desperation with no where to turn. They are in serious need of fertilizer, equipment and seeds to restore their farms as soon as the drought breaks.” Says Mr. Stephenson. “It is painful to visit the fields only to see the dried stems due to the lack of rain. Ravaged by fire, the once rich alluvial soil now shows wide expanses of brown fields and black /brown gravelly soil; parched and waiting for sustained showers of rain,” Stephenson said.
The caretaker noted that affected families, who make their living from farming, are hard pressed to meet back-to-school expenses as their earning power was drastically curtailed over the Summer break on account of the drought.
“There are needs to be met – uniforms, books, tuition fees, food and transportation. I am calling on the Government to waive school auxiliary fees, commonly called Parents’ Contribution, for affected families and for the Ministry of Agriculture to provide help for these farmers urgently.”
Mr. Stephenson says it is no secret that the people of South and South West St Elizabeth are hard working, honest people whose livelihood depend on the land.
“Their main, and in most cases, only revenue stream has been crippled with no relief in sight. The plight of the farmers in Southern St. Elizabeth cannot go ignored for much longer. They need urgent assistance so that they can get back to farming to ensure that they can restore their farms and the area’s long history of being the nation’s ‘bread basket’.
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