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Bush Fire Affected Farmers Get $2 Million In Seeds And Fertiliser

Herb Fellow

New Member
BIGWOODS, St Elizabeth - Agriculture and Lands Minister Dr Christopher Tufton on Thursday made good on a promise he made to farmers affected by bush fire in St Elizabeth just over a week ago, when he presented them with vegetable seeds and fertiliser valued at $2 million.

The minister also presented farmers with goats and advised them that a tractor is being made available by his ministry to clear their lands scorched by the fire.

Just under 90 farmers from several communities, including Ivor Cottage, Bigwoods, Retreat and Retirement, last week Tuesday lost roughly 64 hectares of crops, valued at $26 million, when bush fire swept through the farming communities. Sixty-four goats, valued at more than $200,000 also perished during the blaze.

The farmers allege that the fire, which took firefighters just under 12 hours to be brought under control, had resulted from narcotics police burning a ganja field in Bigwoods.
Shortly after the fire, Tufton mandated the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) to carry out an assessment of the damage and to present him with a report within two days.

Last Thursday, Tufton, armed with the findings of the assessment, met with the affected farmers at the Bigwoods Primary School and promised to provide assistance to them within one week, in an effort to get them back on their feet. He also told the farmers that the Police High Command has launched an investigation into the cause of the fire.

In making the presentation to the farmers at Bigwoods Primary on Thursday, Tufton who is also member of parliament for the area, stressed that the assistance should not be construed as compensation for damage done to their crops.

"This is not compensation for the damage done to your crops. This is not assuming responsibility for the fire, because the truth is that the investigations are still being pursued. In fact, this morning (Thursday) I spoke to the commissioner of police and also the Black River police and the information I was given was that the investigations are going on nicely," Tufton said. He added that while he was not given a definite time with the investigations will complete, he was hopeful that it will be concluded within another two weeks.

The agriculture minister also used the occasion to commend RADA for its role in providing assistance to the farmers in such a "short time".

"This is the type of RADA I want to see ... working for and on behalf of the farmers, not just in St Elizabeth alone, but the entire county," he said. " RADA has to be quick to be able to respond to the needs of the farmers and they must be efficient at it. And I believe that the RADA team in St Elizabeth has done a great job over the past week, and is worth commending," Tufton said.

Meanwhile, farmers attending the presentation thanked the agriculture minister for successfully making representation on their behalf. "I would really like to thank the minister for his assistance in giving us the start in such a short time," said Natalie Gordon, who lost more than three acres of crops during the fire. She noted, however, that much more assistance will be needed to get the affected farmers "fully back on their feet".

Source: The Jamaica Observer
Copyright: 2008, The Jamaica Observer
Contact: Mark Cummings, Observer senior reporter
Website: Bush fire affected farmers get $2 million in seeds and fertiliser - JAMAICAOBSERVER.COM
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