For over 30 years, farmers in Bon Air East have been plagued by serious issues affecting their production levels of vegetables. The farmers, numbering some 175, are still awaiting leases for lands, suitable access over drains that border these lands, distribution of water resources, and proper mechanisms to minimise praedial larceny and the dumping of garbage throughout the area.
Most of the farmers are over the age of 60 and it brings them one step nearer to their graves when each waking morning they find their crops stolen after toiling in sun and rain seven days a week.
Seeta Mohammed, secretary of the Bon Air East Farmers Association, an arm of the National Food Crop Farmers Association, spoke of the high-risk factors that farmers in the area now face.
"Our lands were cut up to accommodate farmers who were displaced by the nearby housing development. Roads were built throughout the area, with an open drainage system running parallel.
"However, no bridges were built across these drains to accommodate farmers having to access their gardens.
"This is now a precarious situation, especially for the more aged farmers who are forced to cross these drains by whatever means they can. When the drains are filled with water during the rainy season, the situation becomes life-threatening."
Since the roads were built, other new problems arose. People are now coming into the area and dumping their garbage along the sides of the roadway. Tyres, bottles of all descriptions, old furniture and appliances, rotting meat and crocus bags with more offensive matter are being dropped on a regular basis. "Sometimes when this reaches a stage where it really is intolerable, everything is burnt. Fumes emanating from this can be very toxic at times."
The association recommends gates be erected across the entrances to the roadways as a deterrent to perpetrators.
"Praedial larceny is a major problem in the area. It is heart-rending for farmers to put down crops, especially short-term, and find them being harvested by thieves. The cost of preparing these crops is high, and when prices go cheap we come out at a loss. It is a high-risk business to be a vegetable farmer."
The farmers of Bon Air East plant their crops without the basic necessity of a water distribution system. They depend solely on rainfall. In the dry season they prepare the land, hoping the rains fall.
"We are thinking of trying to bore holes because there is a river. However, insecurity is a huge problem among us. Since 1978, we have been promised leases for these agricultural lands. To date, we still operate under five-year agreements. This does not give a sense of security to farmers.
"The question is always what will be next? We haven't been told of any mechanism being put in place to speed up the process, though we have been requesting this over a period of many years.
"Just as our parents passed down these lands to us, we would like to do the same. We now have a growing number of younger farmers among us. This is encouraging for the future of agriculture, not only in our community but across the country. We need leases for these lands so that we can safely set about the business of feeding the growing population of our community and the country as a whole."