The poultry farmers who have been asked to relocate following complaints made by the Augier Combined School, has expressed disappointment with manner in which the issue was handled.
One of the farmer’s daughter, Vanessa Henry-Eugene, told St. Lucia News Online (SNO) on Sunday that the farmers were “stripped of our livelihoods” without given a suitable alternative.
Henry-Eugene recalled that some six months ago, all of the occupants received a letter stating that they have to relocate their poultry farms because of the stench.
Four months later, another letter was sent, informing the occupants that they had to cease operations.
“How can they cease the operations? What did this mean, considering that this is all they do for a living? They cannot just sell everything. The money will not cover their loans expenses, and sustain them for the rest of their lives. Cease operations and move the animals where?” she questioned.
The upset relative of the farmers told SNO that an order was allegedly sent out by the Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony himself, to have all the animals on the farm removed.
“And as the leader of a country, these law abiding citizens, who were not involved in any illegal operations, were stripped of their livelihoods,” Henry-Eugene complained.
Following that order, about one week ago, several big trucks accompanied by police officers went to the farm and began taking the animals away, without the farmers’ knowledge, according to her.
Henry-Eugene said the animals were poorly handled, as they were placed in bags and thrown into the back of a truck in the hot sun. Many of these animals died.
She said the land where the poultry farms are situated, was leased to the family for over 40 years. It was passed down by a father to his children, who encouraged them get involved in agriculture as a means of sustaining themselves.
While one sibling, Nigel William, has been relocated, the three remaining farmers continue to operate on the land. These include: Theresa Henry, Julietta William and Fiana William.
“These people depend solely on their farming to make a living,” Henry-Eugene stressed.
The woman told SNO that while efforts were made to relocate Julietta William, the land which was proposed, has no electricity, water, or road access, and had not been cleared of the high bushes and trees.
“They proposed land, after signing the agreement, had a lease of $2,000 monthly. And since that, the land had not been cleared And with no money to pay a backhoe to clear the land, put roads or have means to transport all her animals, this would mean that she would be paying to lease this land, and not being able to use it. The government agreed to assist but never followed up,” it was explained.
The other two farmers are yet to be offered a spot for relocation.
Education Minister Dr. Robert Lewis had said that while he recognizes that agriculture is an important aspect of life, agriculture practices should not disrupt the education of children.
The Augier Combined School was closed due to foul odour and other pollutants emanating from nearby poultry farms, but the school will be finally reopened on Monday.
Dr. Lewis had said at least two farms were cleaned and a third will be cleaned shortly. However, he noted, that this does not mean that all the issues will be automatically resolved.