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Mar 13, 2020

Valley of Peace Farmers Take Drastic Measures

A land issue has been festering for some time in the Valley of peace, Cayo District. Farmers have complained that the land they have worked for years has been sold from under their feet. Despite attempts to resolve the matter, there has been solution. Today, they blocked access to the area to bring further attention to their plight against the Ministry of Lands. Police had to be called in to diffuse the situation. Here is News Five’s Hipolito Novelo.

 

Hipolito Novelo, Reporting

A group of frustrated Valley of Peace farmers this morning blocked one of the main roads in the village. Frustrated and armed with land documents and determination, the farmers would not move even though police officers were called to the area to respond. Some eighty farmers of the Valley of Peace Farmers Association say that their leased lands have been sold by the Ministry of Natural Resources.

 

Ever Blandon

Ever Blandon, Chairman, Valley of Peace Farmers Association 

“Farmers, most of them have twenty, twenty-five years starting working there. In 2002 some of them started getting the lease and in 2012 they get lease. Some applications were not approved.”

 

Juan Arias

Juan Arias, Chairman, Valley of Peace

“There are different areas in the village that are being affected. Some of them are lands that are being surveyed by UNCHR since the village started. Unfortunately some people had their lease expired but the ministry has been making businesses of our land. That is why they were selling it to the company.”

 

That company is Valley of Peace Farms Limited and the General manager, Gilbert Canton Junior was in the midst of the showdown between police and farmers this morning. Farmers have been cultivating the land for more than two decades. Canton says that the company has title for eleven thousand, two hundred and seventy there  acres, but farmers say that they hold lease for one thousand, one hundred and fifteen acres of that land. The dispute is not recent, but farmers got upset when they received word that the government had sold their lands.

 

Gilbert Canton Jr.

Gilbert Canton Jr., G.M., Valley of Peace Farms Limited

“The disputed areas are the south portion of our sugar cane area. It is not highlighted in green, for development because we know there is dispute. There is a dispute over in this area. Again, not highlighted for development because we known for many years that there is a dispute and we want to get a resolution. And then these are the main areas there are little spots of disputes. For example right here in the north side of B-forty-three which is one of the main areas that caused the dispute this time. There is a little parcel there. The main areas are this one and this one but there are many other small disputes that we are trying to resolve in this negotiation that we are about to do.”

 

And that continued negotiation was possible after cooler heads prevailed this morning. While tensions were high, Canton and Chairman of the Farmers Association, Ever Blandon, met with the Land Commissioner to peacefully forge a way forward. The Ministry says that it will lead an ‘inspection team to determine the current state on the ground and establish the various claims.” All developments in the disputed areas have been suspended.

 

Gilbert Canton Jr.

“When we first started negotiation in 2017 we had an agreement with the famers that the 2017 satellite image will form the baseline. Now they have cleared I don’t know maybe a couple hundred acres more so we now need to assess what the situation is now. Then the Lands Department will go back and look for title, lease and determined what rights anybody has where and then there will be a negotiation and see what we will do.”

 

Ever Blandon

“Our famers know where are our lands. We have a lease and we have permission to survey. What happened is that they dropped our pegs. But we know where our land is, where it reach.”

 

Juan Arias

“It is seventy families and I am telling you they are hard working farmers. You can see the vegetables, most of the vegetables that come to the markers come from our farms in Vallley of Peace.”

 

A second meeting between the parties is scheduled for Friday, March twentieth. Reporting for News Five, I am Hipolito Novelo.


Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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