St Lucy farmer Roger Seliciano is crying victimization over a decision by the Barbados Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (BADMC) to evict him from the Land for the Landless programme.
The Government initiative provides arable land through lease or licence arrangements to bona fide farmers who otherwise would not have been able to access land.
In an interview with Barbados TODAY this week, Seliciano, who has been part of the Spring Hall Land Lease project since 1994, said BADMC had sent him notice of eviction after having suffered injuries in two car accidents, as well as a stroke, which prevented him from working the plot leased to him.
As part of the conditions of the lease, farmers are not allowed to sublet plots and must be up to date with their rent.
However, Seliciano explained that given his health issues, he opted to allow another farmer to till the land until he made a full recovery.
“First in July [last year] when I received a letter to quit, I was accused of subletting the land and I was not subletting any land. What has happened because of illness and two vehicular accidents and a stroke, I was unable to proceed with working the land. I asked the farmer next door to assist me so that I would not lose the plot. Previously I had five acres but two were taken away and given to another farmer and upon giving him the land I was told that if I did not farm the land adequately I was going to lose the entire plot,” Seliciano said.
The incensed farmer revealed that even though he was asked to vacate the land back in July, it did not prevent the BADMC from continuing to bill him for the remaining acreage.
However, despite making all the requisite payments for the farm, on January 17 he received written notification from BADMC that he would be losing the remaining property.
To add insult to his injury, Seliciano claimed that even before receiving the official notice, “another farmer bragged” that he was getting the lands.
“The lands were not abandoned because the land just reaped watermelons and that is a three months crop. Yet they could claim that the land was abandoned. Right now it has pumpkin on it which is going to be ready for picking in two months’ time,” he added.
Seliciano accused BADMC of cherry-picking farmers to evict, and he claimed that there were several other farmers who had run afoul of the project stipulations but were yet to be subjected to any punitive action from the corporation.
“There are many farmers down there who have land which was not being worked, but yet I was the only person that got my land cut up and leased to someone else. There is another farmer down there and he has the land here but lives in England and he has other people working the land for him. However they have never cut his property,” he contended.
Barbados TODAY attempted to reach Chief Executive Officer of the BADMC Shawn Tudor for a comment. While Tudor did not speak with the publication his office promised to investigate the allegations and determine if a response was warranted at a later date.