The yam scam that has been digging into the livelihood of East End farmers gained the attention of Cayman Islands Deputy Premier and Minister for District Administration Julianna O’Connor Conolly and agriculture officials, who want to help out.
The farmers’ plight came to light recently when the story was featured in the Caymanian Compass on how farmers, some of them over 70 years old, were being denied what was their only source of income after yams were stolen from their property.
Officials were so taken aback by what had happened to these hard-working people, that Mrs. O’Connor Connolly, along with the Ministry’s chief officer, Kearney Gomez, Agriculture Department Director Adrian Estwick and community officer Delmira Bodden, met privately with two of the farmers, Alida Scott and Irvin Forbes, at their homes in East End. They also paid a visit to their plantations and pledged the Ministry’s support in supplying plants to get them growing again.
Mr. Estwick said the Agriculture Department would be finding plant material for the farmers and that agronomist Raymond Coleman would return to speak to them about planting yams and other crops such as bananas, as the farmers said they have an interest in expanding and diversifying. Mr. Coleman will also give advice in crop care and maintenance.
Farmers also complained to the officials about wild chickens eating their crops. Mr. Estwick told the farmers his department would provide them with traps to catch the chickens.
Mrs O’Connor Connolly also assured Ms Scott, whose only income is from farming and fishing, that she would see what could be arranged with Children and Family Services to perhaps lend assistance.
After hearing first-hand from farmers how difficult it was to make the trip into Little Bluff off the Queen’s Highway, the labour of clearing the plot and planting the yams and then to have their only source of income snatched from them, was hard, Mrs. O’Connor Connolly and the team made the long trek inland to visit the plantations.
Once there, they were shown where the yams had been taken.
“It is difficult to find the people who are doing this act of stealing the yams. All we can do is ask the community to be aware of people selling produce, which they may suspect is stolen. If someone comes in with a huge quantity of yams to sell and they are not farmers, they should be questioned. People have an idea of who plants crops and those who do not,” said Mr. Gomez.
“It was commendable of Mrs. O’Connor Connolly to come and see in person what had transpired after reading about it in the newspaper and to give her support to see if anything could be done,” said Ms Bodden.
Ms Scott said, both her and her brother Irvin were impressed and appreciated the fact that she visited them and told them they would be helped to get new plants.