Mayo farmers stand on the no trespassing barriers placed on lands by TCL.

Mayo farmers, who have been planting on TCL’s lands over the past year, say they are eager to become regularised by the company in its upcoming agri-entrepreneurial programme.

Vice president of the Mayo Community Council Nigel Alexander said they expect to meet with their MP Anita Haynes at 10 am today to discuss high unemployment levels in their community.

On Wednesday, the farmers said they had no choice but to plant on TCL’s lands as they were forced on the breadline last year at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But after investing thousands of dollars, TCL issued stop notices for land occupation, placing barricades and no trespassing signs.

Letters were also issued asking villagers to cease the illegal land occupation.

TCL, in a statement, said it owned a 414-hectare quarry in the area.

“Within recent times, there has been an incursion involving land-grabbing and resulting in violence between new squatters, and persons who have arrangements with TCL to occupy and farm on the company’s land. TCL is seeking to restore order and in so doing, protect the Mayo community by asking persons who do not have formal, historical arrangements with the company to vacate,” the company said.

TCL’s general manager Guillermo Rojo said, “We are currently looking at regularising the land, after which we will engage interested members of the community under an agri-entrepreneurship programme as one of our social impact initiatives.”

He added, “The details of this are currently being fleshed out but the big picture is to achieve self-sufficiency and food security for residents of the Mayo community, potentially contributing to the country’s overall food net”.

Aside from the land arrangements to boost farming, TCL said it has assisted with employment, education, a water harvesting programme and the Mayo Youth Football Academy, now on hold due to COVID-19.

“The company is also currently developing the Mayo Environmental Restoration Program (MERP) aimed at training volunteers from the community to be engaged in environmental restoration projects. The two major aspects of this training programme will include the rehabilitation of trees in the buffer zone of the eastern quarry, as well as the development of a nearby nursery and garden,” he said.

Residents say they will be holding TCL accountable for its promise to develop the rural community.

They claimed TCL has made millions of dollars out of the resources in the village, but has contributed little to the community’s development. —Radhica De Silva