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A compiled photo taken by the Forestry Division showing an aerial shot of the illegal clearing of the Valencia Reserve and the original sign that was placed to show the Valencia Reserve area.

Farmers along the Valencia stretch are calling for an immediate intervention from the relevant authorities to stop people who are penetrating the Forest Reserve lands in Valencia by sitting the land, erecting steel poles and illegal selling of State lands.

According to the farmers, squatters are buying State land from a “community leader” based in a nearby squatting development.

The farmers, of Turner Dairy Farming Establishment, rely on that strip of protected forest land to prevent their cows from wandering onto the Eastern Main Road (Valencia Stretch). They also claimed that when the people are around, their lives are being threatened.

“We have to arm ourselves with weapons because these people who are illegally sectioning off the land and selling it are there round-the-clock and they are threatening to kill us. We want everybody to intervene, even the Minister of Agriculture, the Commissioner of State Lands and the Commissioner of Police, Gary Griffith,” one farmer said, who wished not to be identified for fear of his and his family’s safety.

“These people coming here and thieving our animals too and we are left helpless and counting our losses,” the farmer added.

According to a report on Cari-Bois News from June 30, a larger number of trees were freshly cleared and the land cordoned off using wire and C-channel steel beams, which they were told to prepare plots for sale.

The report also stated that a dwelling house structure had been erected while the sign identifying the area as part of the Valencia Forest Reserve had disappeared.

An official at the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries, who wished strict anonymity, said over the past two years or more, farmers have lodged numerous complaints to several agencies within the ministry and the Valencia Police Station.

When contacted for comment, Minister Clarence Rambharat said that the Conservator of Forests Denny Dipchansingh has advised that “this offence was investigated two weeks ago by State lands officer Mr Gupta and Forester I Chima Rudder.”

“Two eviction notices were issued to the person who built the house on the reserve. Since then the officer has visited the area every week and is carded to go again this week with the State lands officer,” Rambharat said.