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Meantime, the department is being accommodated in the old Regional Administration offices, also at Lethem, after moving from premises which had become unsafe to occupy.
The construction of Foot and Mouth disease control camps to sanitise traffic along the Guyana/Brazil border is among other projects to be completed in Region Nine (Upper Takutu/Upper Essequibo) this year, Regional Information Officer Terrence Boston reported.
He said Regional Chairman Vincent Henry, reporting on all round development, said programmes that were to commence early in the year were hampered by the late releases of finance and the annual rainy season, which started in the second quarter.
However, the Regional Administration was able to construct a bridge across Yurora Creek and provide unrestricted access to Karasabai and other communities in South Pakaraimas, which, until recently, was not possible when it rained.
Now that the inclement weather has subsided, contractors are mobilising materials and men to begin working on the various jobs.
Mr. Henry said, though roads which link communities in the region have deteriorated considerably, repairs to them cannot be done this year, due to inadequate funding.
But emphasis would be placed on that in the region's projections for 2003, he said.
Meanwhile, Mekdeci Mining Company (MMC) was awarded a contract to repair and upgrade the Lethem/Mabura roadway, which has become a nightmare to vehicular traffic.
Work on it will start shortly from the northern end at Kurupukari leading across the Essequibo River to Mabura and then on the 230 kilometres part between Kurupukari and Lethem.
That Lethem/Mabura link with coastal Guyana is vital to facilitate the movement of people, goods and services to and from Rupununi.
Henry said the Regional Democratic Council (RDC) is proposing to construct a new hospital at Lethem to replace the existing one which needs major rehabilitation if it is to deliver proper health services.
He disclosed that, with growing concern over the rise in HIV/AIDS cases locally, United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has donated a sum of money towards the hosting of the first major HIV/AIDS conference with Amerindian leaders in Region Nine.
Henry said the forum, to be held soon, will focus on awareness, methods of prevention and planning a strategy for a sensitisation campaign in the region, recognising its vulnerable situation bordering Brazil, from where people move freely and interact across the border.
Noting that agriculture is a tool to combat poverty, the Chairman said Amerindian leaders in the Region Nine have crafted a strategy to achieve food security and sufficiency and farmers are being encouraged to plant rice and diversify from cassava planting, which has not been doing so well in terms of yield in recent years.
Towards that thrust, the Lethem branch of Beacon Foundation, which is headed by Mr. Clairmont Lye, is managing an ongoing paddy cultivation experiment, with the aim of being able to sustain a rice mill to support the new industry in Rupununi.
Henry said they are also emphasising the production of peanuts, which has been the leading economic crop in Rupununi for a number of years.
Much external support has been received for experimentation to improve yield and putting in place a value added mechanism to create job opportunities and influence better prices for the produce.
Henry said Region Nine, once known as cow country, is now aiming to become one of the top mutton producing places for Guyana and the Caribbean.
In the quest, herders are searching for ideal breeding livestock, especially rams and technical assistance in animal husbandry.
Chairman Henry pointed out that Region Nine is at the gateway to Latin America and can benefit tremendously from different markets.
He said the Brazilian Government is erecting a bridge over Takutu River and that would provide the linkage for Guyana to the rest of the Americas.
Henry observed that, for more than two decades, Guyanese hucksters have been involved in informal trade with Brazil and a land cargo agreement with the neighbouring republic could pave the way for formal trading arrangements between the two nations.
He said residents are being urged to involve themselves with tourism, as the entire Rupununi has natural beauty and the scope for such activities.
MMC is offering a fish sport tourist package in the Apoteri/Rewa area along Rupununi River and non-governmental organisations are lending invaluable assistance for the development of the region, Henry said.
He said Conservation International (CI) is spearheading a drive to establish an appropriate kind of protected area system in the vicinity of the Kanuku Mountains and has been holding consultations with 18 Amerindian communities which would be affected.
Data is being collected on the available resources within and changes that have occurred over time affecting their use and management.
With such an establishment, the indigenous population will be trained to manage the environment daily, Henry stated.
He said Iwokrama Rainforest Conservation and Development Project at Kurupukari has been helping, as well, to develop North Rupununi.
Since the inauguration, villagers have had the benefit of educational programmes on the sustainable and equitable usage of forest resources and beneficiaries are looking forward to the creation of jobs through aquaculture and other recently introduced income generating schemes, Henry said.