Amerindian development accelerates this year
By Nadia Ferreira
Guyana Chronicle
December 16, 2002

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THE Ministry of Amerindian Affairs has had a relatively productive year in spite of several challenges.

This is in relation to completing its work programme for the year 2002 and in keeping with the announcement by President Bharrat Jagdeo of priority projects for the various Ministries after the conclusion of the Cabinet retreat in January of this year.

The Ministry had listed a significant number of priority projects, which it had intended to complete by the end of December. Among these were the establishment of Village Offices in several Amerindian communities.

While the Ministry was not able this in all of the villages it had set out to do, it was able to establish Village Offices in St. Monica and Kabakaburi in Region Two (Pomeroon/Supenaam) and Moco Moco in Region Nine (Upper Takutu/Upper Essequibo).

Also in its efforts to assist the Village Councils to better administer their duties, the Ministry swore in seven Village Captains from the Upper Mazaruni District, in Region Seven, as Justices of the Peace.

This is for the first time in the history of Amerindian Village Councils, that such an event has taken place. There is quite a significant number of Amerindian Justices of the Peace, but there are still difficulties, especially in the area of accessing birth certificates for both children and adults.

It is hoped that the ex-officio provisions given to the Captains would help to reduce this problem, since the Captains are allowed to vouch for birth certificates on behalf of the applicants.

Another major initiative undertaken over the year was the revision of the Amerindian Act. Consultations for this activity have reached an advanced stage and the amendments are expected to be taken to the National Assembly early next year.

In the latter part of August and the beginning of September, 27 Field Facilitators from the various Regions were trained to carry out the consultations.

Meanwhile, in a collaborative approach, with the Ministry of Fisheries, Crops and Livestock, the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs was able to work with Amerindian communities to control the Acoushi ants plague. The programme was implemented in communities in Regions One, Seven, Eight and Nine and is expected to continue next year.

There were concerns over the leaf-cutter destroying large portions of farms in the hinterland regions. This, more than once, resulted in Amerindian communities, especially in Region Eight, suffering from food shortages.

It is almost impossible to eradicate these leaf-cutters, but they continue to destroy farms mainly in the hinterland. As a result, the two Government Ministries embarked on an Acoushi ants control programme.

Amerindian communities engage mostly in subsistence farming, and are very dependent on cassava. However, more recently, they have been encouraged and given assistance to diversify their agricultural base so that in the dry weather they would not endure difficulty in accessing food items.

As the Government continues to fulfil its promise to demarcate Amerindian lands and provide them with the titles, the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs and the Lands and Surveys Department of the Ministry of Agriculture, this year continued with the exercise.

The survey has been completed in Region Nine and Karasabai is nearing completion. Currently, the second phase of the programme, looking at the non-titled communities and the extension of existing land, is in process in Region Ten.

There are only two Amerindian communities in the Region that have titles and since they have completed their demarcation, officials from the Lands and Surveys Department, and the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs have visited those communities that do not have legal titles, to carry out resource mapping.

iIn an effort to provide income-generating jobs in Amerindian communities the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Amazon Caribbean Company (AMCAR) signed an agreement, which would engage Amerindians from communities in the Barima/Waini Region in replanting the Heart-of-palm, commonly known as the ‘manicole cabbage’. The total investment is US$150,000.

In the meantime, a pineapple-canning project is on stream in Mainstay, Region Two (Pomeroon/Supenaam). The factory is currently under construction. The company will provide markets for the local produce.

AMCAR is a French company, currently operating at Drum Hill, Barima River and has a ready market in Europe for the Guyanese products.

During the year, the Ministry also devoted some of its resources to offering improved educational services to Amerindians in the interior.

Minister Carolyn Rodrigues in October commissioned the students’ Hostel at Springlands, Corriverton.

The facility was funded by the Social Impact Amelioration Programme (SIMAP) and will accommodate students of Orealla and Siparuta, an Amerindian community in Region Six (East Berbice/Corentyne).

The rehabilitation of the Amerindian Hostel in Georgetown and the institution of the students’ library at the Hostel were other major accomplishments of the Ministry this year.

The Hostel was rehabilitated by SIMAP at a cost of over $8M, while the library cost Government some $5M. The library was also made possible with the help of the Canadian Government, which donated one computer and some of the books, and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), which contributed two computers.

Slated among the priority projects for the Ministry this year also was the relocation of the Ministry from Office of the President. In the latter part of this year, Rodrigues told GINA, that the site where the former Dental School was located at the corner of Thomas and Quamina Streets, will be the new location of the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs.

Initially, the building of the former Guyana Mortgage and Finance Bank, Avenue of the Republic and North Road was identified to house the Ministry.

However, according to Rodrigues, the engineer found that to rehabilitate that building would be very expensive, and he advised that it might be more feasible to construct a new facility.

Consequently, the new site was identified. Meanwhile, the recruitment of professional staff has not been hindered. Community Development Officers (CDOs) have been recruited in all of the Regions and several Social Workers among other staff have been added to the existing staff of the Ministry.

Through a collaborative effort, a cancer research project has commenced in Regions One (Barima/Waini) and Nine (Upper Takutu/Upper Essequibo). There were some concerns about an increase in cancer among Amerindian women.

As a result, the Ministry considered initiating a research project to ascertain the extent of the disease among Amerindian women.

The project is being funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) through the Gender Equity Fund.
(Government Information Agency)

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