IDB funds training to bolster Amerindian leadership
Guyana Chronicle
July 13, 2004

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THE Ministry of Amerindian Affairs yesterday launched another phase of its capacity building training programme to boost leadership skills among the indigenous population countrywide.

The one-week exercise, being funded by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), started with a workshop on ‘Leadership development in Amerindian Communities’ at Water Chris Hotel in Waterloo Street, Georgetown.

Participants from several Amerindian communities will be coursed in areas including governance and legal issues, public administration and finance, environmental management and community development and decision-making.

Many of the persons participating are prominent figures in their respective abodes and among them are members of the National Toushaus Council, Community Development Officers and retired school teachers.

Minister of Amerindian Affairs, Ms. Carolyn Rodrigues, giving an overview of the plan, said decisions in Amerindian communities are made only by the Village Captain and everybody else has to follow them.

She pointed out that nothing happens when the captains are not around and the community often disagrees with what is decided.

Therefore, the need to train about how decisions are made, Rodrigues stressed.

She explained that, fundamentally, village councils are elected to serve the community but, at times, those bodies go against what the other people would like to see happen.

“We would bring the leaders together and provide information which, sometimes, when it gets back to the community, is either very distorted or is not imparted at all,” Minister Rodrigues disclosed.

She said community development could be staggered if the relevant facts are not passed on in cases where there is lack of proper leadership.
On public administration and finance, the minister said, in the past decade, there have been increased activities in Amerindian communities, with both Government and non-governmental agencies executing several projects.

According to her, in most cases, Amerindians have been ill-prepared to deal with the financial management of such undertakings.

Rodrigues observed that many Amerindian communities garner revenue from their natural resources, such as lumber, gold and diamonds.

But the money is mismanaged because those responsible have not been trained in the field of accounting, she lamented.

Rodrigues said that lack is related to environmental management, as well.

She noted that Amerindians have communal titles and benefit from exclusive rights over forests while not having to follow national forestry regulations.

Rodrigues said they are known to be the custodians of the forest which they would want to protect in order to sustain for their own livelihood but this has now changed a lot because populations have grown and there is great pressure on those in the communities to provide for their families.

She said now, with environmental lobby groups pressing to save the forest, Amerindians would like to see an alternative to sustaining their livelihood and that necessitates training to manage the environment for the benefit of the communities.

Rodrigues said Amerindians do not have “sub-service rights” and, like many other Guyanese, they also engage in mining, a lot of which is done without formal agreements.

However, wherever formal agreements exist, it is usually less than acceptable and the current training would seek to address such issues.

The Amerindian Affairs Ministry, in February this year, trained a number of Toushaus as Justices of Peace and Supernumerary Constables, as part of the continuing effort to help them better carry out their functions.