In 2009, the government issued a total of $160 million in presidential grants to Amerindian communities.
This is according to Minister of Amerindian Affairs, Pauline Sukhai, who noted that this money goes towards the development of core financial incentives and support, and to developing economic and productive projects within Amerindian communities.
Before the allocation of the $160 million, only 139 communities were benefiting from presidential grants, but now the Amerindian Affairs Ministry has been able to bring onboard an additional 20 villages.
“This means that more communities this year would receive grants which they would be able to expend on community projects, which their community has approved and ranked as their priority when they discussed the matter of investing the grant,” Minister Sukhai explained.
She noted that since the communities do not have to repay the money, the Ministry has insisted that there is strong sustainability within any project the residents embark on.
There is a team at the Ministry, which is placing more focus on monitoring, and evaluating these projects in order to ensure that the monies given to these communities are well spent.
The grants attract investments in mostly village shops, which enable villagers to bring to bear produce that they have for sale and at the same time, they get to manage the sale of their food items. “Many communities never had a village shop…they travel for miles and miles to maybe the centre of the cluster to buy goods,” Sukhai pointed out.
These shops also offer cheaper rates as residents are able to work out their own transportation and freight costs and the shops are widely supported by the villagers. Most riverain communities have invested in boats and engines for passenger purposes as a result of the presidential grants, while others have invested in poultry, farming plots and productive infrastructure, by building bridges and access roads to their farms.
Some have also constructed community centres. While this does not necessarily bring in an income into the community, Sukhai said it is an investment in the children of the villages. Some have invested into eco lodge and rest houses (guest houses), along with snackettes. (Fareeza Haniff)
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