Dec 23, 2015 News
The first six months in office has seen the Ministry of Indigenous People’s Affairs conducting situational analyses, with the aim of understanding the needs of Amerindian communities. These evaluations involved teams visiting Indigenous communities and listening to the residents’ concerns.
According to Sydney Allicock Minister of Indigenous People’s Affairs, the objective overall is to develop thriving economic units within hinterland communities. He said that the first step was to visit the communities, and establish what their individual needs were, and then develop programmes and policies to meet those needs.
One of the most critical areas that the residents have been crying over is ‘land rights.’ “Communities want their land titled and demarcated, because without land we can’t talk about development for the Indigenous peoples,” Allicock explained, during an interview with the Government Information Agency (GINA).
It was observed that many of these communities were ‘rundown’ due to the lack of transparency and accountability by village leaders. The Ministry immediately sought to provide support, by training the village leaders. Additionally, Government delivered on its promise to de-politicise the National Toshaos’ Council (NTC). Minister Allicock explained that the council is an autonomous body, which can do project proposals and work with the constituencies that it represents.
The council is in the process of establishing its secretariat. Minister Allicock noted that that is one way of assuring the council takes responsibility of guaranteeing that the people get the support needed. He said that the Ministry sees this new development as a partnership.
INDIGENOUS PEOPLE GIVEN HEARING
The first ever Indigenous People’s Rights and Resources Conference saw over 112 Indigenous leaders participating. This conference allowed for Amerindian leaders to highlight issues affecting their respective communities, and at the same time, make recommendations.
According to Minister Allicock, the conference saw Indigenous leaders speaking out in a more civilised manner on behalf of their communities, and thereby making valuable recommendations.
REVISING THE AMERINDIAN ACT
The Ministry is in the process of holding discussions with the relevant stakeholders regarding the revision of the 2006 Amerindian Act. ”We do not want to do it on our own here. We need to get feedback from all of the various players before we decide on how we move forward. But definitely it is in the plan to do so, because we have found that in some part of it, it’s not as strong as we would like it to be,” Minister Allicock explained.
He further noted that there are some weaknesses in the act. He added that “We speak so much about free, prior and informed consent, but yet this is not helping us…so that is one big issue that we’re going to get corrected.”
Minister Allicock noted that projects such as those within the Community Development Plans (CDP), under the Amerindian Development Fund, continue to be rolled out in communities. One hundred and sixty (160) hinterland communities will benefit from this project.
Minister Allicock noted that communities are embarking on projects such village shops and offices, agro-processing, tourism, poultry rearing, logging, fuel stations and farming.
Tourism is another aspect that is being promoted, as the Ministry is strongly pushing “nature based tourism.” He explained that the country’s key tourist destinations are in the hinterland, and the idea is to develop nature based tourism, as in that way it will not harm the country’s forest. Persons will also have an opportunity to experience nature and the culture of the Indigenous peoples, when this is happening.
The Ministry will also be placing emphasis on culture, agro and other hardcore tourism products including hiking, biking and boating. “The type of tourism we are looking at is not necessarily hotels and lodges. What we are looking for are activities, when you go into the hinterland, persons want to know about the history of that area and so on. This will also help the Indigenous communities to have a better understanding and value their history,” Minister Allicock further noted.
Meanwhile, Minister within the Ministry, Valerie Garrido-Lowe, who is responsible for women and children, said that Government fully understands the role of women in the family, and as such, the Ministry has created a programme which has seen women benefitting from funds to create income-generating projects.
Garrido-Lowe revealed that over the last six months, 15 women’s group received funding to assist with their projects. Agro-processing, tourism, catering, craft and jewellery-making are just a few of the areas that the Ministry has been supporting to ensure that women are empowered, and are given the opportunity to provide for their families.
The Ministry in 2015 began rolling out the Hinterland Employment and Youth Service (HEYS) programme. This will see youths receiving a certificate after completing a one- year training course in specific skilled areas. This programme replaces the Youth Entrepreneurship and Apprenticeship Programme (YEAP). The HEYS programme will involve initial training at institutions such as the Guyana School of Agriculture (GSA), the Kuru Kuru Cooperative College and other institutes of higher learning.
Minister Garrido-Lowe revealed that during the period June-December, the Ministry secured scholarship for students at various secondary schools, the Government Technical Institute (GTI), Carnegie School of Economics, Burrowes School of Arts, Guyana School of Agriculture, Bina Hill Institute and the Kuru Kuru Training College (KKTC). Additionally, for the first time in years, the Bina Hill Institute has doubled its intake. The institution went from 30 students to 67 from various hinterland regions, being trained in various skilled areas.
The Ministry has been working to ensure Indigenous youths’ involvement in sports at the national and international levels. In this quest, a number of outreaches were conducted, especially in the area of football. “We can’t have a national team if we cannot see our Indigenous faces on the team,” said Minister Garrido-Lowe.
She revealed that the Guyana Football Federation has engaged four youths to organise clubs in various communities. These clubs will be licensed. The Ministry also supported three Indigenous youths to participate in the Goodwill Games in Trinidad and Tobago.
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