– recognises need for training of more Land Surveyors
By Malisa Playter-Harry
The term land-surveying, to some, may seem to be quite straight-forward. However, when the complexities involved in the field and the responsibilities of such a profession are explained, there is a greater appreciation for the craft and its artist.
Retired General Manager of the Mahaica Mahaicony Abary/Agricultural Development Authority (MMA/ADA), Aubrey Charles, understands all too well the intricacies of this profession. The Land Surveyor of Onverwagt, West Coast Berbice recently spoke candidly to this publication about his time serving at the MMA/ADA. In fact, he credits his years of being in the field to self-motivation.
Born to parents Lindy Charles, a former Cane Harvester, and Ula Charles, he was raised in the village of Plaisance, East Coast Demerara. As the eldest of six children, he attended the Guyana Oriental College (no longer exists) located on Thomas Street, Georgetown.
Charles, now 68 years old, is enjoying being away from the hustle and bustle of work. He retired in December of last year.
A CAREER PATH
Reflecting on his years leading up to his Land Surveying career, he recalled that after writing GCE O’Levels, he attained six subjects including English and Math. He then started teaching at the Roman Catholic School in Plaisance. He taught for two
years and then left and started working at the Georgetown City Council as an Accounts Clerk in November of 1971. Charles said he worked there until 1976 when he was given a scholarship by the then government to study Land Surveying at the Government Technical Institute in the city. He left the institute in 1979 with a Diploma in Land Surveying and in 1981 landed a job as a Survey Technician with the City Council. In 1981, he qualified as a Land Surveyor. That pivotal point in his life catapulted him to greater success in the field of Land Surveying.
Charles said he started working with the Guyana Lands and Survey Commission in 1981 and at the beginning of March 1982, he was seconded to the MMA/ADA project at West Coast Berbice.
“To be honest, in those times, they were deploying technical staff where they were needed… I was not happy when I learnt that I had to come to Berbice because I had no relatives here. Good thing, we were coming on the condition that the government would be providing a place for us to stay, etc.,” he recalled during a recent interview.
Charles arrived in Berbice during a crucial stage of development in the region.
“When I came up here with my family, those were the days when the project was active, so it was easy because as a surveyor, government would give us camp attendants, etc.,” he recalled.
MOVING UP THE RANKS
He said he arrived in Berbice to work at the MMA in 1982 as a qualified surveyor but had worked with the Consultants of the MMA project Sir William Halcrow and Associates (consultants to the GOG on the MMA project). There, he added, he executed a lot of field work since the consultant’s job was to design (drains, canals, dams, bridges). There was also a Dutch contracting company, which executed the construction of the project.
“My job was to check to see whatever the contractor set out was done correctly. I was out in the fields daily. I was involved in a lot of engineering surveys. From 1982 to 1984 when phase one of the project ended,” said Charles. The project, he explained, was built in three phases.
According to him, when phase one ended, he worked with the MMA main office as a surveyor, but when phase two started a year after, he did not return. He remained at the main office and around 1987 was promoted to Senior Surveyor and worked in that position and, a few years later, was promoted to Chief Surveyor.
In 1991, Charles served as the acting Manager for the Lands and Surveys Division of MMA then decided to further his studies at the University of Guyana in the area of Public Management. He subsequently returned to the MMA. There he continued to work in the Lands and Surveys Department.
In the year 1997, he started to function in the capacity as Secretary to the MMA Board of Directors and worked up to June 2003 at which point he served as General Manager up until his retirement last year.
“During those years with MMA, work was really challenging especially during the construction phase of the project because you had to be out there to ensure that the design is what was built,” he said.
Charles stated that one of his major accomplishments was seeing the completion of phase one of the Drainage and Irrigation (D&I) Project that helped persons, particularly farmers, in Region Five. He stated that he understood the region had the potential for agriculture, mainly rice, cattle and sugar. But according to him, “the problem was that there wasn’t a reliable and efficient D&I network and many farmers during those days would lose a lot. Most people planted one crop a year but since the completion of phase one of the project, farmers started to do better.”
That project, he said, was made possible after the then government made an approach to the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) for finances to execute the project. The funding was approved and the bank agreed to finance most of the project and the government had to come up with the remainder, he recalled. Execution of the project started in 1978 and it was done in three phases with: phase one catering to all agricultural lands between the Berbice and Abary Rivers; phase two catering to Abary and Mahaicony Rivers, and phase three catering to Mahaicony and Mahaica Rivers.
However, only phase three was not completed due to the lack of finances, he said. Prior to the completion of the first phase, farmers were getting 10-12 bags of paddy per acre and after the D&I works were constructed to provide a network to drain the water off the land etc., farmers have been getting in excess of 30 bags of paddy per acre, Charles said.
“I played my part with the execution of the project. I worked my way up to the top, but I want to thank Mr. Ben Carter (first general manager), Theopalus Earl and Rudolph Gajraj who I learnt a lot from,” said Charles. He emphasised, however, that self-motivation was always a key to moving forward to success.
As he considered his professional journey, he shared his belief that there is need for more Land Surveyors today and noted that this should be an area of study included in the University of Guyana’s curriculum.
The MMA/ADA is responsible for the operations, management and maintenance of all drainage and irrigation works in Region #5 (Mahaica/Berbice). It also holds responsibility for the administration of all State Lands within the region. All these fell under Charles’ purview as General Manager. “During my time working there at all times I made the job my priority because I realized the important roll MMA/ADA played in agriculture regarding national development,” he asserted.
The MMA/ADA was established when there were many challenges such as: a lack of adequate machineries to ensure that all drains, canals and dams were timely maintained; inadequate technical staff to carry out works and limited funds to execute works. But with the support of staff and sister agencies within the Ministry of Agriculture “we were able to overcome those challenges”, Charles said, a feat he believes can be repeated once like-minded individuals put their heads together.
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