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160 Amerindian villages set to improve socio-economic development

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative and UN Coordinator, Khadija Musa, Minister of Amerindian Affairs, Pauline Sukhai and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh, sign the $ 1.3B agreement to facilitate Phase II of the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS), Amerindian Development Fund (ADF) Project. (GINA photo)

Over 160 Amerindian communities, over a three-year period, will benefit from funding to support their socio-economic development through the implementation of their Community Development Plans (CDPs), the Government Information Agency (GINA) reported.

The signing of a $1.3Billion agreement between the Government and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has paved the way for the projects’ implementation.

Minister of Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh, Minister of Amerindian Affairs, Pauline Sukhai and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative and Coordinator, Khadija Musa on Thursday, signed the agreement at the Guyana International Conference Centre that will facilitate Phase II of the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS), Amerindian Development Fund (ADF) Project under which the CDPs are catered for. 

The project is funded under the Guyana REDD+ Investment Fund (GRIF) and consequently is overseen by the Project Management Office in the Office of the President.

The communities will receive funding of up to $5M each for each village’s development of a community based project. All CDPs are approved by consensus or majority vote at village meetings, governed by Section 32 of the Amerindian Act of 2006. The UNDP is providing technical support to the project, including, administration of social, fiduciary and environmental safeguards.

Projects are to be done in seven sectors: agriculture including farming, agro-processing, aquaculture, poultry and cattle rearing; sustainable forestry; village infrastructure including construction of village office, multi-purpose building and sewing centre and upgrade of airstrip;

manufacturing, including water purification plant, furniture, sanitary blocks and crafts; services including village shop, museum building and bus/transportation; low impact mining and tourism including guest house, nature based and eco-tourism.

During Phase l of the ADF project, 26 communities received disbursements to implement their respective CDPs. Phase l is nearing completion and has seen some achievements including the disbursement of approximately $112M to these communities. Community and village members have been trained in business development, agriculture, aquaculture, forestry, and apiculture.

Lessons learned from Phase l have been recorded in the Phase ll project documentation and will help to optimise project execution. An Operational Manual and Business Strategy document have been developed to govern important processes and to outline the approach to important business areas, such as obtaining markets; and a scalable and transparent financial framework for disbursement has been developed.

A few examples of CDPs implemented in Phase l, include the village of Santa Aratack, which used the funds to build a guest house. The community had their official launch on September 6, and the guest house complements the community’s ecotourism offerings.

The village of Moraikobai completed rehabilitation works to their Multi-Purpose Centre and has acquired sewing machines, computers and a printer, stove, freezer and kitchen utensils, to equip the facility.

There were several villages that focused on agriculture in Phase l, including Kurukubaru, Region Eight where funding went to cattle rearing. This saw the completion of the construction of a ranch house and corral along with the purchase of a horse and cattle along with medications while in Rupertee village, Region Nine, five acres of cassava has been cultivated and a processing facility completed.

Phase ll of the project will now begin with the first set of activities to include engaging with the communities to finalise their CDPs.

 

Amaila project

Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh drew attention to the fact that Guyana has forgone development for centuries in acting responsibly, in preserving its natural environment, and for that he said, tribute must be paid to Amerindian leaders who spearheaded this effort long before the world woke up the reality of climate change.

“This government has placed climate change, and in particular, fighting the effects of climate change at the top of our policy agenda. We have articulated a Low Carbon Development Strategy that has as its central pillar the argument that accelerated economic development and environmental responsibility need not be conflicting objectives, but instead can be complementary objectives and we have articulated this strategy, advocated it, made the point that standing forest, and in particular the environmental service provided by standing forests must be recognised, valued and remunerated.”

Under Guyana’s historic partnership with Norway, that country will be paying Guyana US$250M for environmental services provided by Guyana’s forests, of which over US$100M has been released.            

“We have identified a number of projects, for implementation with the proceeds of these payments for environmental services, one is the Amerindian Development Fund which we are implementing in partnership with UNDP, but there are others worthy of mentioning too- Amerindian Land titling an extremely important project from the perspective of recognising the rights of Amerindian villages to have ownership over the territory within their village area and exercise economic rights over those  areas,” he stated.

Dr Singh mentioned others such as the small and medium sized enterprises which is in the process of being implemented, climate resilient strategy and action plan project, institutional strengthening project to strengthen the institutions involved in environmental management- Environmental Protection Agency, Guyana Forestry Commission, Project Management Office of the Office of the President and the Amaila Falls hydropower project, the flagship project of the LCDS.

He reiterated that the Amaila project “will see Guyana migrate from 100% dependence on fossil fuel generated energy to 100% generation of energy from clean and renewable sources… but it is also a project that goes to the core of improving the attractiveness of Guyana as a destination for investment, and improving the attractiveness of the business environment of Guyana. We all know that the cost and reliability of energy is currently one of the most significant impediments to doing business in Guyana. Every investor coming into Guyana has to carry the cost of electric power … every investor has to cater for redundant power and that’s a cost to doing business in Guyana. That reality undermines the investment environment, undermines our efforts to create jobs, and undermines profitability of businesses operating in Guyana, and undermines prosperity.”

In recognition of this, the Amaila hydropower project has been conceived, conceptualised and developed, and is aimed at removing this impediment, at generating environmental advantages to migrating to clean and renewable energy, and at the same time reducing the cost of electric energy to those doing business in Guyana

“We are committed to realising all of these projects, including Amaila; we are committed to working with all of our partners, firstly with Norway, in ensuring that we discharge our obligations. We are particularly pleased with the development agencies that have been working with us. The UNDP has been an outstanding partner…”

The Finance Minister promised that in Budget 2015, Government will continue to make investments that are critical to advancing the country’s transformation, investments and infrastructure, improving the instructional environment, social infrastructure and services and quality of life.

“Initiatives such as this being implemented in partnership with agencies such as the UNDP in this instance and others in other instances will feature very prominently. It is our expectation that during the course of the remainder of this year and next year, these projects will see their full implementation.”

            Meanwhile Minister of Amerindian Affairs Pauline Sukhai pointed to the fact that the release of the funds is an important landmark for Guyana. She however, noted that the projects which began during the first phase are still ongoing, with the exception of the ‘Santac Tours and Travel’ project at the Santa Aratack Village, in Region Three which was recently launched.

            The Minister pointed out that the success of any project depends on support which comes from various corners. She suggested that the villagers should move to build partnerships to help in the sustainability of their projects.           Minister Sukhai also committed her Ministry’s support towards planned projects since they were important to the livelihood of the Amerindian people.

The Amerindian Affairs Minister also lamented the cut to the 2014 National Budget which had delayed the development of hinterland residents.

 UNDP Representative Khadija Musa pointed out that the programme came after a year of intense work. She pointed out that there was a pilot phase from which mistakes were recognised and what was learnt was incorporated into the bigger projects.

Musa noted that work was conducted in total partnership during visits to communities, pointing out that there could be an exchange of knowledge among communities. She also commended the work done at Santa Aratack Village. Musa attended the launch of the project where she expressed her satisfaction with the quality of work that was put into the project and lauded the initiative and the residents for what she described as outstanding work.