Guyana – Revitalisation of the village economy – commentary

Revitalisation of the village economy

Guyana Chronicle

Guyana Chronicle

 THE attention being paid by international organisations and countries towards moving to a green economy requires shedding some old habits and embracing new practices. The positioning of the green economy model, which encourages the development of the society based on indigenous programmes, creates the opportunity for the rebirth of the village economy here.It is instructive that at this time, when the green economy is accepted by this administration as the model for development, the nation’s president is a historian. More than most, President David Granger would have studied the intricacies of the village movement, its economy and its influences on the development of denizens and Guyana on the whole.

Though the village movement was, at emancipation, birthed from the desire of the newly freed to establish a life away from and independent of the plantation system, it has not been without challenges and, in instances, reliance on the English proverb “necessity is the mother of invention.”

For instance, when former slave owners felt that if land was sold in large blocks it would be difficult for the freed to purchase, this was dispelled through a system of ingenuity and thrift that saw the pooling of money and purchasing of single blocks by many. This led to the formation and development of the village movement, which was built on the cooperative economic model and maintained on a system of laws, values and mores to which the villagers subscribed.

It was the first form of indigenous (local) government by a freed people. In that environment, the villagers maintained their canals and access roads to their farms; elected their village councils; established cooperatives; had their own system of commerce and banking (box hand); identified lands for schools, churches, meeting places, markets, entertainment, and so forth. These were done not without challenges and obstacles from within and without, some organised and implemented by former slave masters, such as the flooding of lands.

For decades, the village economy formed the economic base of post-slavery Guyana. Some of the activities, outside of the colonials’ instigation in undercutting the strength and development of this economy, were the movement by villagers who were attracted to commercial activities in the city and to sawmilling, mining and balata bleeding in the interior. With the exodus of able-bodied adults to new economic pursuits, a depleted human capital was left to manage the business of the villages. In time there were absentee landowners in the villages, lands were left unattended, the villagers’ collective spirit and indigenous economy diminished, and so did their economic wellbeing.

This nation has had tremendous experiences. Thus, in recognising the importance of the village economy to the green economy, it requires drawing from experiences and improving on same. The rekindling of the village economy requires the involvement of the villagers and rekindling of the spirit of self-reliance with the enabling environment created. This economy will require policies, legislation and programmes that factor in protecting participants, proper infrastructure, social services, technical and financial support. Cottage industry, which is a characteristic in a village economy, will require special attention and enabling legislation.

The country has experienced government playing an enabling role in ensuring the village economy, as in the case of Canals No.1 and No. 2. All-weather roads were built, providing easier and faster access to and from the farms. With drainage maintained, more lands were drained, contributing to an increase in production of ground provision, fruits and vegetables. The establishment of the Demerara Harbour Bridge made it easier and faster to move produce to market places and conduct business in the urban commercial centres. The Guyana Agricultural and Development Bank (Gaibank) and agriculture officers played vital roles. The former provided financing to meet developmental needs and the latter technical support to farmers.

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