Guyana already has a Christmas market in the Rupununi

Dear Editor,

With reference to Mr Vishnu Bisram’s letter in Tuesday’s issue of this newspaper (‘Guyana should have a Christmas market’), I would like to confirm that a Christmas Fair has already been taking place in the Rupununi for the past three years. The event which was initiated in 2010 has been going from strength to strength and is now firmly established as a local tradition, building on the alliance between communities, private sector, and local government which are the components of true and sustainable development.

However, while I strongly support Mr Bisram’s view with regard to the economic benefits that holding seasonal markets can bring, I would like to caution against copying formulas from markets from around the world and, instead, allowing the unique characteristics of markets to develop around local and regional markets, which will have the potential to develop as ‘exportable’ initiatives. The success of the Rupununi Christmas Market, 2012, brought it to the attention of the organisers of a three-nation (Brazil, Venezuela and Guyana) Frontier Festival who have invited participants to attend this festival, to be held in Pakaraima, Brazil, on January  4 and 5.

The original objective, from which the concept of the Rupununi Fair evolved, was to draw out participants from Amerindian communities in the Rupununi into a market for traditional and newly learnt products. The theme of Christmas came about to give it an interest and enthusiasm angle, and the incorporation of ‘competitions’ and ‘awards’ were also added incentives. The event which is a cross-cutting across income generation, tourism and agriculture sectors, is sponsored by the Kanuku Mountains Community Representatives Group, and is supported by a growing number of international, national, regional and local donors.

The growing popularity of this event was demonstrated this year as the Rupununi Christmas Fair hosted an unprecedented number of participants from communities across the region, coming as far Aishalton in the deep south to Wowetta in north and Yupukari from central Rupununi.  The 2012 Christmas Fair saw 83 attendants who brought an exciting range of craft, foods and traditional remedies, as well as fresh and traditional produce from villages, most  of which were sold out on the day. In addition to the usual attractions this year, there was a Santa’s Grotto where children who visited Santa could receive gifts donated by local businesses and Christmas music which added an extra festive note to the proceedings.

Since the foundations of the fair are built upon improving livelihood and income generation, the Rupununi Christmas Fair has evolved its own unique features which are not based on pure entertainment value, but on promoting sustainable participation through competitions, prizes and awards which offer tangible value to the winners in developing their skills or enterprises. Prizes range from kitchen equipment and handicraft tools, to major awards such as an all-expenses paid attendance at skills or capacity development workshops in Georgetown.

The Rupununi Christmas Fair has found its niche, and in the words of one local businessman, it has evolved from a fly-by-night event into an undisputedly successful local tradition. The organisers of the event are proud to have been able to grow this event without compromising its basic values of family fun, and being careful not to allow the entertainment elements, overshadow the fundamental objectives of this fair which are to provide access to market, generate income, and hopefully lead to enterprise development for the hinterland communities in the Rupununi.

Yours faithfully,
Behi Barzegar

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