One year ago, the people of Victoria convened their first Indaba (conference) to confront the economic plight and dim development shadow that hovers over the village. The Indaba, which attracted government ministers, regional officials and top private sector officials, was the brainchild of the people of Victoria. This self-inspired initiative also had the purpose of galvanizing residents to creative action in order to compensate for the deepening spread of hopelessness among the young and to arrest further decline in the social and economic fabric of the once prosperous and leading rural community. The keynote address was delivered by Brig. (Ret) David Granger, who is leading the Joint Opposition Political Parties (JOPP) in “A Partnership of National Unity” for the upcoming general elections in Guyana. While much still needs to be done, the people of Victoria have begun to reclaim the sense of pride and presence that the village enjoyed among the community of villages on Guyana’s eastern coastland.
Inspired by a vision of economic and financial prosperity, Victorians took advantage of the Indaba to assess their situation and to reflect on the actions needed to bring about meaningful change in their lives. Following the Indaba last year, several members of the community set about making arrangements to implement the decisions that emerged from the deliberations. It was a tall order since the Indaba adopted 16 resolutions, many of which called for substantive action from parties with miniscule resources, differing responsibilities and divergent interests. However, three of the resolutions called for action that signaled the determination of the village to reposition and reassert itself as a major player in the agricultural drive of the nation. Foremost on the minds of residents was the unreliability of the current drainage and irrigation system that undermines their hard work and robs them of their livelihood. They called on the administration to address this issue aggressively and urgently so as to end the needless suffering of residents.
Despite the failings of the drainage and irrigation system, the people of Victoria continue to see agriculture as an integral part of their economy. Many residents have begun to show renewed interest in ancestral lands and, where necessary, have been encouraged to regularize ownership of those holdings. A major observation of the Indaba was the unsatisfactory condition of the Savannah lands which had fallen into disuse and was denying villagers an opportunity to engage in proper animal husbandry and crop management. Emphasizing their desire to see that cattle and livestock were separated from croplands, Victorians called for the Savannah lands to be restored so that they could put the facility to good use. Work is still ongoing on many of these initiatives and, as seen from the flooding this year, there is still dissatisfaction with the state of drainage and irrigation.
Reluctant to remain hostages of the administration’s miscues and mismanagement, Victoria cleared a path to improving its economic conditions by taking advantage of its rights by leveraging its privilege of position in the “Village Movement” and its pioneering experience in creating the first village after the abolition of slavery. These two things were creatively brought together in the form of a Petition, which was unanimously adopted by the National Assembly on May 19, 2011, and which holds substantial potential for job creation in the village and the nation. By unanimously adopting the Petition, the National Assembly effectively agreed that the historical artifacts of Victoria should be restored and preserved for the benefit of Victorians and all Guyanese. It also called for the erection of a monument in honour of the 83 Proprietors who established the village. The work to be done is expected to create employment for the residents of Victoria. Readying the Petition for Parliament benefitted from the helpful guidance of Ms. Hermina Gilgeours of the Office of the Clerk of the National Assembly and Mr. Robert Corbin who sponsored the Petition on behalf of Victoria.
The National Assembly also agreed that Victoria would host the national agricultural exhibition in 2014 to celebrate the 175th anniversary of the formation of the village. With that decision, Victoria was able to convert its history and pioneering experience into a job-creating opportunity and an asset of significant value. Victoria was able to craft this opportunity because of its role and position in fostering agricultural exhibitions in Guyana. In 1898, Victoria became the first village to host what was described at the time as the “Victoria-Belfield Horticultural and Industrial Show”. That show was only the second in Guyana’s recorded history following an earlier one held by the Royal Agricultural and Commercial Society in Georgetown in 1895. This exhibition, along with the one hosted by Victoria, served as inspirations for the national agricultural and trade exhibition of today.
Impetus and Value
Even though the history of the show does not tell the full story, the exhibition of 1898 apparently gave added impetus and value to the aspirations of the villagers who understood the importance of agriculture to their own survival and that of succeeding generations. The participation of the people of Victoria in an agricultural show today would be markedly different from the earlier event. Instead of being marginal contributors, they will be intimately involved in organizing and making decisions about the show’s content and management. This opportunity is expected to boost the participation of Victoria Village in the agricultural efforts of the country and inspire it to put up a good show. The preparations for that event have already begun to engage the minds of its advocates who intend to ensure that jobs and business opportunities are created for residents and non-residents alike.
Achieving those objectives will be a major focus of the Indaba to be held this year from August 4 to 7. The deliberations at the upcoming Indaba will also consider ways of ensuring that the agricultural and environmental interests of the village could be properly harmonized in anticipation of the 2014 exhibition and the challenges imposed by the country’s low-carbon development strategy on new economic activities. As part of its quest to succeed, Victoria will undertake a “Clean-Up Campaign”, on July 30, 2011, which is being organized by Ms. Sheranne Doorgasingh Wickham of the Victoria Conference Leadership Committee.
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WEEK 4 JUNE 2011