Yesterday, 135 residents of Mocha/Arcadia, East Bank Demerara (EBD) received ‘Permission to Occupy State Lands’ documents from Minister of State, Joseph Harmon at a ceremony held at the Marks Supermarket.
A Ministry of the Presidency release said that the document, which is temporary and valid for three months, offers the residents the option of taking up a 50-year lease on the lands for a nominal fee.
Once the fee is paid and the administrative procedures completed, the residents would be allowed to live and farm on the one-acre plots of land.
The release said that the residents, who have been occupying the land for up to 25 years, are only now receiving any form of legal documentation.
Harmon told the beneficiaries and residents of the area that last year the residents sent several letters to his office and that of the President, setting out their plight. They contended that under the previous administration they had been denied documentation for the land on which they had been engaged in agriculture.
Harmon told the residents that they must now use the land to return to the days of self-sufficiency, especially in the agricultural sector.
“The granting of these ‘Permission to Occupy’ [documents]…is a correction of what I would call a historical injustice that denied the residents of Mocha Arcadia use of its surrounding agricultural lands and by extension the community, the opportunity to develop the village economy and create employment especially for its young people. It is hoped that you the recipients would put the land to full, productive use and bring about a rebirth of the enterprising spirit in your community,” Harmon said.
Commissioner of the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission (GL&SC), Trevor Benn said that his desk had been flooded with letters from members of the community complaining about their inability to access titles for their lands and the length of time many of them had been applying.
“In June 2016, a team from the GL&SC came to the village and commenced the land regularisation. On that first occasion in June, we had approximately 300 persons showing up and that triggered what we called a claims and objections period, which allowed people who were occupying land to make a claim. The process ended in November and it resulted in 135 persons being considered,” he said.
Benn, according to the release, stated that Mocha has, over the years, become a model farming community and the decision was taken by the Commission to give an acre of land each which is enough to allow them to live and at a minimum, maintain a garden.
“These lots are not the usual lots you would get from the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA). These are one-acre lots. This would allow you to do your farming and live on the land. We are doing it because we recognise the hardships that people in the community face for many years and could not properly utilise their lands and make a living from it over the years. We have given it at a minimal fee for the prospective leaseholders. Anyone who receives the permissions today will be required to pay a minuscule amount,” Benn told the residents.
Chairman of the Mocha/Arcadia Neigh-bourhood Democratic Council Rudolph Adams expressed gratitude to the Government for the initiative, noting that it has always been a dream of the community to receive documentation for the lands they have occupied for over two decades. The lands, he said, willnow be used to drive self-sufficiency in the village.