Baramita can now be recognized as a “titled community” having formally received its Land Title last weekend, giving its people exclusive rights to their territory.
This is according to a statement issued on Tuesday by the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs.
The distribution of land titles was announced last August during the Annual National Toshaos Council’s (NTC) Con-ference held at the Arthur Chung Convention Centre, where ten Indigenous Communities, including Baramita were identified as future recipients.
However, after some delay, due to what the Minister of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs Sydney Allicock said was the need for additional consultation with the NTC, the Land Title was formally handed over to Toshao of the Community, Trevor Matheson last weekend, in the presence of the Permanent Secretary (PS) in the Indigenous Peoples’ Ministry, Alfred King, Regional Executive Officer of Region One, Leslie Wilburg, Vice Chairman of Region One Sarah Brown, councilors and residents of the Community.
A move which was said to be well received by the Community, the Minister also took the opportunity to reiterate future plans to improve the community’s infrastructure, adding that over $93 million will be spent on the development of the community’s education sector.
These developments are due to be rolled out by the government over the next eight months, which will ensure its social and economic status will see vast improvement, and includes construction of a Nursery School and teachers’ quarters, the renovation of the Primary School, and the acquisition of a minibus for transporting children to and from school.
Meanwhile, Vice-Chairperson Browne indicated that documentation to commence construction of the nursery and teaching quarters is currently being processed at the tender board, but as soon as that process is completed, and a new location for the building is agreed upon, work on the buildings will commence.
Notwithstanding, the Minister in his acknowledgment of the tumultuous situations facing many residents in Baramita, opined that the pending changes to its landscape will significantly change the way business is conducted.
He did however, point out that his Ministry cannot do it alone, therefore efforts will have to be made to establish partnerships with other key ministries to ensure that the social issues plaguing the community will be adequately addressed.
“There are a number of issues, a number of reports, a number of allegations coming from here and the Government is willing not only to listen but to do something about these issues, but it cannot be done in isolation, we have to engage all concerned. If we are to move Baramita forward or to the next level we need to be serious, beginning first of all with the level of the authority which is the Village Council, time is of the essence,” he said.
In the meantime, Allicock encouraged villagers to come up with ideas that will bring about more cohesion, and even offered a few suggestions of his own.
“Think about possibly acquiring a 3000 Watt solar farm; it can take the form of a compound with enough land space that will include a section for tourism exhibits, an internet café’, an ice factory, book stores, a section to sell local produce, clothing, pharmacies, gadgets and so many other things,” he explained, adding that it should be laid out in such a way that there is another layer that can accommodate a housing scheme which will boast amenities, including an efficient water supply among other systems that will seek to protect the natural environment.
“The main focus is to have the entire area come together and plan the way forward into a successful future”, the Minister remarked.
Meanwhile, Deidre Ifill, the Prevention and Education Officer in the Ministry of Social Protection, who accompanied the Ministry on what was her initial visit to the Community, indicated that efforts will be made to aggressively tackle the social ills plaguing the community.
“I am very impressed with what I have seen based on the many things I have heard about the village. It is good to know that the village has come a long way and improvement is evident, one, your children are in school,” she observed, before motivating students by having them repeat the slogan, “I am human, I have rights, I am strong and I will make a difference.”
Commendations were also given to both teachers and students for putting their best foot forward by Ministry’s new Permanent Secretary, Alfred King, who noted that despite the many challenges, including that of inadequate accommodation, they continue to persevere.
“Based on last year’s performance 12 of the 14 students who wrote the common entrance exam [National Grade Six Assessment- NGSA] were successful and they must be commended for that. I’m hearing that twenty six will be writing the exams this year and I am predicting an 80% pass when the results are out. I am hoping that the team’s visit will serve as a motivation for you students to excel since attaining a sound primary education is critical to future development,” he remarked.
But though he commended their achievement, the PS expressed disappointment with the fact that in spite of that number of passes, none of the students are currently attending secondary school.
However, based on the reasons given for their non-attendance the PS committed to ensuring that following this year’s sitting, the Ministry will award full scholarships to the top five students which according to him, will ensure no one loses an opportunity at gaining a higher education.
The PS also emphasized the role of parents in ensuring their children receive a sound education saying, “There must be that influencing factor of parents to ensure their child/children access higher education.”
Also introduced to the residents of Baramita, was Policy Advisor in the Ministry of Education, Ruel Johnson, who in acknowledging their first language as being Carib, said the Ministry recognizes the considerable challenges faced by students there, in terms of the language barrier, but noted that efforts are afoot to address this challenge since it’s a major hindrance to learning.
The Village Council was also encouraged to make “hard choices” that will ultimately bring about positive benefits for the village.
It was the REO, in this regard, who spoke of government’s commitment to improving the lives of all Guyanese while noting that despite the challenges facing the village; together they can make a difference.
“Commitments were also made in the area of agriculture, whereby farmers will be educated on farming techniques since according to one farmer it’s not only about planting seeds but offering the entire package which will yield success,” the statement said.
They were encouraged to establish a Co-op with the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs acting as the facilitating agency, while Allicock pointed to the recently established Co-op in Paramakatoi, a model he said Baramita can use as a successful business tool.
In response to this, one councilor said villagers have in the past approached the Institute of Private Enterprise Development (IPED) to access loans for agriculture purposes but were told that due to their geographical location they could not qualify.
This being said, the PS promised to open discussions with IPED on their behalf.
The Minister also advised that they should begin looking to tap into niche markets but there must be that assurance that they can adequately satisfy the local markets, noting that in the past, similar market ventures were birthed, but because of the limited supply of a number of products the markets fell through.
Baramita is home to over 3000 residents who occupy the land, with their main economic activity being gold mining. Other villages identified to receive Land Titles were Yakarinta and Rupunau Region Nine; Taruka, Tuseneng and Karisparu, Region Eight; Kariako, Region One; and Chinoweing, Kato and Batavia, Region Seven.