New Forest is one of the last villages you get to when heading into East Canje, Berbice.
While many claim that New Forest is located directly after Gangaram Village, residents of the area told the World Beyond Georgetown that New Forest is actually located further down; after Gangaram there are several other villages with just a few houses before New Forest.
One resident said, “People call this whole place New Forest, but we got Eight Mile, Speculation, Zorg, Good Land then New Forest but all body call it New Forest so it lef like that.”
Opposite this area is the famous Canje Creek, which leads to Baracara and other communities.
The ‘New Forest’ area is one of the most beautiful and calmest in the entire Canje district. The first thing one sees is tall green trees along both sides of the main access road leading into New Forest along with bushes that have been there for ages.
While most residents use bicycles to venture out of the area, someone entering with a vehicle would have to drive for more than five minutes before reaching the first occupied house.
Indeed houses are far apart, with cattle fields, dams and bushes separating them. Even so, there are many empty houses and upon enquiring, I was told that many residents have left the area and moved to more developed villages right in the East Canje area, like Gangaram, while others have migrated overseas.
One of the residents from Speculation, Lennox Fraser, 57, noted that the area is quiet, but lacks basic necessities such as electricity, telephone and water services.
Fraser said he had to purchase his own generator.
“Since me born me a live here,” he said. “In Speculation it get three house with people living, the other houses people migrate.”
According to the estate worker, the area was even more “bushy” than it is at present. “When people move in and chop, chop open lil garden and farm it clear lil bit,” he noted.
Fraser explained that one of the main drains, which leads directly to the cultivation fields in the area is currently heavily silted. “Long years ago them did clear it. It need to clear again,” he said.
While many persons do not reside in the area, the World Beyond Georgetown was told that a large number of persons own land in the area, where they plant rice, cash crops and fruits or house their cattle.
Fraser said, “Long ago we would drink the Canje Creek water.” However, because of the bad state of the water now, residents have since turned to rainwater.
He said that all he can ever recall that was done in the area was that several years ago the main access road was rehabilitated to a proper state. “Most people want lot here to mind animals, not to live,” Fraser said.
Another villager from Speculation, Chandranie Ramoo also known as Clara, 78, said she moved into the village after she married her husband who was a cane cutter.
She too stated that the area is a farming area. “Plenty body na want live here. [But] since me married and come here me like here,” she said.
According to Ramoo, under Bharrat Jagdeo’s presidency, pipes were run up in the area. “They give we water for three weeks and we na get back water,” she said. The World Beyond Georgetown investigated and found out that a pump had been placed in the area many years ago, but after three weeks it was moved to an area on the Corentyne, and the New Forest location was never given another pump.
“We get good road to ride we cycle and come out. We a punish for water. We get creek water fuh do work and we a use rainwater fuh cook or drink and if rain na fall we got to go Gangaram fa fetch water to use. The water we a punish for bad,” she said.
According to Ramoo, she resides with her husband, daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren.
She said one of the main access drains in the area needs immediate cleaning. She explained that whenever it rains, or the creek overflows and they are flooded, the water takes a long period to recede because the drain is heavily silted. “Bout two weeks abie had a flood, if we had good drain it would a drain out,” she pointed out.
Meanwhile a resident of Zorg, 72-year-old Parsram Ramsar, stated that he moved into the area with his father when he was a young child. The farmer’s yard was heavily flooded at the time of World Beyond Georgetown visit. The man said, his crops and animals had been in water for over one month now. “I lost over 150 ducks since the flood, plus 200 trees of lemon and limes,” he said. He stressed that he is afraid that the flood water might not recede anytime soon and he might lose everything he has.
The man is pleading with the regional authorities to assist with clearing the main drain and other drains, so that the water can recede at the earliest. He said Regional Chairman David Armogan had visited the area at the beginning of the flood and made some recommendations. However, there has been no word from officials since that visit.
A couple from Eight Mile was sitting on the road corner. They said that every day they leave home together and head out to New Forest, where the husband makes quakes (fisherman’s basket) for sale.
The wife, Soroje, 46, said, “He a make quake and me a come keep he company. Me a cook right here and we a spend whole day here then go home.” The woman explained, that they used to reside in Betsy Ground Village but moved into New Forest area due to her husband’s work.
Meanwhile, her husband Rajendra Ramnarace, 48, a famous quake maker in Canje, said he normally sells quakes at the Port Mourant Market for $3,000 and $2500. He said, “Stripping the bamboo does take long, but plaiting does take about one hour and so, me does make two quake a day.”
According to Ramnarace, also known as “Redman”, his mother taught him to make quakes. He said, it’s a job he genuinely enjoys doing. He also pointed out that his business is currently at its peak, mainly because it’s “out of crop” at the Rose Hall Estate, hence most sugar workers are fishing for their livelihood and would need quakes.
Margaret Newyear of Zorg said she has been living in the area all her life and enjoys it. She said, “I like it, me like staying in, and not mixing and walking about all over.” She also called for water and electricity.
The woman who lives alone said, “I does plant cash crop and provisions but me farm flood out right now.” She also makes coconut oil for sale. “For the week I does make about two to three gallons and I does send it out on the road to sell.”
The woman said, “I does use the creek water to do everything and I healthy as ever.”
Dharamdeo Gangadin, 56, also of Zorg, said he had his cattle to take care of, hence he did not opt to move out of the area like other residents. According to the man, his wife has since migrated overseas and in a few years’ time he will also migrate.
He owns a coconut mill and allows persons to take their coconuts there and “grind it on the mill for free.”
He also bemoaned the flood situation stating that his yard has been under water for five weeks now.
However, Gangadin had sold his cattle and is currently working as a security guard.
Lall, 61, of New Forest said he is working with a rice farmer “watching rice”. However, since the flooding he has had nothing to do; he is waiting for the water to recede. “Today me going to watch them goats and them me a go come back and gyaff with me friends dem,” he said.
There is one shop in New Forest. Its proprietor has migrated and left a close friend to operate the business. However, residents related that the business is opened mostly at weekends, since the operator is usually at his rice fields during the week days.
Directly opposite the shop, there are a few benabs. At the weekend, persons from the area go there to hang out and have some drinks; it’s a somewhat secluded area.
Residents of New Forest believe that if more persons were to consider residing in the area, the authorities might look into developing it.