Number 43 Joppa Village

Story and photos by Bebi Oosman

The canal which connects Number 43 Joppa Village with the Corentyne River( Photo by Bebi Oosman)

Number 43/Joppa Village located on the Corentyne, Berbice in Region Six is self-sufficient, simple, free, and non-violent, a village of “one big family”, according to residents.

It is said that in the ancient days, the village was purchased by Richard Richmond, who named it  Richmond Estate. The residents said he distributed lots to relatives for them to build their homes, and parcels to cattle farmers for them to rear their animals, while the backlands were used for cultivation, which is still happening today.

Leonard Bobb, 63, who was born, and grew up in the village said back in the day Number 43 was like a “cottage village” with a few small houses. He divulged information about Richard Richmond.

However, after Black Bush Polder was opened many years ago the village became known as Joppa Farm because of the nearby Joppa Sluice. “Our village was Richmond Estate. My great grandfather bought this portion of land about nearly 100 years ago,” Bobb said. “It was Joppa Farm when I born [and when I was] around 10 years [old] the Number 43 Village was added.”

The Joppa sluice is no longer functional. “The sluice was so old that it was leaking salt water to the farmland so they installed a self-generating pump there,” he added.

According to Bobb, from his boyhood days to now the village has developed some 60 percent. However, while the village has been developing, residents have been migrating to other villages, counties and countries.

According to some residents, as soon as they complete their secondary education, the youth would opt to leave the village. One woman said, “Them children na want get into farming.”

Bobb said the village is not very populated and more persons need to move into the area, as the land is very good for cultivation. “You see a set of open land? It belongs to Richmond Estate, the family right now is not a big family, many generations to come it may get more populated,” he said.

With that being said, the older folks of the village and some young ones too have been embarking on large-scale farming. One man said the land is the best in Region Six for planting, once maintained properly. However, residents are frustrated as the blockage of one canal is hampering their livelihood.

According to Bobb, the village desperately needs better drainage and irrigation. He said it is long overdue for the canal, which he referred to as the ‘salaway canal’ to be cleared.

Another diehard resident, Lloyd Richmond, 77, said Joppa Village is the only home he knows. “I born and grow here and will die here too,” he said, while explaining that the village was a very quiet one.

The man who is also a relative of Richard Richmond, said he was a cattle farmer, but due to his age he has since sold his animals.

He fondly remembered his wife, who he said was the only woman he ever loved. He said Joppa Village is where he fell in love, started a family and had many firsts. The father of six recalled that when he met his now-deceased wife, they were both teenagers living a few villages apart. “I use to drive the bus and she did wan go dentist and she catch the bus and we gaff right through and from then me love her,” he recalled.

He said his wife, who died ten years ago, made his life very easy and enjoyable, adding that he loves the village because it is where he feels closest to his wife.

Prince Trotman, 42, strongly stressed that the canal, which will better enable drainage for the farming land as well as the entire village, and neighbouring Bengal Village is in need of attention from regional officials.

Trotman, a cash-crop farmer, said he has been collecting signatures from residents and was on his way to take a letter to the regional office pleading to have the canal dug.

According to the man, several proposals were made to the regional administration in the past. However, he said with the village now collectively arguing for the canal to be dug, he expects the authorities to pay heed.

Meanwhile, one of the oldest residents, Claudine Ifill, 85, said she still enjoys gardening and exercise. “Everyday I does exercise. I can’t just sit down, that is not for me,” she said.

The woman said she would be really glad for streetlights to be placed along the main access road in the village.

Ifill said that despite its farming capabilities persons may not want to reside in the village because they may say “the village is so dull”. However, she said, this is one of the things she enjoys the most about the village, not much happening.

Ifill said the younger generation is not sure where they are heading, as their thoughts are far different from what she remembers in her young days. She said youths need to learn to accept advice.

Shereen Ifill, also known as Sherry, 38, also said the village needs streetlights immediately. “People does come out all hours and head to their farms, streetlights would help us feel safer,” she said.

Additionally, the woman stressed, the village needs a skills-training centre for the youths. “They go to school and home, or they go to technical institute we have no gaming facilities, we need that for the youths to keep them occupied before they have other thoughts to do wrong things,” she added.

Her husband Yogeshwar Jaipersaud, 43, who operates a beer garden has embarked for the first time on planting tomatoes. “It is a fast crop so that’s why we try tomato,” he said.

Usha Goberdhan, 60, who sells fish in the village and has done so for most of her life said, “Nobody na really gimme nothing, so me a sell to live. Me house turn old and all a back fall out and deh ground and now me a live in the kitchen.”

She said she is grateful that she was outside of the house when it fell. “Me had me clothes and one bed, me na been a put nothing heavy and it still fall after 39 years.”

Veronica (only name given) said residents major in cash crop and rice cultivation, fishing and cattle rearing at the backlands. She said the village has developed in terms of housing and better roads, “but we need street lights and some drains need clearing”.

She also said that a community centre is needed in the village for after-school activities. “It need a place for youths to go do computering because not everybody can afford to put internet service in their homes, so it would be nice to get a place for our children to go and learn.”

She also called for the opening of a library and sports centre to cater for the large number children aged 8 to 16 years old.

As the World Beyond Georgetown traversed the streets of Joppa, there was evidence of residents living closely; neighbours were seen in conversation with each other, or offering a helping hand; every child was looked out for by the entire village and the sick were being assisted.

The village has a nursery school and a primary school, a mandir and a fishing wharf.

The fishermen at the wharf who reside in neighbouring villages, explained that the wharf is very helpful to them. One man said, “When you offload the boat, people does stop and buy fish right here.”

It was also noticed throughout the village that almost all the yards are adorned with flower plants and fruit trees.