Indigenous peoples must become economically independent – Garrido-Lowe

A GINA Feature- June 6, 2016

Minister within the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs, Valerie Garrido-Lowe, says that her vision upon taking office was to help the indigenous people become economically independent. According to Minister Garrido-Lowe, this can be done through the development of village economies.
Lowe noted that there must be unity and determination among the indigenous people if their communities are to be fully developed. “They have to want to start a business that can generate income for the community and this is where we need everyone to pool in their thoughts, their opinions, their resources whether it is cash or kind” the minister explained.
Towards achieving this goal, Lowe said that the indigenous people must be taught how to use the resources they have available in their environment, hence, a number of projects were undertaken towards making this vision a reality.

HEYS Programme

The Hinterland Employment Youth Service (HEYS) targets 3000 indigenous youths across 100 villages in the hinterland. The project was launched in Paramakatoi, Region Eight in 2015.
The project will provide training and capacity building in several key areas including, plumbing, carpentry, sewing and electrical installation among other vocational areas. The participants will also benefit from remedial Mathematics and English Language in order to build their capacity in literacy and numeracy.
The programme runs for a period of one year; six months of in-house and practical training and six months attachment to an office or organisation which is relevant to the student’s area of study.
Additionally , Minister Lowe explained that there is a partnership between the Ministry, the National Agricultural Research & Extension Institute (NAREI) and Institute of Applied Science (IAST) to facilitate the growing, packaging and marketing of tomatoes in Paramakatoi, Region Eight.

A training center will also be established in the community to train the youths, who will spearhead the project. These youths are already being trained in the area of agriculture through the HEYS project.
HEYS- Eco Tourism
The training provided under the HEYS programme is expected to boost the villages’ capacity to identify and develop eco-tourism packages. The skills that the youths will develop under the HEYS programme will help them tap into ecotourism potential of the hinterland.
The Minister noted that the government, in collaboration with a number of stakeholders has been working to boost the capacity of the hinterland regions. This is being done to help the indigenous people capitalize on the opportunities that will be created.
Access to education for youths
His Excellency David Granger is keen on ensuring that quality and equitable education is delivered to the country’s children, and to ensure that this becomes a reality, the Ministry has been supporting hinterland youths to access secondary and tertiary education on the coast.
This has seen 74 students attending secondary schools in Georgetown, 28 attending the Guyana Technical Institute, the Guyana School of Agriculture and Carnegie. The students are also given an allowance.
Additionally, students continue to access secondary education on the coast through the Hinterland Scholarship Programme. During 2015, 69 students graduated from this programme.
Women’s Group
The empowering of Indigenous women has been also high on the government’s agenda. Minister Garrido-Lowe said that the government fully understands the role of women in the family, hence, her Ministry created a programme that provides access to funds for income-generating projects.
Two women’s groups in Region’s One and Eight have benefitted from $4M to fund their projects, “one for a poultry farm in Region one and in Region 8 they want to finish building a craft shop.” the Minister explained.
Further, the Ministry in collaboration with the Small Business Bureau will assist 20 women in Monkey Mountain with small grants to start gardens.
Indigenous women in Regions One, Two, Three, Four, Seven, Eight and Nine have already benefitted from the Small Business Initiative.
Other projects
Several hinterland communities will receive support from the Ministry to develop a semi-precious stones industry. Region Eight, is estimated to have 15 million tonnes of jasper. While agate, black pearl, green quartz and amethyst can be found in other areas of the region.
The Ministry, in collaboration with the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC), will facilitate training for jewelers within communities in Region Eight. . The stones will be used to produce jewellery, coffee table tops, clocks and other items.
Minister Lowe explained that the development of the minerals can boost the livelihood of many people, providing direct and indirect jobs once the industry is developed
Hinterland sports
Swimming, football and archery are among the most popular sports in the hinterland areas but plans are underway to train students to play chess. The Minister believes that the introduction of chess will help students’ analytical skills and also help them obtain better grades in mathematics. “I’d like to see that (chess) developed. I think this will help our indigenous peoples so much to think things through, I view this as something very necessary and I will make sure that it happens” Lowe promised.
Three indigenous swimmers represented Guyana at the Good Will Games held in Trinidad and Tobago in 2015. The Ministry together with two sponsors covered accommodation, meals and travelling expenses for the athletes. Additionally, in 2015 the Ministry collaborated with the Guyana Football Federation (GFF) to promote football in Region Nine.
The Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs is in the process of developing a plan which will see qualified Indigenous youths participating in sports nationally and internationally.

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