Scores of communities stretched across the hinterland have set up their own businesses under the Amerindian Development Fund, and many are now turning over a profit.
After four and a half years, the Fund is now transitioning from management under the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs.
Guyana’s 80, 000 indigenous peoples are traditionally known for eking out a living through subsistence activities.
The Amerindian Development Fund, which began in September 2014, envisioned a dramatic transformation of the village economies – the 191 communities would get a grant of $5 million to set up their own businesses.
Village leaders will get training on how to get a business up and running, how to manage it and how to make it profitable and continue in the long run.
Fast forward four and a half years later. 153 communities have received their grants and 54 are turning over a profit; to date, $133M in income from their projects have been realised.
At Cara Lodge in Georgetown Thursday, the community leaders met to develop an action plan to continue the businesses started.
The project was managed by the United Nations Development Programme, UNDP, and is now being transitioned to the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs.
UNDP Resident Coordinator Mikiko Tanaka said that the business must move from being just “project businesses” to business as usual in the communities.
But to get to that point, she said the communities still need help with linkages, such as getting market for their projects.
She cited the case of ginger farmers in Region One who were able to get sale for their ginger to Demerra Distillers Limited.
But she suggested a more clearly defined, sustainable system connecting the Amerindian business with local manufacturers is needed
Under the project, the communities receive their grants after Community Development Plans are approved.
There were 33 grants for crops, 14 for poultry projects, 33 for cattle projects, six for fisheries, 21 to set up village shops, 20 for transportation projects, 15 for hospitality services and 12 grants went to forest-based artisans. Agriculture accounted for the most grants, totalling $403.9 million.
The Fund’s Team Leader, Mildred Akpan, explained that the entire community was involved in the projects that were selected.
The Amerindian Development Fund was conceptualised under the Low Carbon Development Strategy, in which the Kingdom of Norway agreed to pay Guyana US$250 million for keeping its forest standing under a United Nations programme called REDD-Plus.