Berbice Forestry Association receives forestry concessions

Guyana Chronicle
March 15, 2003

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LEASES for three forestry concessions covering about 24,200 acres of land have been handed over to members of the Upper Berbice Forestry Association, Region 10 (Upper Demerara/Upper Berbice).

The presentation took place Thursday at the Kwakwani Workers Club.

The association is allowed to harvest 3,150 cubic metres of logs from the three leases - State Forest Permission with one-year duration.

Minister of Fisheries, Crops and Livestock with responsibility for Forestry, Mr. Satyadeow Sawh handed over the leases while on a visit to the area.

He was accompanied by Commissioner of the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC), Mr. James Singh, Director of the National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI), Dr. Oudho Homenauth, General Manager of the New Guyana Marketing Corporation (NGMC), Mr. Nizam Hassan and other officials from his ministry.

The GFC was mandated to find a way to assist residents in Upper Berbice who were retrenched from the bauxite industry.

Singh explained that several meetings were held with members of the association over the last few months and they have made significant progress to fulfill their mandate.

He announced that the documentation is being finalised for the issuance of another lease with an estimated area of 29,000 acres of forest, to the Upper Berbice Forestry Association.

Singh pointed out that GFC is keeping its promise to the people of Kwakwani.

He explained that each person will earn about $20,000 from the three leases but their earnings will double when they receive the additional acreage.

"The areas have been awarded to an association that represents about 100 members. GFC's position is that all the members are expected to benefit from these leases in an equitable manner," he said.

He added that forestry resources in Guyana are limited and people should not confine themselves to logging as the main activity but should get involved in other downstream activities.

The Commission head explained that it is important for people to stay within the quota granted to them because if they over-harvest they will be breaking the Code of Practice.

Minister Sawh said certain mechanisms have been put in place to help residents in the community.

"We are concerned and we know about the situation in your particular communities. We are also aware of the problem you are experiencing in the bauxite industry," he said.

He added, "Our Government has put certain mechanisms in place with the intention to facilitate the transition of a community that is dependent upon one major source of employment, that is the bauxite sector.

"We have begun the process of overseeing the transition to a community that is interdependent and broad-based."

The minister urged the gathering to diversify because that is the way forward and people should not depend on one source of income.

It was noted that about a year ago a Government team visited the area to find ways of helping the community to diversify.

"The distribution of the leases speaks volumes for our initiative and forward strategic planning.

"Here, we see as a deliberate pursuit of the Government and the Forestry Commission, a substantial acreage being allocated and handed over to the people themselves. This is one way of empowering people and this falls within the Government's poverty alleviation strategy," he said.

He pointed out to the association that other people in Guyana would be looking at their performances to see how well they execute their responsibilities.

"There is no scope for a dictatorial approach to the leases. There is no scope for unaccountability and there is no scope for illegality," the minister said.

He also urged residents to adapt to changes and be equipped to face the challenges of the changing world.

He explained that farmers should learn to increase production but at the same time keep the cost of production down.

Chairman of the Upper Berbice Forestry Association, Mr. Oswald Hartmann said it was a special day for them and they are thankful for the minister's visit to the area.

He added that they would try their best to do all that is possible despite the minor constraints.

Hartmann pledged the association's commitment to make the venture a success. He also called on all the members of the association to work together to further develop the community.

He said the three leases would provide employment for about 1,000 persons in the area.

Sawh and his team addressed issues raised by residents in the community.

These included training personnel to educate people to do crop rotation, the availability of a ferry for transportation along the river and repair to the roads.

Homenauth explained that NARI was on a fact-finding mission in the area sometime last year and recommendations were made after interactions with the community.

He added that four persons from the area would be trained to do crop rotation and other technical issues to help people with non-traditional crop farming.

He said soil testing was done and recommendations were made on what can be grown in the area.

Sawh said he would raise the issue about the ferry and repairs to the roads with the relevant authorities.

The minister and his team also visited a sawmill operated by Universal

Amalgamated Communal Industries Limited in the area.

The sawmill employs about 20 persons from surrounding communities.

Singh noted that great emphasis is placed on occupational health and safety at that sawmill.

He explained that officials from GFC visit the sawmills periodically to ensure operators are maintaining the code of conduct and standards.

The Commissioner said the company is also keeping within the environmental practices outlined by the GFC. (GOVERNMENT INFORMATION AGENCY - GINA)

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