The government’s US$8 million pledge to Amerindian communities, from the first tranche from the Guyana REDD+ Investment Fund (GRIF) set up with Norway, will be used to accelerate land demarcation and finance a solar power drive, President Bharrat Jagdeo yesterday announced.
He made the revelation at the opening of the five-day National Toshaos Council (NTC) Meeting at the Guyana International Conference Centre, Liliendaal. Some US$4 million will be used to accelerate the Amerindian land demarcation exercise, while it is estimated that about US$1.5 million will be used to purchase solar panels for every Amerindian home. The rest is to be used to fund activities arising from the council meeting, Jagdeo said.
He noted that none of the Amerindian communities had been asked to pledge any of their forests to the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) but if they so choose then it would be additional funds for them. Jagdeo pointed out role of the international agencies in the funding facility and said he hoped that their representatives would be present this week at the meeting to ensure the disbursement goes ahead quickly. “They slow things up tremendously; we’ve been negotiating a year now with the World Bank [and] it’s only a couple of weeks we got the money transferred although it should have been transferred since January to our account because we fulfilled the conditions,” he declared.
Jagdeo urged the Toshaos to tell the officials not to stymie the initial US$30 million GRIF disbursement because “it’s our money, we earned it.”
He said the US$8 million was dedicated to the announced areas since that was what had been identified in consultations with the communities. He also expanded on plans for computers for the Amerindian communities saying the government was setting aside a large sum of money to be spent over the next two years in tandem with the One Laptop Per Family initiative which will concentrate on the coast. “This is not necessarily going to be funded from the Low Carbon Development Strategy, but some of it may come from the treasury itself, to ensure that in each Amerindian village … we have internet access and a bank of computers, maybe about 20 computers in each of these villages depending on their size,” the President said.
He also urged the toshaos to send a clear signal to the international community which sometimes uses the wrong people as middlemen. According to Jagdeo, some NGOs could only receive funding by being “contrarian” and he went on to state that one had undermined a US$5 million project which would have benefited Amerindians. “Let me tell you something, they’re not going to undermine this one, I’m not going to let anybody undermine this one that will bring benefit to our people,” he declared.
He added that some toshaos had already been persuaded to say that they did not want any money from the LCDS, something they subsequently denied when confronted and which their villages were not in favour with.