GEORGETOWN, Guyana (CMC) – An agreement amounting to US$10.7 million has been signed between the Government of Guyana and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) towards the titling of Amerindian lands.
At the signing ceremony on Monday, Finance Minister , Dr Ashni Singh said the funds would be used to provide absolute grants to 13 communities and demarcate 33 villages.
“We believe very firmly that this is an extremely important initiative because it places it entirely within the control of the villages concerned the lands that belong to them,” Singh said.
According to President Donald Ramotar, at the end of this three year project, the ruling People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) would have fulfilled a promise to the Amerindians
He thanked the Amerindian population for the steps taken to preserving the flora and fauna in their communities.
“I have no doubt that even though that might not have been the language that would have been used centuries ago, our Amerindian forefathers without a doubt understood the strong nexus between taking care of our rivers and our forests and the long term well being of their villages and their children and their grandchildren still to come,” he said.
That comment came against the background lingering concern about the pollution of rivers and creeks- the source of freshwater for many Amerindian communities- due to gold and diamond mining.
Earlier this year, a group of Amerindians had blocked the passage of excavators to a gold bearing area in the Rupununi for fear that the operation would have encroached on their concession and also pollute nearby waterways.
Funding for the project is being drawn down from the Norwegian forest preservation services under the Guyana Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+) initiative.
Figures show that 97 Amerindian villages have been already titled and 77 villages demarcated. At least 14 percent of Guyana’s landmass has been granted to Amerindians.
The land demarcation project is being executed by the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs and implemented by the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission.
Under Guyanese law, subsurface rights belong to the government and prospecting and mining permits are granted by the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC).
Guyana is expected to earn US$250 million from Norway for providing forest conservation services.
Over 75,000 persons are expected to gain from the project.