A tricky word to play with.
The Urban Development Corporation of T&T (Udecott) is
a construction company. This confirms the growing impression
among the citizenry that for the current government, development
means the erecting of large, showy (some might say coskel)
buildings, quipped Women Working for Social Progress
in a press release on the Udecott crisis three weeks ago.
The buildings aesthetic merits aside, the point made
is a strong one. If we equate tall buildings with development,
what is the core of our perception of the meaning of development?
The name Urban Development Corporation to me
brings to mind increased or improved green spaces in our
cities, an improved transportation network, improved safety,
better and cheaper facilities for childcare and literacy
improvement for children, improvement of public spaces.
Better sidewalks, for goodness sake, and not merely
Even if one were to limit the scope of understanding to
just economic development, that, according to an article
in Wikipedia, typically refers to improvements in
a variety of indicators such as literacy rates, life expectancy,
and poverty rates.
Sustainable development, another Wikipedia article says,
quoting the United Nations 2005 World Summit Outcome
Document, is built on the interdependent and
mutually reinforcing pillars of...economic development,
social development, and environmental protection.
Udecott, our development company, engages in none of them.
In travelling around Mabaruma and Hosororo in Region One,
Guyana, the question of development occurred to me time
and again. Was it development, I asked myself, to build
enormous schools that produced students who lacked education?
Or was it development to have small but working schools
with fewer students and a higher teacher-student ratio?
Was it development to build more and more offices for a
bloated and inefficient public service? Or to strengthen
the powers and efficacy of local governments? (Something
which, I hope, might happen in my lifetime.)
Of the UN Millennium Development Goals, not one has to do
with tall buildings. This is a document on which we have
signed off as a nation, and also one on which we have based
our Vision 2020 goals. They include things like the universal
achievement of primary school education, eradication of
extreme poverty, reduction of infant mortality rates. Want
to know what tall buildings have to do with that?
Over in Guyana, I was privileged enough to be taken to an
Amerindian village named Tobago, where I saw the consequences
of inappropriate development at work. A village of 200,
with a hundred children, living on cassava alone because
they had moved out of their home environment into a new
one for which they were ill prepared.
Instead of being riverside fisherfolk and gatherers as they
had been for generations, they were now in a new area about
which they knew nothing and poised to be farmerswithout
enough farmland to keep body and soul together. Not to mention
that they knew nothing of farming except planting cassava.
There were good things about Tobago: there was access there
to pipe-borne water, for example. But by and large the move
from the previous location of the village to its current
landlocked perch on a hillside outside Hosororo is one its
inhabitants now regret. However, for various reasons, they
have decided to remain there.
The question is now, how to make the best of the situation?
Lemons aplenty, how to make lemonade?
Annette Arjoon, secretary of the Guyana Marine Turtle Conservation
Society (GMTCS), had been doing other work in Region One
when the situation of the Tobago village came to her attention.
Though at its foundation a turtle conservation group, the
society also does economic development work with Amerindians
and Amerindian villages in the region. Tobago is now one
of the projects in the GMTCS ambit.
After my visit to Tobago with her in March, she said in
a recent e-mail to me, we have since arranged for
a doctor from the UK to visit the community to do an evaluation
of their health needs, we have also given them 100 avocado
plants and GY$46,000 worth of seeds which they have planted
and are now using some of the vegetables, have arranged
with the regional chairman that once the school is constructed
they will provide a teacher.
Much of which, one would realise, will cost money to complete.
Annette, who is one of the joint laureates of the 2008 Anthony
N Sabga Caribbean Awards for Excellence, has asked for my
help in bringing the Tobago story to a T&T audience.
(I am the communications manager of the awards.)
It is her intention to begin raising funds to realise those
intentions to bring sustainable development to Tobago. She
has pledged the funds from her award will go towards mechanising
production of some of the goods produced by Amerindian communities
under the GMTCS brand North West Organics. Tobago
needs a patron.
The question might arise: why give money to an obscure village
in Guyana when there are hundreds of thousands of children
in poverty right here in T&T? I am not saying to give
only to Guyana, far from it. We must certainly begin our
charity at home, but we must not forget to extend that charity
to our neighbours. Region One is closer to Trinidad than
to Georgetown, Guyanas capital.
If you feel moved to contribute financially to the sustainable
redevelopment of Tobago, that little Amerindian village
in Region One, Guyana, you can send your funds to the GMTCS
via its bank account: No 38718, Bank of Nova Scotia, Carmichael
Street, Georgetown, Guyana. To contact Annette Arjoon or
the GMTCS directly to find out how to help, write the Guyana
Marine Turtle Conservation Society via e-mail at: [email protected]