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Increasing prices for vegetables, poultry, meat, eggs, and other essential food items should force an examination of ways to achieve some form of self-sufficiency. Wages and salaries are not keeping pace with the increases in prices which is making it harder for the average person to be able to prepare nutritious meals and meet other daily expenses. A person’s health is very important to overall wellbeing and when this is compromised, particularly through the inability to eat properly, it has a domino effect on all other aspects of life and wellbeing.
Guyanese are fortunate to the extent where in the slave society, and markedly in the post-slavery society, the spirit and drive for sufficiency bloomed. The freed not only pooled their money and bought plantations which they converted to villages, but established the Village Movement and Economy, feats that remain unsurpassed in scale and achievement.
There is also the issue of regularising ancestral lands since with the absence of title (transport, lease, will, etc) commercial banks are not favourably disposed to lending, a situation that is completely the reverse in other Caribbean countries such as Jamaica. The Government of Guyana must examine the possibility of replicating Jamaica’s model because home ownership must not only rely on the government selling state lands or purchasing from another. Home ownership must also be facilitated building on lands inherited based on lineage.
People should return to their villages and occupy their lands. Choose whether it be for housing, farming, business, kitchen gardening, etc. If their ancestors had within them the resolve to succeed it is not outside the reach of their descendants. The feat in creating an economy for themselves, even when the plantoclass pursued exclusion and tried undermining efforts at self-development, can be repeated. The genetic makeup that perseveres still resides within.
The experience and know-how reside within every Guyanese, in whatever shape or form, to be innovative in moments of crisis. We are presently living in several crises. These include, stagnant/stifled wages and salary, increase in the prices for essential goods and services, the pandemic, floods, industrial unease, political standoff, allegations of corruption, and an economy positioned to benefit the privileged few not all.
Singularly or collectively, the above indicators do not bode well for people and society. They increase stresses, affect people’s outlook on life, and often inform the desire of some for flight. Conversely, such crises present opportunities for self and community development. Post-slavery Guyanese society grew out of the spirit of self-sufficiency by the freed. Through individual and cooperative ventures remarkable things have been achieved.
Guyana has seen the development of an economy built on the cooperative spirit, which pays homage in the naming of the country. Cooperative economics represents not only a unique sense of thrift and avenue to acquire but also trust. At the most basic is the box hand system. Collecting that hand (money) until everyone receives the total of what they invested.
Box-hand is a form of banking when there existed none for Africans and from which they were able to have a quantity of money to invest in some desired project/commodity. With banks closing their doors to businesses, based on a Government Order, to deprive the unvaccinated and those who cannot show a negative PCR test from accessing or saving their money, it may be opportune to examine this form of wealth management and investment.
Guyanese must use the economic and political crises as opportunities toward self-determination and self-sufficiency and there is nothing more rewarding than these.