A journey up the Rupununi River for fieldwork in Apoteri and Rewa Villages – Part 2

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Onwards to Rewa, through the eyes of Grace Albert, Cobra Collective Consultant, Darwin Project

The next day, we were on our way to Rewa Village where we would repeat a similar process of working with the local community researchers (their names are Devon and Peggy). The focus of Rewa’s community owned solution (COS) video is ‘traditional farming’. Fortunately, the journey to this community was sunny, unlike our boat ride a week before. This allowed us to really enjoy the beautiful scenery of the riverside forest and we passed many birds along the way including cocoi herons, ringed kingfishers, black skimmers and anhingas, and even an osprey soaring high. I didn’t know the names of these birds by the way – but with Sean in the boat I just had to point and he would shout out the name of the bird over the hum of the boat engine. Travelling all the while on the Rupununi River, as we neared our destination, our boat captained by none other than the Toshao of Apoteri, turned left into the Rewa River. We would be staying at the eco-lodge facilities during our stay and it was situated a short walk away from the central community with a tranquil view of the Rewa River.

Our first order of business was to meet with the Village Council. The Village Toshao and his Deputy were there to greet us. Not very long after, we were greeting by the first of the Council members and we were having a short meeting to clarify our project’s work and emphasise the need for their formal consent before proceeding with our work for the week. This is especially important since this is a newly elected Village Council and the project wants to confirm the Free, Prior, Informed Consent (FPIC) process that we have established from the beginning of our community engagement activities. Sean provided a summary of the Darwin Project presently being executed in selected North Rupununi communities. This helped those present who might not have known much about the project to now appreciate what the project was trying to accomplish and how their community might benefit in the short-term and long-term. I also took the opportunity to highlight what the project team has done to date in Rewa and outline what the next activities were – providing we got their approval to proceed. After a brief discussion with the Toshao and a few other Councillors seeking clarity on a few matters, it was agreed that there was value to this project and that the Village Council gave us their no objection. This was great news – the community researchers could now look forward to working with us for the remainder of the week on finalizing their COS video.

Neville Adolph of the Kanuku Mountain Community Representative Group helping with video editing

In the days to follow, working closely with the community researchers, we first went through the process of reviewing the draft COS video and making note of areas for more overlay materials and additional interviews. I really enjoyed and appreciated working with Peggy and Devon (the community researchers) to capture more video footage and conduct a few interviews. I learnt so much and better appreciated the hard work that goes into farming cassava. I especially enjoyed a short hike one day to Devon’s parents’ farm. We got great overlay material there of his parents both harvesting cassava and planting new cassava sticks. Devon and I also conducted excellent video interviews with his father and then his mother. I learnt a lot from these interviews and especially enjoyed learning about the different ‘bina’ (charms) associated with farming. From all our interviews, local residents were very knowledgeable about traditional farming methods and it was clear that they were very much still practicing their traditional farming methods. More so, they want this knowledge to remain as they appreciated that it would benefit the future generation.

Towards the end of the week, with the Village Council’s help, a community gathering was organized where we screened the videos that were produced earlier in the project and also presented on some of the key findings of the project so far. It was a rainy evening but not withstanding, we were happy to see a big turnout of community members including those we interacted with during the week for interviews and capturing certain overlay materials. To conclude, we thanked everyone for their support and applauded the role of their community researchers – Devon and Peggy. We encouraged the Village Council to continue to look for opportunities to make use of the skills that they both have gained and want to continue to make use of for the benefit of the village. Finally, we confirmed that Rewa’s COS video would be completed when the team returned to NRDDB and the arrangement for them to view the final cut would be arranged.

…. more community visits ahead!

Our work continues – the Darwin Project team is currently working to complete another full round of visits to communities associated with the Iwokrama Protected Area to provide an overview of the results of the project to date based on the work with the communities of Aranaputa, Fairview, Rewa and Apoteri. The project team is excited to continue its work in Indigenous communities associated with Protected Areas in Guyana. We look forward to supporting the completion of many more videos in the months ahead.

Follow Grace Albert:
Grace Albert has 5 years’ experience in community development and visual methodologies. She speaks fluent Makushi and English, and has strong skills in community facilitation and engagement, visual methods, and her local Makushi traditions. Following a strong grounding in further education courses of natural resource management, wildlife management, agriculture , information technology, leadership and culture, she has worked for the North Rupununi District Development Board (NRDDB), a local Indigenous community-based organization, in several roles. This includes as a radio broadcaster, a community film maker and most recently as a Community Research Assistant. With these experiences, Grace hopes to remain as a resource person for her community and is committed towards development of her homeland.