The Food and Water Challenges of Guyana’s Indigenous Communities

Hovering over the postcard-worthy facade of indigenous communities across Guyana, looms a growing crisis triggered by changing climate conditions which threaten the traditions, health, and communal sustainability of the country’s first peoples. 

Historically, the indigenous people have thrived on diets extracted from the availability of local flora and fauna. But changes in weather patterns and conditions have placed indigenous communities in peril as they confront challenges to food and nutrition security, and access to safe, potable water. 

This dramatic change in daily living has forced changed attitudes toward traditional knowledge and practices. Today, the demands of alternatives confront them. 

Limited access to safe water sources and changes in the location and supply of food supplies, particularly following extreme weather events, have led to nutritional challenges for these communities. 

The Salbora Spring, one of the water sources in Region 8 (DPI Photo)

Guyana does not stand alone on this. On October 12, the World Health Organization (WHO) established an important link. Climate change, the WHO said, is directly contributing to global humanitarian emergencies from heatwaves, wildfires, floods, tropical storms and hurricanes and they are increasing in scale, frequency and intensity.

The Climate Test of Guyana’s Mangroves

Trotting through the swamps of the Imbotero, Barima Waini Mangrove Forest, 50-year-old Huburn Jacobs seeks out crab holes. As he discovers active burrows, he uses grass to block the openings and later returns to retrieve the crabs. 

This is a regular routine not just for Jacobs but for many of his Indigenous brothers and sisters from the village. The catches are either used to feed families or sold to earn money. “We are far away from areas with jobs. We don’t have any jobs in this area, so we depend on the mangrove forest for our survival.

Guyana, One of the Poorest Countries in South America, Defers its Dreams of Oil Riches to Battle COVID-19

When news that Guyana had joined the club of oil rich nations came in May 2015, residents of this country of 785,000 people imagined a future with state of the art schools, modern thoroughfares, and skyscrapers that would replace the colonial-era structures left behind by British colonisers. The first oil flowed from wells operated by ExxonMobil on December 21, 2019. At the height of production, Guyana would surpass Democratic Republic of the Congo and vault itself as one of the world’s largest oil producers. The country’s two major parties campaigned heavily in the March 2020 elections to control the oil riches. In the end, the opposition People’s Progressive Party won after a five-month deadlock over the election results. 

In mid-July, U.S. Secretary of State Secretary Mike Pompeo called on then President Granger to step down, while announcing visa restrictions on unnamed individuals connected to the regime.