St. Cuthbert's Mission, Guyana

Pilot Community in Guyana

The name "Guyana" is an Amerindian word meaning "land of many waters". A quick glance at a country map confirms that Guyana's indiginous peoples named this country well, with its large surface water resources, including the world's highest single-drop waterfall, Kaieteur Falls.

However, despite this abundance of fresh water, Amerindian villages in Guyana have little access to improved water sources for drinking and cooking, leading to problems with diarrhoeal disease (the leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 4, and the 4th leading cause of death for Amerindians of all ages). Although some families collect rainwater during the wet season, in the dry season most of the primarily Amerindian families in Guyana's interior collect their drinking water from creeks and shallow wells which are subject to faecal contamination, with no access to safe or "improved" drinking water sources. Most of Guyana's rivers and creeks are of very low acidity with a characteristic dark tint, like tea, due to the hummic acids leached from decaying organic matter.

Other significant water issues which affect Guyanese Amerindian communities include:

  • increased flooding in some areas, due to climate change and increased climate variability, of the farmland where they have traditionally practiced subsitence agriculture
  • potential pollution of river sediment from mining activities upstream of some villages, leading to increased mercury levels in some species of fish that play an important role in the traditional Amerindian diet
  • endemic malaria, due to the general climate and topography of Guyana.

The CARIWIN pilot community in Guyana is the Amerindian village of St. Cuthbert’s Mission, located along the Mahaica River. St. Cuthbert’s Mission has a population of approximately 1500 people, with about 300 households. Within the central part of the Mission, households collect drinking water from a series of yard pipes and community standpipes fed by a deep groundwater well with a solar-powered pump. The well is located in the centre of the community, surrounded by small shops and the village office. Households along the edge of the central community, or within the reservation but away from the village, collect their drinking water directly from creeks. Many households also depend on some form of rainwater collection during the wet season.

Due to the flat topography of the village and surroundings, leading to a tendency for flooding and waterlogging along creek banks, houses and pit latrines are not usually located close to the banks of the various creeks in the area.

There is no upstream mining on this river, nor is there a problem with malaria. However, flooding is a key concern in this community.

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