Empowering a Peasantry in a Caribbean Context: The Case of Land Settlement Schemes in Guyana, 1865-1985

Empowering a Peasantry in a Caribbean Context: The Case of Land Settlement Schemes in Guyana, 1865-1985

Empowering a Peasantry in a Caribbean Context: The Case of Land Settlement Schemes in Guyana, 1865-1985

Empowering a Peasantry in a Caribbean Context: The Case of Land Settlement Schemes in Guyana, 1865-1985

Synopsis

An exploration of the land settlement schemes of Guyana over 160 years. It analyzes the interrelationships of conflicting forces in the political economy of Guyana, which frustrated attempts at empowerment of the peasantry. The impact of these schemes on social differentiation is also discussed.

Excerpt

Almost every facet of the plantation system in the Caribbean has been extensively studied. Slavery, indentured servitude, the sugar and other primary producing industries, revolts and social protests, the labour movement, the assertion of nationalist aspirations and the multiple issues that constitute the plantation legacy account for much of the social science literature on the region as a whole. Among the topics that are less examined as a regional phenomenon are land settlement schemes. In 1951, W. Arthur Lewis undertook the first comprehensive examination of Caribbean land settlement schemes in an article, "Issues in Land Settlement Policy in the Caribbean", that appeared in the Caribbean Economic Review. Any expectation that this pioneering effort would be followed by a plethora of similar regionwide studies on land settlement schemes has remained largely unfulfilled. The concern has been with the broader issue of land reform in terms not only of the redistribution of property or rights in land but also of supplementary measures to promote productivity such as credit, extension services, changed forms of agricultural organization and institutions such as cooperatives and tenancy reform. In any event, whether they are limited to land settlement schemes or encompass the wider concept of land reform, the studies have tended to focus on specific countries and, less frequently, on the subregion of the Eastern Caribbean states.

Carl Greenidge's book is in this tradition of national studies. While he draws comparisons with other Caribbean countries, the setting is Guyana. It is the country in the region that has the greatest potential in terms of its physical size and the variety of its economy. At the same time, in terms of internal social and political cohesion, Guyana is the least prepared for addressing these vital concerns. While present day changes are summoning the region to policy responses appropriate for the next century, Guyana finds itself mired in racial politics, the legacy of the plantation life of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, unable as yet to turn its attention adequately to the needs and challenges of the twenty-first century.

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