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1 The geographer's view of Guyana 2 The physical geography of Guyana: geomorphology 3 Guyana's natural environment: weather and climate 4 Guyana's natural environment: soils and vegetation 5 Environment and the indigenous peoples 6 Resources and development: mining 7 Resources and development: forest products 8 Resources and development: fishing 9 People and environment on the coastal belt 10 The rice industry 11 12 13 Sugar cane farming Other types of agriculture Population geography

1 3 13 22 33 37 45 52 57 64 71 77 81 87 96 102

14 Towns and settlements 15 Manufacturing, trade, tourism and transport

16 Field work and project reports

The geographer's view of Guyana

1.1 What is geography?

The study of the geography of Guyana does not begin with a book. The study of Geography begins with the pleasure and skills of observation. The geography of any country surrounds the people who live there and so, if you live in Guyana, you should look at your environment keenly and observe the features which are part of it. You should also take every opportunity to travel to new places in Guyana, whether it be a nearby village, an important feature, or a location in the hinterland, so that the variety and quality of places can become clearer. Most important geographical features can be measured or observed, and there is no reason why anything you read in this book should not be questioned and checked against your own observations whenever possible. For this reason, Geography is a discipline which needs field study of the features in which you are interested to bring them to life. That is why Geography is a subject which can be hard work and fun at the same time. Geography is outdoors and every student knows that outdoors is fun, and copying notes in class is boring!

NATURAL RESOURCES Examples: soils climate water minerals

HUMAN RESPONSES Examples: exploitation investment

GEOGRAPHICAL PATTERNS Examples: settlement trade

Figure 1.1 How geographical patterns develop. as Geology, which look at the earth. There are sciences, such as Sociology, which study people. Geography, however, is a science which studies the interrelationship between people and the earth. The geographer is interested in the influence of the earth upon human existence, as well as the impact of human activity on the earth (Figure 1.1) .

1.3 What do geographers do?

Using these definitions, the geography of Guyana can be described as the study of the earth as seen in the country called Guyana, and the relationships between human settlement and the earth as the home of pee' le. In pursuing this study, geographers ask four questions about Guyana: What is there? Why is it there? What patterns can be found? What relationships can be observed between the various features to be found? Geography makes intelligent observations of the features to be found in Guyana and

1.2 Some definitions

Geographers have a particular view of the world. They are interested in the earth as the home of people, and the things which link the two. There are other sciences, such

A New Geography of Guyana

develops an understanding of the environment. The geographer not only makes written observations but also creates maps and diagrams that make the observations clearer. It is not enough, however, to observe the features. It is also necessary to explain these features and try to find the factors which explain why features exist in some places and not in others. Geographers also look for links between the various geographical features which have been observed. These links between features are very important. There is, for example, a link between the nature of rock and the nature of soils found in an area, between the nature of soils and the nature of agriculture,

and between the nature of agriculture and the nature of villages found there. Other examples are the link between the nature of soil and the nature of vegetation, and between the nature of vegetation and the nature of Amerindian settlement (Figure 1.2).

1.4 Types

of geography :.

ANIMALS What food can be hunted? What dangerous animals are there?

SOIL For how long will soil produce food?

Geographers usually divide the work of observation into two types. The study of the earth and the features of the natural environment is called physical geography. Physical geography has three major divisions: Geomorphology is the study of the shape and form of the earth. Climatology is the study of the atmosphere surrounding the earth. Biogeography is the study of the plant and animal life. The second type of work is the study of human geography. This has two major branches: Social geography is the study of settlements, such as villages and towns, as well as the study of human populations. Economic geography is the study of the distribution of agricultural, industrial and other economic activities.

1.5 About this book

In Chapters 2, 3 and 4 we will look at the physical geography of Guyana. In Chapters 5, 6, 7 and 8 we look at the activities of people which are directly dependent on the resources found in the physical environment. Chapters 9 to 15 look at the pattern of human settlement and activity. At the end of each chapter, there are suggestions for field work activities which can be used to explore further the ideas and features described. These are not exhaustive but are intended to give an indication of the kinds of field work possible with the use of some imagination. Chapter 16 takes a look at some of the field techniques which can be applied in field study.

CLIMATE What is the best season for planting?

VEGETATION What food and materials can be supplied by the vegetation? RIVERS AND LAKES Will they flood? Can they be used for transportation?

Figure 1.2 How various aspects of the environment affect the Amerindians.

The physical geography of Guyana: geomorphology

2.1 Beginning with the earth

Geography is interested in the relationship between people and the earth. We need to begin our understanding of the geography of Guyana with an appreciation of the earth's surface since this forms the basis of human existence. The shape and form of the earth are the basis of the physical geography of Guyana and therefore of the physical environment in which we live.

2.2 The structure of the earth

It is believed that the earth has a heavy inner core surrounded by three outer layers (Figure 2.1). The crust is the outermost shell


and is the surface on which we live. The mantle, the outer core and the inner core are hotter and much denser than the crust. The core and mantle are not rigid, but are semisolid and move around very slowly. The force of this movement can be felt on the surface as, for example, during earthquakes. The force of the movement of the earth's core and mantle results in distortions of the earth's crust over very long periods of time. These distortions cause the crust to rise up to form mountains and mountain ranges, a process known as orogenesis. Orogenesis is shown by the appearance of folds in the earth's crust, by the appearance of deep cracks in the earth, and by the eruption of volcanoes. Mountain ranges formed by folding are called fold mountains. Mountains formed by cracks in the earth, or faults, are called horsts or block mountains. Volcanoes occur where weaknesses appear in the earth's crust and molten material from within the earth is forced to the surface by eruptions
(Figure 2.2).

r core Figure 2.1 Inside the earth's crust lie the mantle,
and the outer and inner core.

Over millions of years, mountain ranges are worn down by erosion due to rivers, wind and^ther factors. Eventually they are so reduced that they are much smaller and lower than when they were first formed. The remains of old mountain ranges are called shields. Guyana is located on part of a former fold mountain which has been reduced to form the Guiana Shield. This shield occupies part of Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname and Cayenne (Figure 2.3). 3

Figure 2.2 Signs of orogenesis: a) Fold mountains. b) Block or horst mountains. c) Volcano.





Ne ro


Elextent of shield

Figure 2.3 The extent of the Guiana Shield.

The physical geography of Guyana: geomorp hology The material called rock, which makes up the surface of the earth, is of three types (Figure 2.4). Rock formed from the cooling and solidification of the earth's crust is called igneous rock (that is rock formed by `fire'). Igneous rock is usually hard and crystalline in structure. An example is granite which is found widely in Guyana. When igneous rock has been weathered, eroded and deposited, it is called sedimentary rock. Sedimentary rock includes material such as mud, sand and silt. Thirdly, there are metamorphic rocks which were originally igneous or sedimentary but which have been drastically
changed by heat and pressure to take on

2.3 Erosion and deposition

By contrast to the forces of orogenesis, there are forces of erosion and deposition. These wear down the surface of the earth in some places and deposit the material in others. Erosion and deposition take place through the effect of climatic factors on the earth and can be observed through the work of: Fluvial processes which involve the action of running water. Marine processes which involve the work of the sea. Aeolian processes which involve effects of dust and wind in dry climates. Glacial processes which involve the impact of snow and ice in cold climates.

new forms, An example of metamorphic rock is marble which is formed from the sedimentary rock called limestone.


The two processes which can be observed at work in Guyana are the fluvial and the marine: When rain falls (Figure 2.5), the force of the raindrops and the runoff of the rainwater removes soil and other material by


weathering, erosion
and deposition tr


o c
:^ b oo c

roc c ^C . o v

4 P d 'l`S '/o ^

Weathering: .,

mass wasting


Fe F ^

e ^c ^ o
; /


heat and pressure ^ ^ . METAMORPHIC . ROCKS

',_ ^^i ^'

, v,

, eS

erosion Y

Figure 2.4 The relationship between igneous,

Figure 2.5 The mountain is worn away by weathering, mass wasting and erosion.

sedimentary and metamorphic rocks.

A New Geography of Guyana

sheet erosion. Gullies (channels) are cut by heavy rainwater in a process called gully


Rivers play an important part in the shaping of landscape. One way of understanding their effect is to look at river systems as
a series of stages (Figure 2.6): ,`(} Stage 1: In the early stages rivers

The material washed down by the rainfall and produced- by weathering collects in Guyana's many rivers and is transported towards the sea. As the rivers cross the coastal plain to the sea they are laden with sediment. Because rainfall in Guyana is relgively high, rocks are often wet. They absorb moisture which causes them to crumble and break up into smaller pieces, a process called weathering. The sea is also active in the processes of erosion and deposition. The sea deposits material on Guyana's coast through longshore drift to form beaches, mud and
sandbanks. The sea erodes by
wave ac-

are swift and their erosive action is greatest. At this stage, they usually flow in deep steep sided valleys and their courses are generally straight. Stage 2: As they mature, their valleys / become broader, the flow of water becomes sluggish, and their courses start to meander in a curved fashion.

tion which removes parts of the coast and takes away sandbanks.

Stage 3: In the final stage of a river, the valley is broad and th e river meanders in a wide area called a flood plain. The main effect of a river at this stage is to deposit the material which it has collected over the flood plain and in the sea.


flood plain



Figure 2.6

l hree stages in the life of a river: a) River in an early stage swift and straight. b) More mature river flows in broader valley. c) Mature river nearing the sea.

The physical geography

of Guyana: geomorphology

2.4 Physical features Guyana


The effect of the forces of orogenesis, erosion and deposition is to produce variations in the appearance and nature of the land surface. These various land surfaces, known as landforms, can be divided in Guyana into four types (Figure 2.7): The highlands. The central peneplane. The sand belt. The coastal lowlands. 2.4.1 THE HIGHLANDS The highlands occupy the mid-western portion of Guyana and extend for 30 000 km2
Figure 2.8 Landforms of the Pakaraima region.

Figure 2.7 The physical regions of Guyana.

or 14 per cent of the surface area. They are part of a mountainous area which extends to Venezuela and Brazil called the Guiana Highlands. The portion of the highlands which lies in Guyana is known as the Pakaraima mountain range. One of its peaks,` Mt Roraima, is the meeting point between Guyana, Venezuela and Brazil and at 2773 metres is the highest point in Guyana. The Pakaraima mountain range is a plateau or table-topped mountain range. The landscape is one of broad flat-topped mountains but with very steep slopes known as escarpments. Figure 2.8 shows a portion of the Pakaraimas. Note the very steep sides of the mountains and that the rivers have carved deep valleys and gullies into the mountains. Because the Pakaraima mountains have so many sharp edges, rivers flowing over the escarpments develop many waterfalls, some of which are large and spectacular. These include the Kamarang Great Falls on the Kamarang river and the Sakaika Falls on the Ekereko river. The highest and most beautiful of these falls, however, is the Kaiteur Falls on the Potaro river which drops 240 metres into a deep gorge. Kaiteur Falls is the most famous landmark in Guyana.

8 How a waterfall forms

A New Geography



Waterfalls in Guyana are usually formed where rivers flow over the edges of escarpments which abound in the highland region. A layer of rock resistant to erosion lies over layers of softer rock which are easily weathered and eroded. The river undermines the cap formed by the harder rock surface, and the force of the waterfall keeps removing the softer material underneath. At Kaiteur Falls the cap rock is frequently undermined and collapses. This causes the waterfall to retreat as the process of undermining continues. As the waterfall retreats, it leaves a gorge at the point of the escarpment where it once existed. The gorge formed by Kaiteur is over 5 km long (Figures 2.9, 2.10).

Kaiteur Falls

gorge has steep sides

Figure 2.10 The Kaiteur Falls.

Figure 2.9 The Potaro river flowing through the Kaiteur Gorge.


Most of Guyana is composed of the central peneplane the word means `almost a plane'. The land is not mountainous, as in the Pakaraima mountain range, but is not flat. The central peneplane occupies more than half of the area of Guyana (143 520 km') and extends from the white sand belt to Guyana's southern boundaries. The land is `gently rolling' rather than flat

and there are many hills and ridges. These hills can reach 300 metres in the northern part of the country and up to 900 metres in the southern half. In general, however, the land varies from 90 to 200 metres above sea level. Two interesting types of physical features are to be found in this region of the country. The first of these are dykes (vertical) and sills (horizontal). These have been formed by molten rock, from beneath the earth's crust, seeping into cracks in the crust. The molten material hardens into rock which is harder than the surrounding rock (Figure 2.11). As a result, these harder areas are more resistant to weathering by the climate and erosion by rivers. They remain therefore as ridges, hills and rock outcrops which stand out very distinctly from the surrounding

The physical geography of Guyana: geomorphology

Figure 2.11 Dykes and sills.

area. Very often, when they are crossed by rivers, they give rise to rapids and small waterfalls (Figure 2.12). The main rivers of Guyana have many stretches of rapids which are spectacular and beautiful but which make river navigation very difficult. The second interesting type of feature is a special form of mountain called an inselberg. Inselbergs are dome-shaped hills with very steep lower slopes. They are often found in tropical savannahs and are caused by erosion on slopes in a relatively dry environment. Inselbergs are usually found in the southern half of the country in the Rupununi
area (Figure 2.13).

flow of river a)


v r

^^i^ kh'

5q ' 1 ^ harder rock



Figure 2.13 a) Inselbergs are dome-shaped hills (above). h) Inselberg rising from the savannah (below).




[ ^ )S rl f ^ S^y ^^)

5^.. ts ;c`

, _ `,: r



The sand belt, also known as the white sands area or the sandy rolling lands, extends Irom the coastal plain southwards to the central peneplane. It occupies 12 per cent of the country's surface (25 800 km 2 ). This region is covered chiefly by a porous loose layer of white sand. There are also some ridges

softer rock

Figure 2.12 How a waterfa ll is formed. a) River flows over hard and soft rock. h) River erodes rock soft rock eroded more than harder rock. c) Softer rock is
worn away beneath cap of harder rock.


A New Geography of


of brown sand and some hills of red soils but these make up a very small portion of the area. The sand belt is more extensive on the eastern side of the country where it stretches for over 300 km from north to south; it is much less extensive at the western end of the country, disappearing altogether in the northwest. Figure 2.14 shows the landscape of a typical section of the sand belt. The flat hill tops and gentle hillsides are to be found all over the region.


Figure 2.14 A section through the sandy, rolling lands,

The coastal plain is the smallest physical region g of Guyana, yet is the most impor-

Figure 2.15 The geomorpholog y of coastal Guyana from the mouth of the Essequibo eastwards.

The physical geography of Guyana: geomorphology


tant since it is the only densely occupied part. It occupies a mere 7.5 per cent of the country (16 125 km 2 ), yet most of Guyana's economic activity and population are found here. The coastline is wider to the east of the country where it is 77 km wide, whereas it is only 26 km wide at the western end. The coastal plain is shown in Figure 2.15. Guyana's coastal plain is flat with a straight coastline. There are few beaches and features which might be found on other sea coasts. The coast is formed b y weathered and eroded material which has been washed down from inland areas and deposited by the many rivers which flow across Guyana to the sea. The coastal plain consists largely of clay. The land is generally 2.5 metres below sea level. There are, however, many sand ridges called cheniers which run parallel to the coast in an eastwest direction. It is believed that these sand ridges are former beaches which were formed when Guyana's coastline was further inland. Guyana's coastal plain is very much influenced by the large rivers whose flood plains occupy the coast. Marine erosion and deposition by the Atlantic Ocean also has a great impact on the coastal plain. The rivers deposit large quantities of sediment which make Guyana's coastline heavily dotted with mudflats and sandbanks. The constant churn-

ing, depositing and moving of sediment means that Guyana's coastline is always changing. The mudflats and sandbanks drift along the shore in an east to west direction. This is because the prevailing wind blowing to the coast of Guyana comes from an eastnortheasterly direction and causes these features to drift along in a westerly direction. The westward drift of sand and silt can be seen where man-made groynes have been built to protect the shoreline and material accumulates on the eastern side of the groynes (Figure 2.16). Left to nature, some parts of the coast
would be growing outwards, other parts will be eroding, and much of it will be covered by the sea and rivers. This situation has led to the construction of an elaborate system of drainage ditches, canals and river and seawalls which make settlement on the coastal plain of Guyana possible. Much of the coastal plain east of the Pomeroon river has been reclaimed for agriculture and settlement. Large sections of the coast, particularly west of the Pomeroon river mouth, remain un-

claimed from the sea and rivers. Because the coastal plain is so flat, changes in the level of the sea due to the ebb and flow of the tide are very important. There are two high and two low tides off the coast each day. At low tide the mudflats and the


waves driven by
NE Trades

n 9-

A n
n iE

silt and

A L^- sand and silt move ^ with waves to the wall 14' wand then straight out

Figure 2.16 Longshore drift material builds up to the east of a groyne.


A New Geography of Guyana

sandbanks are exposed, whereas at high tide the sea can overtop the sea dams and seawalls. If very high tides occur at the same ti me as high winds causing strong waves, the sea defences can be weakened and even breached. This leads to the destruction of set+lements near the sea. FIELD WORK SUGGESTIONS Schools in coastal areas can do a study of the coastline near their school, sketching the mudflats or the sandbanks during low tide. The rivers provide excellent material for

study since a long-term project could look at variations in the level, content and colour of the nearest river or creek over a period of a few months, and relate this to rainfall and the tides. In some locations it is possible to travel to the southern edge of the coastal plain. Schools in Demerara and Berbice ray find one or more cheniers, and in Essequibo the sand reefs are accessible for study. If hinterland travel is possible, a study of a small area in any of the geomorphological regions provides interesting work as part of a wider environmental study.


Guyana's natural environment: weather and climate

3.1 The importance


weather and climate

Weather and climate have a direct and clearly

Agriculture, housing, recreation and culture are all related to climatic and weather conditions.

observable effect on our environment. Weather is the day-to-day change in the atmosphere, whereas climate is the average condition of the atmosphere in a particular geographical area or country. The nature of the conditions for plants and animals, and the type of life that flourishes, is influenced by climate. Human activities are also very much influenced by climate and weather.


The atmosphere

The atmosphere is an envelope of gas which surrounds the earth for a depth of approximately 26 kilometres (Figure 3.1). Most of the atmosphere is composed of nitrogen (78 per cent) and oxygen (21 per cent). These gases have very little effect on climate and weather. The atmosphere also contains very small amounts of carbon dioxide (0.035 per cent) which affects the temperature of the atmosphere due to its capacity to absorb radiation from the sun. Water vapour in the atmosphere affects its behaviour and is also responsible for mist, fog, rain and other forms of precipitation.

3.3 Climatic factors

The major factors in determining the nature of weather and climate are: Temperature. ` Press ure. Wind. Moisture content. These factors are themselves affected by-the geographical conditions which they meet. In particular, they are affected by latitude, that is distance from the Equator, the influence of water bodies such as the ocean and large lakes, and the height of the location above 13

Figure 3.1 The earth's atmosphere surrounds the planet.


A New Geography of Guyana

sea level. The changes in the atmosphere which cause changes in weather and climate can all be related to the influence of the sun's energy and its impact on other factors. 3.4 Sunshine and temperature The earth is a sphere which receives rays from the sun. The sun's rays,hit the earth vertically at the Equator and have-.a maximum heating effect. This means that places at or near the Equator have most impact from the sun. Away from the equatorial belt the rays hit the earth at an angle, have slightly further to travel, and therefore give much less energy per unit area. The earth's rotation on its axis is not vertical but tilted at an angle of 23 z degrees (Figure 3.2). Due to this tilt, and the earth's annual orbit round the sun, the area closest to the sun will depend on the time of year. The region nearest to the sun varies north and south of the Equator between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. This variation in the position of the overhead sun is important to understanding weather and climate

in Guyana (Figure 3.3). The sun appears overhead in Georgetown on 8 April and moves north to the Tropic of Cancer by 23 June. It then moves southwards once again, being overhead in Georgetown on 6 September, and reaching the Tropic of Capricorn on 23 December at which time the sun is 30 degrees south of Georgetown. *This migration of the position of the overhead sun is a major influence on climate and weather conditions in Guyana. The length of day and the brightness of sunshine varies. A hot sunny day normally receives 1 1 hours of bright sunshine, whereas a cloudy day receives five to eight hours of bright sunshine. Heavily overcast days may only record two hours of sunshine. Mountainous areas, such as the Pakaraimas, have sunshine averages of less than five hours per day compared to coastal and savannah areas which have very high rates of bright sunshine. Guyana has uniformly high temperatures averaging 26.8 C in coastal locations and 27 C in the Rupununi savannahs. Coastal locations are generally two to four degrees
6 September 23 December


1_ ril

' i 3 june

sun appears south of Georgetown

sun ears ove ead

sun appears north of Georgetown

Georgetown Figure 3.3 The position of the sun relative to Georgetown, and how this changes during the year.

Figure 3.2 The earth is tilted on its axis

Guyana's natural environment: weather and climate


cooler than hinterland locations because the Atlantic Ocean has a cooling effect. Minimum temperatures are: 20 C on the coast, 18C on the savannahs, and 15 C in the Pakaraimas. October is generally the hottest month in Guyana and highs of 33.9 C and
a) 29.0

37.8 C have been recorded in Georgetown and Lethem respectively. The daily range of temperature is always greater than the annual range. In coastal areas this range is 12 C, but the daily range is higher in Lethem reaching 16 C (Figure 3.4).

Lethem 28.5 n Georgetown 28.0 U 27.5 27.0 26.5 26.0 25.5

b) 600

A 1 \/' / 1 Georgetown

611N7 400

w E

300 200 100 0 J F M A

/ /r_

Figure 3.4 Climate graphs for Georgetown and Lethem: a) Mean monthly temperature. b) Mean monthly precipitation.


A New Geography of

3.5 Moisture content and relative humidity

Moisture content is measured by the relative humidity which is the percentage of the amount of water vapour contained in the air- relative to the maximum that it could hold at a given temperature. If temperature rises, the capacity of the atmosphere to vaporise water increases and therefore'the relative humidity falls. The opposite is true if temperature falls relative humidity rises even though the amount of moisture remains the same. In Guyana, relative humidity decreases from the coast as we travel southwards, averaging 78 per cent in Georgetown but only 67 per cent in Lethem. The low values in Lethem are a reflection both of the drier climate and the greater distance from the sea.

which blow from the sub-tropical high pressure zone. As the North East Trades approach the Equator, they assume a more easterly direction and therefore reach Guyana from the east-northeast. The North East Trades are the prevailing winds and account for 60 per cent of the winds that affect Guyana, but decasionall y winds do come from the north or southeast. Average wind speed in Guyana ranges from 12.2 kph (kilometres per hour) in Georgetown to 1.3 kph in the Pakaraimas. Severe storms do occur and may reach wind speeds of up to 50 kph in Georgetown. Guyana is, however, south of the Caribbean hurricane belt and is not affected by hurricane force winds,

3.7 Precipitation
There are three types of rainfall, two of which are found in Guyana. Convectional rainfall occurs when warm air rises rapidly to form rain clouds, giving rise to heavy rainstorms and thunderstorms (Figure 3.6). Relief rainfall occurs when moisture-laden air is forced to rise by the presence of mountains in the path of this air. Cyclonic rainfall is associated with depressions in the temperate latitudes and occurs when large masses of air are forced to rise. This type of rainfall does not occur in Guyana. Most rainfall in Guyana is associated with tropical downpours and thunderstorms caused by convection. When tropical air from the surface of the earth rises in the atmosphere, it condenses to form the billowy, fluffy clouds called cumulus (Figure 3.7). In the wet season, the quantity of warm moistureladen air rising from the earth increases, The resulting condensation creates rain-bearing cumulus clouds called cumulonimbus which cause heavy downpours and thunderstorms. To compensate for the ascending hot air through the cumulonimbus, cooler air is drawn in around the cloud. This results in

3.6 Pressure and winds

The air in the atmosphere exerts a downward force or pressure on the earth's surface. The pressure exerted by the atmosphere varies from place to place. When air is warmed, its volume increases but its mass remains the same. It therefore exerts less pressure on a given area of the earth's surface. Air moves from places with high pressure to places of lower pressure. Also, air rises from the earth at points of high pressure and descends at points of low pressure. For example, at areas near the Equator, hot tropical air rises to form a dense cloud cover (the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone ITCZ). As air rises or descends over different parts of the earth, the atmospheric pressure falls or rises as a result. The rising of air in the equatorial belt causes low atmospheric pressure (Figure 3.5). Differences in atmospheric pressure cause the air to move, as winds, from areas of high to areas of low pressure. Guyana is therefore subject to winds

Guyana's natural environment: weather and climate

p Abe

60 N _

o low
very Q

pressure D ........... . high pressure .__.._... a high pressure

............_._. ve ry high
pressure sure




-... _

Tropic of --Cancer



low pressure
20S --------- ---- ---` ----------------orn


Tropic of Capric ' . high


............... '' hi h
pressure :`

-'., high pressure

pressu re ,:


low pressure



ow ^p^g


high pressure .
Dvery _

40N .


high pressure.;' - -- ------

pressure Trp is of Cancer

- ---20N -

- _ --------

low pressure Equator

0 0 1 ^^


Tropic of Capricorn ----

---- -

high pressure .......... _........


low pressure

Figure 3.5 World air systems: a) January. b) July.


A New Geography of Guyana

cool air

`s `

i\ .- I

cool air

warm air

warm air



f , ,-.-,
e`^s ,^

rain shadow area

t^e ^



- I





Figure 3.6 Types of rainfall: a) Convectional rainfall. b) Relief rainfall. the cool gust of wind which precedes each

thunderstorm. Relief rainfall occurs when moisture-laden air is forced to rise because some aspect of the physical geography, in the form of a mountain range or other upland, lies in the path of the prevailing wind. This occurs in the Pakaraima mountain range where the

winds are forced to rise by the mountains. As the air rises, so it expands and cools. The relative humidity of this air rises even though the amount of moisture in the air remains the same. This causes precipitation as the air rises over the highlands. The rainfall in the Pakaraimas is, in fact, the highest in Guyana.

Guyana's natural environment: weather and climate



Anvil 10000

9000 Cirrostratusj' r ^

i( t _ _\


^ rte,

- fC00



(/ fl - C
^ tl

3000 .--- -.--<-'

Cumulus 2000 Nimbostratus 1. /

3^r r


10 0

' Stratus


r r r'. rou nd -

stratus: low cloud - dull overcast sky. Nimbostratus are dark grey and bring persistent rain, cumulonimbus: high dense clouds. These form when there are strong updraughts and when the atmosphere is unstable,
They bring heavy rain and thunderstorms,

cumulus: low clouds which are white and puffy - sometimes look grey underneath. Stratocumulus are layers of low level cumulus clouds. cirrus: white, streaky high clouds. They are made from ice crystals being pulled apart by high level winds. Cirrostratus clouds form a
wispy white layer through which the sun can be seen.

Figure 3.7 Types of clouds. Clouds vary in height and appearance. Names are given to the different cloud types.

20 The Inter

A New Geography of Guyana

Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ)

southern hemisphere and back again, the ITCZ moves as well. The zone moves from the Amazon to the Caribbean and back again, crossing Guyana twice in a year. In March it is over the Amazon and reaches the southern parts of Guyana in April. In May tho- ITCZ reaches the coastal plain and is over the entire country in June and July. It leaves the country gradually and returns in November and December. Those times when the ITCZ is overhead are the major rainy seasons in Guyana.

Much of the convection rainfall in Guyana is caused by the ITCZ. The ITCZ forms the li ne along which equatorial air masses coming from the northern and southern hemi-spheres meet, an area called the doldrums. The low level meeting of the air results in the formation of towering cumulonimbus clouds which occur in irregular groups known as cloud clusters (Figure 3.8). These features are responsible for much of the rainfall in the tropical world and for the rainy seasons in Guyana. As the position of the sun over the earth migrates from the northern to the

Figure 3.8 Towering cumulonimbus cloud.

Guyana's natural environment: weather and climate



Rainfall patterns in Guyana are notably different in the northern and southern halves of the country and are directly related to the migration of the ITCZ. The southern half of the country has a single rainy season, and in the Rupununi savannahs annual rainfall averages 15 cm. In the northern half of the country there are two wet seasons: a long wet season from mid-May to mid-August, and a shorter wet season in November and December. Generally speaking, rainfall increases as we move from west to east, coin-

ciding with the increased elevation of the Pakaraima Range. Wet seasons in Gu y ana do not mean the daily occurrence of rain, nor does the dry season mean the absence of rain. Rain may fall at any time in the dry season and there is rain on only one of every five days in the rainy season when the ITCZ is present.

3.8 Climatic regions of Guyana

Three types of climate can be recognised in Guyana (Figure 3.9): The coastal climate. The interior climate. The savannah climate. The coastal and interior climate are very similar in pattern with the same pattern of bi-annual rainy seasons. The interior of the country tends, however, to have higher rainfall and a wider range of daily temperatures because the influence of the sea is reduced. The savannah climate has a wider range of seasonal temperatures, a lower average rainfall, and only one rainy season. This coincides with the October/November passage of the ITCZ over the southern half of Guyana.


_-_..--_._..^ .^

,.i J am . `t '3 '^ ^

v i

r ^^ ^ w ^^Y

_ y


,. y..-:rte-:'



Work in climate studies can be done using data issued by the Hydromet Service and published in the local media. A tour of a convenient station is easy to arrange. In Georgetown there is the main station in the botanical gardens and the Timehri meteorological station is also accessible. Sugar estates, NARI and local weather stations should be used b y rural schools. Observations can be done in the school setting using thermometers and a home-made rain gauge. Clouds, of course, can be studied without any equipment whatsoever.




^^Y..r r^..^rl^r . i y .^ Y J

coastal Clii.ia.^

interior climate savannah climate

0 100 kin

Figure 3.9 The three climatic regions of Guyana.

Guyana's natural environment: soils and vegetation


4.1 Two key environmental factors

A study of the environment in which we live, and in which plant and animal life interact, must include an understanding of the soil and vegetation of Guyana and the way in which these combine to influence the total environment. The soil is important to this understanding because it is the home of plant life. It determines the conditions in which plants exist, which plants are typical of an area, and the economic value and other forms of potential which may be associated with a particular set of geographical conditions. The study of the soil and the vegetation of Guyana are therefore very closely interrelated. They should be studied and understood in relation to each other.

below). The division of Guyana into climatic and physical regions is very helpful in understanding soil and natural vegetation. Each of the physical regions has particular soil and vegetation conditions associated with it.
parent soil material (bedrock)



The soil and biological resources are very important aspects of the resource potential of Guyana. In fact the study of soil and vegetation is important in understanding the economic geography of the country. The two factors determine to a very great extent how people make their livelihood. We begin our study with a look at soils since they have a huge influence on the vegetation. Soil conditions are themselves affected by the geomorphology and by climate, so that these factors form a complex web of interconnection (Figure 4.1,


plants and animals Figure 4.1 The factors involved in soil formation.

Guyana's natural environment: soils and vegetation 4.2


Factors in the formation



Soils are found at the surface of the earth's crust and are the portion which form the home of plant life. Soil is formed by the weathering of rock in a particular geographical area, by the action of the climate, and also by the action of plant and animal life. The nature of a soil partly depends upon the bedrock or parent soil material from which it is formed, whether it he from erosion of the bedrock or material deposited by the rivers or the sea. The soil type is also altered by the environmental factors which affect the earth's surface in that geographical area. For example, the amount of moisture to be found in a soil, through rain or flooding, is very important in determining the type of soil. The parent soil material, on the other hand, determines the chemical composition of the soil.

clayey and silty material which it contains. Sand is the coarsest grain in soil whereas clay has the finest particles. Loamy soils are those which have an ideal mix of the three types of particles. They are usually made up of a combination of sandy material, clayey material and silt. The colour of a soil is generally a useful indicator of its composition. Darker soils are usually rich in vegetable matter whereas red and red-yellow soils are high in mineral content. Different types of soils are given names: Dark soils are called hunaic soils; dark red soils rich in iron and aluminium are called laterites; gray soils deficient in organic matter are called podsols, Waterlogged soils are called gley soils; bog soils high in plant material are called

Sandy soils are called regosols; and rocky soils are called lithosols.

4.3 Types of soils

Soils are classified according to their texture and their colour (Figure 4.2). Soil texture is determined by the proportion of sandy,

4.4 The influence of physical regions on soils

Each physical region of Guyana has particular parent soil material and climatic conditions. The soils are therefore classified by physical region as this reflects the differences in the conditions under which the soils were formed. The soil types of Guyana are shown in Figure 4.3. There are five major soil classifications: Soils of the coastal plain. Soils of the interior flood plains and lowlands. Sois of the sandy areas. Soils of the central peneplane. Soils of the mountainous areas.



Figure 4.2 Soil texture triangle. Four different soil types are shown here.

There are four main groups of soil found on the coastal plain: Clay soils are found on the land nearest the sea and are known as the frontland

a A New Geo raph_

of Guyana

Figure 4.3 Map of Guyana showing different soil types. are different from the first group because they have a higher proportion of silt. There are extensive areas of histosols known in Guyana as pegasse. These occur on the inner portions of the coastal plain in the swampy areas; and near the

clays. These are low-humic gley soils and form the soil conditions under which most of our coastal agriculture, such as rice and sugar cultivation, is carried out. Silty clays are found along the major rivers. These are also humic gleys but they

Guyana's natural environment: soils and vegetation


large lakes on the boundary of the coast with the sandy belt, particularly in the Essequibo area. The fourth group of soil is made up of several soil types. Silty soils are found on gently sloping land on the inner parts of the coastal plain. These include some lowhumic gleys but also some laterite soils and podsols. They are usually found as small hills standing out of the histosols in the waterlogged conditions of the surrounding areas. Regosols are also found. Figure 4.4 shows the soils of the coastal plain in greater detail than Figure 4.3.

are influenced by flooding which occurs for long periods during the rainy season. They are widespread in the south of the country in the flood plains of such rivers as the Rupununi, the Takutu, and the upper reaches of the Essequibo.


Regosols are found extensively in the white
sand plateau, between the coastal plain and


The soils of the interior flood plains and lowlands can be silts, laterites or podsols but

the central peneplane. As the name implies, the primary soil type found here is the white sand. It is a loose and excessively drained soil, low in nu tr ients and difficult for agriculture. There are, however, patches of brown sand soils, laterite soils, and also red-yellow podsols to be found in the region. These are usually more fertile and thus suitable for agriculture.


rn :
JV l1 I/1^


'^ tititi.


frontland or marine clays



ti^ti "::

^ r ^. ti ro


^ti '




inland clays
bog (pegasse) g soil ^P S )

'. ^

.r ;.;

; ;




50 km



Figure 4.4 Soils of Guyana's coastal plain.


A New Geography of Guyana


The soils of the peneplane cover most of the area of Guyana and are widespread over large areas of the hinterland. These soils are sandy or gravelly and are usually poor in nutrients. They often include loamy sand, latosols, podsols and laterites. Because these areas are usually covered by lus}y tropical vegetation, it is often assumed that their soils are very fertile and can support intensive land use and agriculture. In fact, they are very fragile and low in fer ti li ty , and can easily

4.5 Soil profiles

When a soil is studied in depth by digging a pit or drilling with an auger, there arc usually clear differences between the different horizons, or layers of soil. A well developed soil usually has four horizons: 0 horizon is the vegetable matter on the

be made barren and useless by careless intensive use.



A horizon is the topsoil, usually darker in colour. B horizon is the subsoil where minerals are very dominant. C horizon is the parent soil material. A vertical section of soil, from the surface to the parent rock, will show the different horizons. Such a section is called a soil profile. Figure 4.5 shows soil profiles for four different soil types.

The soils of the mountains and the high plateaus are rocky, shallow and normally infertile, though small pockets of very fertile soils do exist in some isolated locations. The soils are usually lithosols which are very rocky. In a few places laterite soils can be found.
low humic gley bog soil (pegasse)

4.6 Land capability classification

The soils of Guyana arc normally classified and evaluated according to their potential for agricultural land use (Figure 4.6). There are four classes used b soil scientists and

regosol (white sand)

red-yellow podsol A
BI reddish brown dark brown reddish yellow

dark reddish


grey brownish yellow 0 3 ky 4` ded S'

grey sand '5'. light g


re y




! ! !
! ! B

111 111 U
B 22 reddish yellow

23 1'.l
1 ti.




f !
4 h k


brown C2
...'...... white


g re enish


B23 B 24

light red red

~^^;^ grey




g re enish

Figure 4.5 Profiles of four different soil types.

Guyana's natural environment: soils and vegetation




.,'\ I


yt Y.^t

,. 's ' Y


Y y ^*.



lyyt```:`` ''y`:;

K_s,, i^



l::Y ^ . _;;> 's ^,,.?^ii-^..'t.y;

I and II: good to moderate agricultural land

III: poor agricultural land with fertilization possibilities

III:poor agricultural land

t .r


IV: non-agricultural land

> eM,3 L


t 4

livc ^lrF\

f '

F^{ \}

R y Tr,. 4 1 '^, .UCf4

2\T ^.a't . ,. F fS '

1 ..

0 100km
Figure 4.6 Soils of Guyana: Classes IIV.


other specialists. These are based on: Natural fertility. Location and ease of access. The need for fertiliser if doing successful commercial agriculture. Slope.

Drainage. The four classes of soil are: Class I and II soils found on land which is good to moderate in fertility. These can be used for commercial agriculture with only moderate restrictions or limitations.


A New Geography of Guyana

Usually successful agriculture here will need drainage and irrigation and the use of some amount of fertiliser. The Class I and II soils include the clay soils of the coastal plain, some of the podsols in hilly locations, and reddish brown laterites in - the Rupununi. Class III soils those where commercial agriculture is possible but productivity is limited by low soil fertility. This means that soils require a heavy input of fertiliser for sustained commercial agriculture to be feasible. Such areas include the pegasse areas on the coast, the brown sandy soils of the peneplane, and the soils of the interior flood plain. Class IV soils those with limited possibility for any form of agriculture and those totally unsuited to agriculture. These include the rocky soils of the mountainous areas and the escarpments of the plateaus.

to return to its natural state after being in use for three to four years. In many parts of the world the natural or climax vegetation no longer exists since people have removed most, if not all, of the natural vegetation for activities such as mining, agriculture, industry, transportation and urban growth. In Guyana, however, most of the land, over 80 per cent, is still under natural vegetation.


The natural vegetation of Guyana can be divided into seven major classes. The major vegetation classes are shown in Figure 4.7. These are: Rain forest. Seasonal forest. Dry evergreen forest. Montane forest. Marsh forest. Swamp forest. Savannah. The rain forest is widespread on the peneplane and interior lowlands of Guyana. It is a beautiful and luxuriant vegetation type composed of evenly-sized tall trees with long straight trunks. "There are usually three or four stories' of trees and the canopy or crown of the forest is between 20 to 25 m high. Many of Guyana's famous tree types, such as the greenheart, are to be found in this type of forest. The ground beneath the large trees is usually quite clear but liana vines twine up the trunks of trees in many places (Figure 4.8). Seasonal forest is found on well drained sites and in areas with long dry seasons. Seasonal forests include those found on brown sands and on other lighter soils. Generally, they are not as tall or as luxuriant as the true rain forest. The bulletwood tree and kabukalli are examples of species found in seasonal forests. Seasonal forests also include the thorn woodland and scrub growing in

4.7 Guyana's natural vegetation

The most distinctive and characteristic feature of the geography and environment of Guyana is its natural vegetation. The natural vegetation of a country is the plant life which is found where there is no cultivation or other major human interference. One way of understanding natural vegetation is to imagine a plot of land which is cleared of vegetation and left to itself. In a short while small plants and seedlings will colonise or take over the plot. Eventually, new and bigger trees or shrubs will appear, until after some years there develops a type of forest or other vegetation type which is most suited to the soil, climate, drainage and other conditions of that particular plot. The resulting vegetation is known as the climax vegetation. Where land is cleared for agriculture or settlement, the natural vegetation no longer occurs; although in traditional Amerindian agriculture the land is allowed

Guyana's natural environment: soils and vegetation


s r^


^^/ lY




titl !

is ^. ,^,,`^ ^ ,. , 1 l ^ ! 1.^`

rain forest ^ r marsh and swamp forest dry evergreen forest seasonal forest savannah cultivated land montane, seasonal and dry evergreen forest

^\ :
4 .,

' r \N, `\ `,,` .^,\ Y \,^\4 \`^ '^4 \\

s. t i e - : ^^,,^ \,, \,\ ^ ^,,

s; \^\ er . ; \ \\

^^*N ^} .\ :^

100 km


t J . ^0

Figure 4. 7 Generalised vegetation map of Guyana.

be found on the white sand areas. This forest is not as dense, as the rain forest and the trees are smaller in diameter, although the canopy may be quite high. The montane forest is found on the Pakaraima and Kanuku Mountains. These

the savannahs, the intermediate savannahs, and other drier locations. Dry evergreen forest grows in areas where the rainfall is high but the soil is excessively well drained. The most common form of such forest, such as the wallaba forest, is to


A New Geograph y of Guyana

Figure 4.8 Rain forest vegetation is luxuriant.

forests are affected by both the high altitude and high rainfall, and also the poor soil conditions. Some montane forests are very luxuriant and are similar to the true rain forest. Others are much more sparse, with stunted growth and gnarled trees on the higher slopes and escarpments. Marsh forest grows where the soil is very wet or flooded for part of the year and very dry for part of the year. This type of forest is found extensively on pegasse swamps and under other wet soil conditions. Usually marsh forests are dominated by palm trees, though in some places the palm trees are not as dominant. Swamp forests are found where the soil is usually waterlogged and rarely dry. Swamp forest includes the mora forests, found in wet conditions, and the mangrove forests

growing on the coast and in the brackish waters of the major rivers. Many swampy areas have herbs, floating shrubs and other aquatic plants as their natural vegetation. Savannah vegetation is found where there are long annual dry seasons and poor soils. Examples are the Rupununi and the intermediate savannahs.

The Rupununisavannahs
The Rupununi savannahs (Figure 4.9) is one of the most unique and interesting areas in the country with a complex relationship between the various aspects of its environment. 2 This area is approximately 13 000 km . It is bounded by the Ireng and Takutu rivers to the west, the Rupununi river to the southwest, the Marudi river to the southeast, and

Guyana's natural environment: soils and vegetation the forested foothills of the Pakaraimas to
the north and northeast, a) Pakaraima Mquntains ,.
A ^1ti


The region has a distinctive climate and

vegetation which separates it from the sur-

rounding areas. The climate is different: a single

wet season, higher temperatures and lower rainfall. As far as the soil conditions are concerned, latosols predominate in the northern savannahs and regosols in the southern


Nappi Lethem


\ 11

savannahs. The surface of the savannahs shows

very little relief. It is gently rolling except for isolated inselbergs and the Kanuku Mounta ins which run eastwest across the savannahs and divide them into northern and southern

0 Kanuku Mounta'

Sand Creek

The savannahs are covered by grasses, herbs and sedges with trees widely scattered. It is

this appearance that gives rise to the descriptive name of the landscape. There are
five types of savannah vegetation that occur


in the Rupununi:

Open savannah woodland. Closed savannah woodland. Herbaceous savannah.

Shrub savannah.

Mdrudi Mountains N

Savannah woodland.
The various vegetation types are scattered

50 km

in a mixed fashion but the open woodland is the predominant type and consists of shrubs

and trees over 3 metres high with a canopy

cover of 2-20 per cent. The closed savan-

nah has a higher density of trees with a complete canopy. The herbaceous savannah is

almost entirely grassland, whereas the shrub

savannah and the savannah woodlands have

low tree formations with canopies less than 2 per cent.

The savannahs are the home of several indigenous tribes: the Makushis, the Wapishanas and the Wai Wais. The groups are concentratM in reservations located in the north

savannahs, the south savannahs and the upper Essequibo. The savannahs are also the home
of a once extensive cattle ranching industry. In its heyday there were very large herds which have since been depleted by disease.

Figure 4.9 The Rupununi savannahs. a) Map showing position of the savannahs. b) Trees are widely scattered across the savannahs.


A New Geography of Guyana

FIELD WORK SUGGESTIONS Soils can be studied by inspecting the soil horizons in locations in which you are interested, and making a simple analysis of the texture and colour of the soil. The texture can also be analysed by making homemade sieves to separate silt and sand from the clay. A joint project with Integrated Science is useful for identifying mi*;rals and measuring acidity. It is a good idea to borrow a soil auger (or a substitute) or dig a s mall pit to get the soil horizons.

Vegetation can be studied by making a

transect, that is a cross section of an area,

to study the changes in vegetation. An alternative is to do a quadrat sample; this involves choosing random 1 m squares and noting the vegetation occurring within each square. If the species names are not known, the class can use the common names or make a description and keep samples until someone who knows the plants can be consulted. A good idea is to combine biogeography with Integrated Science, Biology or Agricultural Science field projects.

Environment and the indigenous peoples

5.1 People and the environment: the Amerindians

When we described the natural vegetation in Chapter 4, we said that traditional Amerindian agriculture allowed land to return to its natural state after a few years of use. This technology of land use is a good example of the way in which Amerindians live in the environment without making any marked alteration to its long-term state. This can be compared with other types of economic activity in Guyana which need permanent alteration of the environment to create the conditions suitable for agriculture or for settlement. For example, the coastal plain agricultural activities are only possible because the natural forest vegetation has been removed, and an expensive and complicated system of sea defence, drainage and irrigation has been set up.

in nets, by hook, by poisoning, and with bows and arrows. The men in the communities also hunt for bird and animal game. Hunting is done with arrows, spears, blowpipes, traps, and sometimes with shotguns. Much of the food and medicines used in Amerindian communities are gathered from the forest.


Agriculture among the indigenous peoples is of the shifting cultivation or swidden type, where farms are created by the village every planting season. New plots arc selected by the men who choose a suitable site based on their knowledge of soils, drainage and slope. Major considerations are good drainage in wetlands, and moderate slopes if the farm is in rolling or mountainous land. The clearing is done by the men working communally on each other's farms in turn. All the men in an extended family are involved in the task of clearing. First, the undergrowth is cleared and left to dry and trees felled. The vegetation is then burned. Crops are planted" in the ash which is considered to be a fertiliser and provides mineral nutrients for plant growth. Planting is done by the women of the community, and crops incrude eddocs, yams, bananas, plantains, sweet potatoes, and vine crops such as pumpkins. The burning of the vegetation is vital to the success of the system since it also clears away weeds and pests. The farm appears 33

5.2 Using nature's resources

The indigenous peoples make use of the environment to sustain themselves through four ljnds of activity: Fishing. Hunting. Gathering. Shifting cultivation. Amerindians provide a large part of their food needs by fishing in the rivers and lakes. They use a range of methods: fish are caught


A New Geography

of Guyana

Figure 5.1 An Amerindian farm. Crops have been planted between the tree stumps and the soil is blackened by fire.

chaotic and 'higgledy-piggledy' when compared to farming on the coastlands, with no evident separation between the various crops. In addition, the stumps of the largest trees are usually left in place in the ground (Figure 5.1). However, this method of farming is very appropriate to many of our environmental conditions. The main crop is the bitter cassava (Manihot esculenta) which forms the staple diet of the Amerindian family. The cassava reaches maturity in eight to nine months and can be left in the ground for as long as 12 months without being harvested. This makes it very convenient from the point of view of preservation and storage. Cassava is used to make bread and the juice is used to make cassareep, a preservative which is the key ingredient in Guyana's national dish,

pepperpot. After three to four years, weeds begin to overtake the useful crops on the plot, and it is abandoned to be reclaimed by the natural vegetation. Each family group or community usually has as many as three or four plots in different stages of growth so that the cycle of the system is maintained. In some areas an abandoned plot may be reused after a period of 20 years but, more usually, an exhausted plot is abandoned completely. It is generally believed that indigenous people only live in hinterland areas but this is not strictly true. The traditional communities are usually found away from the coastal villages but some indigenous villages flourish on the coast where other social groups do not predominate. The indigenous people are not just one group. They belong to nine

Environment and the indigenous peoples different tribes, each with its own distinctive language, customs and culture. The tribes of Guyana are: Arawak. Akawaio. Arekuna. Carib. Makushi. Patamona. Wapishana. Warau.


5.3 Geography of indigenous peoples

Geographically, there are three types of indigenous peoples (Figure 5.2).


These are the Arawaks, the Waraus and the Caribs who have settled on the coastal and near coastal regions behind the coastal agricultural settlements and along the rivers.

Wai Wai.
Figure 5.2 The distribution of Amerindian tribes.

r Warau ak Arawak Carib

ATLANTIC Warau Arawak


/ Warau


Carib Arawak Carib

` +

Akawaio , Akawaio 410


Arawak Akawaio

l 0


v 4


Arawak r 2g^ ^t w Patamona Patamona

r t



i i




} S


^ r


l C lw

Wapishana 0

I00km ^ Wai Wai


A New Geography of Guyana


These consist of the Akawaios, the Arekunas and the Patamonas who live on the plateaus of the Pakaraima mountains. - 5.3,3 SAVANNAH PEOPLES These are the Makushis, the Wapishanas and the Wai Wais who live in the southern part of the country, especially in the Rupununi savannahs.

5.4 Amerindian settlement patterns

The indigenous people need to have access to large areas of land so that they have enough space for their system of agriculture and their hunting and gathering activities. As a result, they are given special protection to ensure their access to the traditional lands of their tribes. In this way they can engage in the traditional economic system, and make use of the natural environment in ways which preserve the natural condition of that environment. Indigenous villages can be dispersed or nucleated depending on the cultural practices of the particular tribe. Figure 5.3 shows some

houses in an Amerindian village. Farms are often a long way from the main village and families will travel many miles to hunt, fish and farm. Sometimes suitable plots for farming become so hard to find that the whole village may move many kilometres to a new area with access to new land for farming and hunting. Most Amerindian communities are served with educational and health facilities and many indigenous people have opted to become involved in the coastal economy. Even in the traditional lands, indigenous people are often vigorous participants in the national economy since many of the products of their economic system have money value. In addition, many economic activities in the hinterland and near hinterland, such as mining, forestry and tourism, provide employment for indigenous people.


Amerindian villages are accessible to all coastal schools so it is possible to make firsthand observations of shifting cultivation and the rain forest environment. A useful place for understanding the Amerindian way of life is the Walter Roth museum.

Figure 5.3 Houses in an Amerindian village.

Resources and development: mining

6.1 El Dorado
The expectation that Guyana would be rich in mineral resources has played an important part in its history and the nature of the country's development. European explorers coming to our part of the world were fascinated by the legend of El Dorado, the mythical city of gold. El_ Dorado was believed to exist somewhere in the hinterland behind the dense forests that faced Sir Walter Raleigh and other early pioneers and explorers. It is, in fact, more than likely that the Amerindians gave the story of El Dorado to the explorers to persuade their unwelcome visitors to keep moving. However, explorers lost interest in El Dorado when the city of gold where the king bathed himself in gold dust proved hard to find. Guyana then became known as the ` Wild Coast'. Colonists from the Netherlands became the major driving force in the development of agriculture and settlement in Guyana. They laid down the nature of the growth of our economy and also the patterns of settlement. For many years the hinterland of Guyana did;not receive a great deal of notice. This changed with the discovery of gold at Caratal, in what is now Venezuela, in the 1880s. This resulted in gold rushes to the mountains and rivers of the hinterland and in this way the mining industry in Guyana began.

6.2 The mineral resource base

Guyana has a wide range of mineral resources but because a large part of our hinterland is still unexplored, we still do not know the full extent of the mineral wealth of the country. However, we believe it to be much more extensive than can be proven at present (Figure 6.1).

6.3 Minerals the mountains and peneplane

The mountains and peneplanes of the Guiana Shield have igneous and metamorphic rocks as their bedrock. Here are found mineralbearing rocks such as granite, gneiss and greenstone. Granite is used extensively in Guyana in the construction industry for roadmaking and in masonry. The shield area is most significant, however, because there are gold and diamond-hearing areas in the shield and peneplane and also in the rivers which run across the shield. Manganese occurs in the northwestern regions of the country and the minerals columbite, hematite, molybdenite, and kyanite have also been found by geologists.


6.4 Other minerals

Sedimentary rocks which are the products of erosion from the shield have been deposited in the white sand plateau area. There we find large amounts of kaolin, the mineral 37


A New Geography of Guyana


OM mica tungsten ngsten


ry 1 /



Georgetown ,,,

` .y




1 1
1 / 1 /
1 1

/ '



: 4Kamarang
4 1


nickel "` t



iron potarite cassiterite radioactive minerals

l/ _ ^

ato / `^ 0 1


BRAZIL 1 1 Apoteri
I...........: ^ 1


1 1


P y ^ 1 1
3 1


^M 5 O
1 1 S


_S^ ice`

Figure 6.1 The mineral resources of Guyana.



used in th e ceramic industry; laterite, an ore that contains iron and aluminium; bauxite, an ore of aluminium; and the white sand itself which can be used to make glass and silica chips.

6.5 Gold and diamond mining

The mining of gold in Guyana is widespread in the Pakaraimas and in the rivers which

Resources and development: raining


flow from them to the peneplane. Gold mining in Guyana started in the 1880s. From 1884 to 1941, 3 028 745 ounces of gold were recorded by the government. Most of this was obtained by artisanal prospectors, known in Guyana as pork-knockers. Pork-knockers work in small groups of between six and ten. Before the development of air transportation, access to the gold fields was by river and involved going over many rapids and falls. The perilous journey and the harsh conditions of the rain forest made porkknocking a very difficult and dangerous occupation. The peak years for pork-knocking occurred before the Second World War. Industrial mining was also carried out in Guyana by the B.G. Consolidated Goldfields Company and other similar operations in the years between the First and Second World Wars. These companies used a variety of mining techniques including dredging, tunnelling and hydraulicking. Gold and diamonds occur in gravels which consist of rounded or angular quartz pebbles and grains of jasper. The gravel beds are found on bedrock and in the flats of rivers, or on the beds of former rivers. They are usually covered with layers of sand and interspersed with boulders, clay and vegetation. Sometimes the gravel lies in a cemented material called casajo (called catchcow by miners). In some locations the gravel beds are found on terraces above the river or on escarpments. Most mining is concentrated on the Essequibo and its main tributaries: The Mazaruni river and its tributaries, the Cuvu i, Puruni, Semang, Eping, Kurupung and Wenamu rivers. The Potaro river and its tributary, the Kuribrong. The Konowaruk river. Mining is also done on the Waini, Bararna and Barima rivers, and on the upper reaches of the Berbice and Demerara rivers.

Figure 6.2 A pork-knocker at work.

There are three types of technologies used in artisanal mining: Manual excavation of a small pit using pick-axes and shovels. The material is processed in a sluice-box or a hand-held pan known as a battel so that the mineral can he extracted (Figure 6.2). The construction of a pit approximately 6 metres deep with stepped sides. A mixture of ore and water, called a slurfy, is then created. This is processed in sluiceboxes which are designed to filter out the mineral from the remaining material. Slurry is created by the use of high pressure pumps which are aimed at overburden and gold-bearing gravel before being processed in a sluice-box.

The suction dredge system began in Guyana in 1958 and consists of a dredge mounted on pontoons which powers a suction hose. This is manipulated by a diver supplied with air from a surface-operated air compressor. Some operations are now operated by a winch manipulated from the pontoon, and


A New Geography



the hose and diver system is now used mainly for maintenance and troubleshooting. The material excavated by the dredge is passed through a grizzly and from there to a sluicebox with Hungarian rifle racks. The dredges are very successful at exploiting small, rich deposits of gravel; because they are constructed in modules and mounted on readily moved pontoons, they can , be easily taken from an exhausted location to a 'ew prospecting area. Figure 6.3 shows a dredging operation.

6.6 Omai gold mine

The largest mining enterprise in Guyana is the Omai gold mine located 160 km up the Essequibo river on the Omai river, a tributary on the west bank of the Essequibo (Figure 6.4). The site of the Omai mine had been exploited intermittently since the 1880s. The current mine has been in production since 1993 as an opencast mine which excavates the gold-bearing ores quartzite and
Figure 6.4 The new mill at the Omai mine. The mills are used for crushing rocks, an essential part of the mining process.

saprolite. It is estimated that there are 3.3 million ounces of gold in the proven reserves which represents production to the year 2008 at current rates of exploitation. The mines and processing plant occupy 4545 hectares

Figure 6.3 Dredging gravel for gold/diamonds.

Resources and development: raining

of land which include three areas of gold mineralisation: The Fennell pit which has 50 000 000 cubic metres of ore. The Wenot lake which has 36 000 000 cubic metres of ore. Some alluvial deposits. The ore is crushed at a mill which is on the site and the gold is extracted from a slurry through electrolysis using cyanide as a catalyst. The mine is very important to Guyana's economy since the export of gold from the mine accounts for one-quarter of the country's exports and one-fifth of the country's gross national product, that is, the total value of goods and services produced. Over 900 people are employed by the mine and the company's investment has led to the improvement of transportation and other services in this part of the hinterland. There have been serious concerns over the impact of the mine on the environment, particularly on the Essequibo river and its communities. These concerns became dramatised in April 1995 when the pond dam failed and cyanidetainted residue from the processing of slurry escaped from the holding pond, polluting the Omai and Essequibo rivers. Fortunately, the impact of this accident was not as serious as at first feared, even though it did cause the mine to be closed for eight months. This has focused attention on the need for pre-

serving and caring for the environment during all mining operations.

6.7 Bauxite mining

Bauxite is the chief ore of aluminium, and Guyana has been one of the pioneering countries in the production of bauxite. Bauxite was discovered towards the end of the 19th century and production began in 1917 on the banks of the Demerara river. From that s mall beginning grew the mining town of Mackenzie, now called Linden. The bauxite resources of Guyana stretch in a broad bell across the country from the northwest to the eastern end at the Corantyne river. There are three important resource locations: Linder on the Demerara river, Ituni/Aroaima on the DemeraraBerbice interfluve, and Kwakwan: on the Berbice river area (Figure 6.5).

Table 6.2 Bauxite resources. Location Proven Probable Possible Total

Linden 195 000 200 000 Ituni 105 000 125 000 Kwakwani 35 000 25 000 Total 335 000 350 000 45 000 440 00C 200 000 530 00C 160 000 220 OOC 405 000 1190 00C

Table 6.1 Production of gold and diamonds 1987-96. Year

1987 1988 1989! 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996

Gold (kg)
666.3 584.8 539.4 1204.1 1844.1 2475 11678 9006.6 9005.6 14083.7

Diamonds ('000 carats)

7.5 4.4 8.1 15.3 29.3 46 36.8 52.3 52.3 46.7

Bauxite is mined in Guyana by opencast methods (Figure 6.6) which involve the removal of deep layers of white sand and clay called overburden. Besides producing aluminium, bauxite is also an important ingredient in the iron and steel industry. Most of Guyana's bauxite is exported as dried and calcined bauxite which is used as an abrasive in steel-making. The overburden is removed by large draglines and excavators and the ore shipped, via the Demerara and Berbice rivers, Co the important iron and steel manufacturing centres. Production of bauxite in Guyana was pioneered in Linden and Ituni by Alcoa, the American mining company, and its Canadian subsidiary, Alcan. Mining in Bezhice


A New Geography of Guyana




New Amsterdam /

/ r

100 km
^ '"'






Figure 6.5 Bauxite mining areas in Guyana.

was pioneered by American Cynamid and later by the Reynolds Metal Company. Bauxite mining has resulted in the creation of significant communities in Guyana's hinterland and in the development of infrastructure such as port facilities and a narrowgauge railway in the Demerara operations. Guyana was for many years one of the world's most important bauxite producers. However, the industry has suffered in com-

petition with other important producers and is now regarded as being in serious crisis. Guyana's bauxite industry suffers from two
geographical disadvantages:

Guyana's bauxite lies under a greater depth of overburden than is found in other bauxite producing countries. Bauxite in Guyana is covered by an average of 30 m of overburden in Berbice and 80 m in Linden.

Resources and development: mining





^ ^l L

I }.

Figure 6.6 Bauxite mining: a) Truck collects bauxite from open cast mine at Aroaima. b) The drying plant at Aroaima mines.


A New Geography of Guyana

Table 6.3 Annual production of bauxite products (tons). Year

1987 1988 1989 1990 x991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996

700 612 7220 887 738 482 1616 1672 1699 2166

426 401 298 288 331 215 267 173 194 157

184 274 254 220 248 195 195 129 101 132

49 34 46 28 29 3 5 3 15

Aluminium/Chemical grade
3 17 3

10 15 20 20

Guyana's bauxite ports of Demerara and Berbice have shallow channels because of the deposition of silt. "Therefore they can accommodate only the smaller ore carriers. Bauxite production was nationalised in the 1970s by the creation of Guymine in 1971 which managed the Demerara operations, and Bermine in 1975 which managed the Berbice operations.

FIELD WORK SUGGESTIONS If possible, a visit should be made to one of the major mines such as Linden, Omai or the Teperu quarry. The class should also visit the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission to find out how prospecting is done and geology maps made.

Resources and development: forest products

7.1 The forest resource base

Guyana has 14 000 000 hectares of tropical forest with a wide variety of forest types and over 250 species of trees. The forest can be divided into three types: Commercial forest. Potential commercial forest. Non-commercial forest. AIthough tropical forest covers much of the land surface of the country, forest resources make only a modest contribution to the economy and to employment. Export earnings from forestry are usually 1.2 to 1.3 per cent of the national total, and forestry accounts for a mere 1 per cent of Gross Domestic Product. So even though Guyana is well covered with tropical forest, forest exploitation has not generally been as important as agriculture, mining and manufacturing to the national economy. Guyana has only recently embarked on the widespread exploitation of forest resources. It will be some years before the contribution of forest-based industries becomes important to the national economy

Whether the forest is accessible for the successful and economic extraction of logs or other forest products. The estimates of the various categories of forest are 14 000 square miles of commercial forest, 40 000 square miles of potential commercial forest, and 9500 square miles of non-commercial forest. Figure 7.1 shows the timber producing area. The distribution of species is very important. The marketable species usually represent a small fraction of the species present, and not all of these trees will be of sufficient size and quality to be of value for extraction. In addition, many of the valuable species may be significantly damaged by insects or rot and therefore unsuitable for commercial exploitation. Another problem is accessibility. Much of Guyana's forest is located where there are no roads, beyond the navigable stretches of the rivers. There is also forest growing on steep slopes or beyond the escarpments of the Pakaraima uplands.

7.3 l'he history 7.2 Location factors in forestry

The primary factors when determining whether a forested area is commercial are: Whether the forest has sufficient quantities of marketable species of the appropriate size.

of forestry

The exploitation of forest in Guyana is as old as the history of human settlement. The indigenous peoples of Guyana have utilised the forest for gathering food and medicines, hunted the animals, and used forest products for building their homes. Vines and plants are used to make baskets and other artifacts, and also weapons. "1'he gathering 45


A New Geography of Guyana.

Figure 7.1 The status of commercial forestry in Guyana.

of latex from the bulletwood tree for making balata was also an important occupation in some parts of the interior, and the craft was one which was passed on to balata bleeders from the coast. Balata was used to make industrial conveyors and golf balls but its production in commercial quantities is now almost at an end in Guyana. Commercial forestry is as old as the colonisation of Guyana. The cutting and export

and oriane dye was a sporadic economic activity in the colonies during the 17th and 18th centuries. Letterwood is a hardwood used for making axe handles and oriane was used to dye fabric. The intermittent cutting of timber was particularly important on the Waini and Pomeroon rivers. Export of greenheart started in the latter part of the 18th century through exploitation of the Pomeroon, Demerara and Essequibo rivers.
of letterwood

Resources and development: forest products By the end of the 19th century, the forest industry had become a significant export sector.


7.4 Logging
In the present-day timber industry, only a small number of species are harvested. In

many countries, logging is done by clearfelling where all the trees in an area are harvested at one time. In Guyana, however, there is a system of selective logging where only a small number of marketable trees are harvested within each location. Since much of Guyana's forest is composed of highly



c) Figure 7.2 Removing trees from the forest: a) Forest trees are cut down. b) Skidder hauls logs out of the forest. c) Logs are put onto articulated truck.


A New Geography of Guyana

complex climax mixes, in which there can he as many as 100 species, the practice of forestry involves seeking out marketable trees over a wide area and over long distances. Trees are spotted by experienced loggers who can recognise marketable trees of desirable species. The usual operation involves cutting the trees and transporting them to the nearest river or road for transportation (Figure 7.2). N_ The size of the team doing the logging, the techniques for cutting the timber, and the degree of mechanisation all determine how far from the river or road it is possible to harvest a tree. Small operators working by hand tend to work within one or two

miles of the nearest transport artery. The use of tractors enables the trees to be moved up to 13 miles to be shipped, while the largescale operators with wheeled skidders and articulated trucks can harvest trees up to 60 miles from the transport artery. Over 300 operators have been given licenses to operate small-scale andTnediumscale operations. In recent years, however, there has been a rapid increase in the number of freelance and unlicensed loggers who use chain saws and produce semi-finished timber products at the point of felling. It is now estimated that there may be over 2000 operators of this type.

Table 7.1 Production of timber in Guyana 1986-95.

Greenheart logs Other species Sawn lumber Charcoal Firewood Staves Posts Spars Wallaba poles


1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1 993 1994 1995
2561 2595 584 1.74 39.4 1616 948 64 289 1772 1772 804 0.77 17.8 992 674 39 148 1427 1427 1275 0.43 11.3 644 358 II 190 1400 1400 2075 0.56 24 464 347 82 245 1481 1481 2924 0,71 16.7 693 445 27 245 1755 1755 6184 0.86 15.2 588 402 41 394 1870 1870 8498 1.45 26.7 970 736 162 450 1974 1974 12645 1.82 21.3 1148 870 194 318 1739 1739 17733 147 163 1184 1020 332 346

cubic feet 2241 2445 cubic feet B.M. (Board foot) 540 m.t. 1.51 m.t. 35.1 1270 pcs li n. feet 842 78 li n. feet 358 li n. feet

Table 7.2 Export figures for timber 1994-96. Volume in cubic feet, value in thousands of US dollars.
Greenheart Purpleheart Wamara Hardwood Wallaba Silverballi Mora Kabukalli Locust Crabwood Other Total

1994 Vol
348030 66302 842939 85261 283 31161 3607 630 3224 1624 1383061

1994 Vol
3170 567 2990 408 2.5 133 21.6 7.3 30 14.2 7344

1995 Vol
404747 131918 252 541954 86958 2620 55538 4344 5621 6392 846 1241204

1995 Vol
3797 1255 3.8 1824 474 28.4 284 39 69 49.3 7.2 722

1996 Vol
496234 126772 4004 618347 167567 2147 29575 18009 19110 1270 861 1483896

1996 Vol
5051 1365 59 2197 850 24 192 152 185 15 22 10117

Resources and development: forest products


7.5 Sawmilling and processing

Traditional forestry involved the cutting and hauling of trees by hand, by draft animals or by tractor. In recent years there has been an upsurge of harvesting and preparation using hand-held chain saws. The modern industry has three distinct types of operations: Small-scale artisanal harvesting using chain saws, often under contract to supply middlemen (Figure 7.3). Medium sized or small industrial operations usually associated with sawmills at key locations along a creek or river. There are approximately 90 sawmills registered in Guyana. Large-scale industrial operations which account for a large proportion of the harvest and the hulk of the export market. Barama Company Limited
The Barama Company is the largest forest operation in Guyana (Figure 7.4). The activity is based on a resource allocation of 1.6 million hectares of forest (4.1 million acres). As elsewhere in Guyana, the forest is harvested by selective logging where only mature trees are cut for economic use. Trees must be 60 cm (24 in) in diameter at breast height for them to be selected for harvesting. The major species harvested is baromalli, but kabukalli, crabwood, simarupa and shibadan are also harvested. The logs are extracted by IS-wheel trucks and taken to Port Kaituma. Here they are loaded on barges and shipped, via the Atlantic, to Land of Canaan on the Demerara river where the company has its processing plant and export facility. The major production line of Barama Company is plywood, all of which is exported, mainly to the North American market. Barama produces 1500 cubic metres of sawn lumber each month and 10 000 cubic metres of plywood per month.

Figure 7.3 Power saw being used to cut logs into boards.

a) b)

Figure 7.4 The Barama Company: a) Aerial view, b) Logs being transported along a river.


A New Geography

of Guayana

7.6 Sustainability and forest industries

The forest industry in tropical countries has become the focus of much international attention and controversy in recent years. Much of 4his has led to concern about the rate of depletion of tropical rain forests, and the conservation of the vegetation and lifestyles

where this environmental type still exists. An increasingly popular idea is that of sustainable development, which is the production of forest products in such a manner that the environment is preserved intact and is available for use by future generations. Guyana, through its government policies, takes care' to practice sustainable forestry. In r idition, Guyana has taken the initiative, in develop-


.. a
I ^



6 I a


Ariwo Mountain



i i
_,,nuni Apoteri

Figure 7.5 The Iwokrama Rain Forest Reserve.

Resources and development: forest products


ing the idea of sustainable use of the rain forest by setting aside unspoiled rain forest for scientific research in sustainability. 360 000 hectares of forest between the Essequibo and Siparumi rivers have been set aside by the government of Guyana for an international programme into the study of sustainability (Figure 7.5). The Iwokrama International Rain Forest Programme has set aside half of the reserve to be preserved as natural wilderness for the study of the plant and animal life of this environment. The other half is being used to develop methods of exploiting timber, and other resources such as tourism, in a profitable way which preserves the environment.

FIELD WORK SUGGESTIONS There is probably a sawmill within easy reach of most secondary schools in Guyana. The only exceptions are schools near the forest where the cutting and extraction processes can be studied. The class should he asking three questions: 1 Where does the raw material come from? 2 Where do inputs such as labour and energy come from? 3 What products are made and where are they sold? If it can be arranged, the class should also visit the Barama mill on the East Bank of the Demerara river.


Resou rces and development:


8.1 The marine resource

Guyana has an extensive coastline and many rivers and lakes. This is an important characteristic of our natural environment and a resource for one of our main economic activities. Fish and other seafood form a large N
fishery zone

^" ^.^^. ^ Cy?zf: t

inshore fishin

part of the diet. The industry is an important employer and provides exports for the country. Although use is made of the inland aquatic resources based on rivers, canals and creeks, commercial fishing is largely centred around the marine resources. These are to be found on the continental shelf which extends from the coastline out underneath the Atlantic for over 100 km (Figure 8.1). The extent of the continental shelf and the area of commercial fish shoals is approximately 49 000 km 2 . Although the national fleet has access to this shelf, under international law Guyana has exclusive fishing rights to a territorial sea 12 miles wide and an exclusive economic zone [EEZJ which extends for 300 km outwards from the territorial sea. The area of the EEZ is 138 240 km2.

8.2 Types of fishing

Sc. SO

e ^

o je




:r "^S^y{c \ L ' Georgetown r rQ a 'a/ ta.'s


The fishing industry in Guyana can be divided into five types: Industrial marine. Artisanal marine. Inland subsistence. Inland ornamental subsistence. Aquaculture.


Industrial marine fishing is done by seagoing fishing vessels called trawlers. Trawlers fish by dragging or trawling with their fishing

Figure 8.1 The fishing areas of Guyana.

Resources and development: fishing


gear in water which is between 18 to 90 m deep. Trawlers are about 21 metres in length and Gu y ana has a fleet of 120 such vessels based in Georgetown, which are supported by four packing and processing plants. The industrial fishing industry concentrates mainly on the export market.

Artisanal marine fishing is done by a large fleet of 1240 boats located in villages all along the coast from the Amakura to the Corantyne. The boats range in size from 6 to 18 metres in length. The larger boats have onboard

Figure 8.2 Artisanal fishermen loading ice in preparation for going to sea.

Figure 8.3 Fishermen displaying their catch.

facilities for freezing their catch and stay at sea for two weeks or more (Figure 8.2). Smaller boats have minimal storage capacity and go to sea daily depending on the tides. The smaller artisanal fishing operations concentrate on fin fish which are sold to both the local and export market (Figure 8.3). Some of the fishermen in the artisanal fleets are based in specially constructed artisanal fishing ports, which provide them with facilities for cold storage and refuelling. The artisanal fish ports are to be found at No. 66 and No. 43 villages on the Corantyne coast, Rosignol on the west bank


A New Geography of Guyana

of the Berbice river, Georgetown and Parika in the Demerara harbour, and Lima on the Essequibo river. About 4500 fishermen are employed in the industry and many of them are organised into cooperative societies. The most widespread technique is the use , o f gill nets (Figure 8.4). Polythene gill nets are used on the larger boats and are used for six-hour hauls, usually two, hauls per day.

This , type of fishing is usually done between 10 to 30 miles from the shore and at depths of between 8 to 30 fathoms. Nylon gill nets are used by the smaller vessels and these fishermen make daily hauls at sea between 6 to 8 miles from shore, usually at depths of between 6 to 15 fathoms. Chinese seines are used by the inshore fishermen. These are used for twice-daily hauls which are made

Cast net

Drifting net


Figure 8.4 Pots and nets used in fishing,

Table 8.1 Major commercial species of fish. Local name

Bangamary Butter fish Croaker, Bashaw Gillbacker Grey snapper Grouper Mackerel Queriman Red snapper Snook Shark White belly

Scientific name
Mocrodon oncylodon

Gear used
Pin and Chinese seine, trawl Pin and Chinese seine, trawl Pin and Chinese seine, trawl Cadell, hand line Pin seine, gill net Hand line Hand line, gill net Pin seine Hand line Pin seine, gill net Pin seine, trawl Chinese seine

Debris micros Liras breviceps Aius grandicassis Cynoscion acoupa Epinephelus spp. Scomberomerous maculatus Mugil Broziliensis Lutjonidus aja Centropomus undecimalis Carcharhimus spp. Nematopalaewn schmitti

Resources and development: fishing


at about one mile from shore operating at depths of between 2 to 6 fathoms. Some fishermen also use pin seines and cadell lines. Pin seines are used for close inshore work between half to one mile from shore. Cadell lines are used for long daily hauls at 3 to 5 miles from shore in water approximately 3 fathoms deep. Table 8.1 shows some of the main species of fish caught by artisanal fishermen.


Subsistence and semi-commercial fishing is widely practised in Guyana. Fish is caught in rivers, lakes, canals and reservoirs for domestic consumption and sale. This activity is seasonal and is influenced by flood or high water conditions. It is also affected by how busy the agriculture sector is since much subsistence fishing is done in the agricultural off-peak seasons. "Techniques include the use of small boats and seines or hand lines. Cast nets are also very widely used for occasional and subsistence fishing. Among the species caught in subsistence fishing are lukanani, houri, patwa, tigerfish, hassar, piranha, tilapia, yarrow and sunfish.

tides through the sluices so that eggs, fish fry and shrimp larvae can be collected within the empoldered areas. The fish are allowed to grow and develop with little or no input from the farmer. Most of this type of aquaculture is found on the estuaries of the Berbice and Corantyne rivers. Freshwater aquaculture is based on the cultivation of an exotic species, the tilapia (Figure 8.5). Unlike the brackish-water fish farming, freshwater fishing requires much more careful management including the provision of food for the young fry. The freshwater fishing industry is widespread along the coast but has not achieved economic i mportance.


The export of tropical ornamental fish to developed countries, particularly the United States, is an important form of inland fishing. The fish are caught in the upper reaches of the rivers and small creeks in the hinterland 12y collectors who supply them to the exporters. There are two types of aquaculture practised in Gu y ana. Brackish-water fish farming is carried on using the waterlogged conditions created and controlled by the drainage and sea-defence system. The technique involves letting in water during high

Figure 8.5 Three types of fish common in Guyana.


Al New Geography

of Guyana

8.3 Fish product exports

Approximately 70 per cent of the catch in the Guyana fishing industry is exported, mainly to the USA, the Caricom countries, Japan and Hong Kong. Table 8.2 shows the volume of seafood exports for the years 1990 to 1994.

FIELD WORK SUGGESTIONS Because fishing is widespread in every part of Guyana, there is some field work aspect of this available to every school. For example, the class could do a project on the form of fishing or aquaculture that is most important in their own community. Georgetown schools could study the marine export industry with its large trawlers and freezing facilities.

Table 8.2 Fishery exports (metric tons). Item

1990 1991 1992 1993 1994
1992 1055 1526 1204 1630 1215 1483 1398

1665 Prawns 662 Seabob and Whitebelly Dried shrimp 8 Fin fish (frozen) 1320 Fin fish (fresh) 138 Salted fish 45 Smoked fish 2 Frozen crab meat Shark fins 8 Fish glue 10

24 10 18 34 1979 2747 2720 2922 177 323 261 326 337 31 32 II 9 10 16 23 32 13 20 7 29 53 27

People and environment on the


coastal belt

9.1 Creating a new environment

The coastlands of Guyana provide a good example of an environment where the natural conditions have been completely altered to produce a different environment. As we saw in Chapters 2 and 4, the natural environment of the coastlands is characterised by frequent flooding by the rivers, by the sea, and by heav y rainfall in the wet seasons. Under these wetland conditions, comfortable human habitation and economic activity is not possible without making great changes. The early European explorers who came to the Guianas, such as Sir Walter Raleigh, found the coastlands uninviting and inhospitable. The land was described by some as the `Wild Coast' and by others as the 'Mosquito Coast', which gives a good idea of their impressions.

constructed polders and established plantations producing sugar cane and cotton. The system of land reclamation which they put in place forms the basis of much of the settlement pattern and the agricultural systems practised in Guyana.

9.3 Problems of the coastal environment

The basic concern in the land use of Guyana's coast is the control of water: The land must be protected from flooding by the sea during high tides. The land must be protected from flooding by the rivers during the rainy seasons. Agricultural land must be supplied with fresh water at crucial stages in the growth
cycle of crops.

9.2 The early settlers

The early Dutch colonists avoided the coast when they first settled in Guyana in the 17th century, and preferred to make their plantation, ^. further up the rivers away from the swampy conditions. They soon found, however, that the soils of the interior lost their fertility very quickly and shifted their settlements to the coastlands. There, the traditional Dutch expertise developed in cultivating the lowlands of their home country was put to use. Using slave labour, the Dutch

9.4 Techniques of water control

A new coastal environment has been achieved by the creation of polders through a process known as ernpoldering (Figure 9.1). A frontiall or dam is built, facing the river or sea, to protect the land from high tides and raised water levels. A backdam is created at the rear end of the polder to retain flood water from the rainy season. This water can then be used for irrigation in the dry seasons. Drainage and irrigation canals are dug to link the backdam with the front dam, and sluice gates called kokers are constructed 57


A New Geography of Guyana


f// i I J? l? F F f F
'4 J '4 +'4?\f;

side line canal i . .- .........




. \,:


F .J



f v+

F r r F J J 1 J J? J F/ t 'v \ t v V t k E\\'





nn II 1

middle walk

/ r i t
Y+ \
4 Y \ r

4 J

t i t! F J J J 1J4.?'4'4Jtlr'
i J


R 4

\ \ \ \ t 'v J/! f F r 1 e

t r J i J t\ l 4

side line canal

r r r r r r r? J r!

??! l J l J J f J J


' !

\5 ' +' .,J\'

J i J? f F t J

koker or sluice or pump station residential



Figure 9.1 The layout of a polder.

Figure 9.2 Example of the Dutch koker system.

to regulate the flow of water (Figure 9.2). The sides of the polder are also protected using sideline dams. A middlewalk dam is constructed at the centre of the polder. The kokers are used to let flood waters out to the sea from the polder, or to let water from behind the backdam into the polder for irrigation during the dry season. In the early days of settlement, each plantation or farm maintained its own system. If an estate came upon hard times and was unable to maintain its dams or canals, the sea defences collapsed. It was then easily inundated by the sea and by floods to become part of the swamps again. As the colonisation process developed, groups of estates or the government built collective systems which allowed better management of the polders and improved the control of water. Groups of estates or villages could be protected by strong masonry walls or seawalls, and the backdams defended the land in front of large conservancies which also provided fresh water for irrigation and domestic use (Figure 9.3).

People and environment on the coastal belt


Figure 9.3 Seawall provides protection for the land behind.


Modern sea defences

In modern times, the management of river and sea defences, as well as drainage and irrigation, is a state responsibility. Guyana's coastline, however, suffers from erosion and retreat which makes its defence a complex and difficult operation. There seems to be a 30-year cycle of coastal erosion in Guyana and the points of deterioration are spaced at approximate 20-mile intervals. This means that, at any given time, accretion of sediment is taking place at some locations; whereas erosion may be taking place at other points along the coast. If there is no significant economic activity on a particular section of coast suffering from ,erosion, the sea dam is often retired and so ne land returned to the sea. If, however, the point where the sea defences are threatened protects economic activity or settlement, the seawall or dam has to be defended, usually at great expense. The greatest danger to the sea defences is from November to February when the short rainy sea-

son coincides with the highest spring tides, and winds whip up strong waves. When severe breaches do occur, they create great economic hardship as homes and farms are flooded by the sea. Not only does flooding by the sea result in the destruction of crops, property and livestock, it also results in soil infertility because the salt has an impact for some time afterwards.

9.6 Drainage and irrigation

Drainage and irrigation of the coastal plain pose many serious problems. Ideally, land drainage could be done by the force of gravity as the excess water flows to the sea or river. This, owever, is not always possible: First, gravity drainage is only possible at low tide which occurs at varying times of day and only for ten hours at a time Second, the rivers and sea are heavily laden with silt, and the outfalls of the kokers are easily blocked and made inefficient. Third, where the polder is large, it often takes several hours for flood waters to reach


A New Geography of Goryana stock. In Guyana, the damage caused by floods and breaches in sea defences, river defences and conservanc y dams matches the impact of tropical storms and other natural hazards which occur in other Caribbean countries.

the sea, by which time the koker must be closed in the face of rising tides. Fourth, when there is exceptionally high rainfall, the volume of flood water far exceeds the capacity of a gravity drainage

system. For these reasons, valuable agricultural and urban land often needs to he protected with high capacity pumps to provide an accelerated runoff,in the event
of very heavy rainfall (Figure 9.4^,

9.7 Drainage and irrigation schemes

In the early days of coastal settlement, the land use pattern was based on a series of empoldered estates. These lay side by side and ran inland from the sea or the major rivers. After the abolition of slavery in 1834, many of the estates were bought by the former slaves but the resulting villages retained the same basic structure and layout.

Another hazard is that flood water, ponded back in the conservancy by the backdam, may rise so high that there is an overflow and the dam is overtopped or breached. Though this is a less frequent occurrence than the breaching of the seawall, it is nevertheless a very serious danger, and causes extensive damage to property, crops and live-

Figure 9.4 An example of a pumping station.

People and environment on the coastal belt






K rnv

SURINAME t r 1 ^



t- -

Matthews Ridge /- - (1968) - /


Charity-Amazon (1946) McNabb (1965) Anna Regina (1946) Tapakuma (1964)



^` ) ~


G 'D

^ Vergenoegen (1946)

Cane Grove-La Bonne Mere (1947)


of Eden

MMA/ADA (1984)

Onverwagt (1955)



Black Bush

Ma Retmite


(-,;;) P ld / /

. 100 km
a Ebini (1962)

Brandwagt Sari (964)

t I


Figure 9.5 Large-scale drainage and irrigation schemes in part of Guyana.

Modern settlements were, however, developed through large-scale drainage and irrigation schemes (Figure 9.5) in which several agricultural villages were created out of swampland, or the productivity of existing villages was improved by developing an extensive polder. These polders are large and expensive engineering undertakings. They require large volumes of capital to be spent in the construction of dams, canals, kokers and roads necessary to make the coastlands productive and habitable. There are several such large schemes in Guyana and they are very important to the economic development of the country. The major schemes are:

The Tapakuma Project: this was completed in 1963 and increased the amount of polderland on the west bank of the Essequibo river from 3200 hectares to 14 500 hectares. The Boerasirie Extension Project: this polder was created on the interfluve between the. Demerara and the Essequibo rivers. This project was completed in 1959. It protects 52 600 hectares of agricultural land. The Blackbush Polder Project: this polder is located between the Canje and Corantyne rivers. It created 1250 hectares of polderland and four large agricultural villages.


A New Geography

of Guyana

Afahaica-Mali aichon y-Abary (MMAIADA)

The MMAIADA project is the most recent and by far the most complex and extensive polder scheme in Guyana. This water control project commenced in 1978 and extends -from the right bank of the Mahaica river to the left bank of the Berbice river. The MahaicaMahaichony-Abary flood plain extends for approximately 1450 square miles and iccomposed of flat alluvium with very fertile soil. However, with the exception of the Blairmont sugar estate, the area suffered much from flooding in the rainy season and the intrusion of salt water into many of the farm areas. The productivity of most agriculture, particularly the small farmers, was very low. The main aims of the project are to improve water control, stop flooding in the flood plains of these major rivers, and to enhance the productivity of a wide area, approximately 17 000 hectares of land. The project creates two conservancies and an extensive network of drainage and irrigation canals. The MMA/ADA project is not only concerned with improved water control. It is also responsible for the improvement of the agricultural system by giving advice to farmers, helping them to acquire loans, and helping them to use machinery. The scheme enables small farmers to have larger and better plots. The project has already been very successful. The rice industry in this area has seen enormous improvement in productivity and farmers' yields have improved from an average of 24 to 70 bags per hectare. The production of other crops has also improved. Figure 9.6 shows in greater detail the MMA/ ADA scheme.


sluice rice i `I t i pasture sugar reservoir


20 km

Figure 9.6 Areas benefiting from the MMA/ADA scheme. cultural communities. It was necessary to assist in the settlement of indentured Indian labourers who had completed their period of service in Gu y ana. When Indians were first shipped to Guyana, they were promised return passages to India at the end of their period of service. However, many of them opted to settle in Guyana. The colonial government encouraged them to stay because they provide continued labour for the sugar industry and a workforce for other

9.8 Land settlement schemes

An important aspect of the settlement of the coastlands is the creation of land settlement schemes. Land settlement in Guyana was designed to encourage the growth of agri-

People and environment on the coastal belt




e s
v v
a o

residential dairy




forms of employment during depressions in the sugar industry. Many of the modern agricultural villages were originally land settlement schemes. Examples are Huist D'ieren on the Essequibo coast, Helena and Bush Lot in Berbice, Hague and Windsor Forest in West Demerara. Figure 9.7 shows the layout of Vergenoegen Land Settlement Scheme which was started in 1906. The scheme has 1 411 310 hectares with rice farming occupying 978 910 hectares, pasture and food crops 31 738 hectares, and market gardening 55 609 hectares.

rice ground provision

vegetables and

" '^

A W` 3.


Most of us live on land drained and irrigated as a polder, and protected by a sea or river wall. It is therefore a good idea to do a project on how the drainage and irrigation sea defence systems work and how much they cost. A study of a major drainage and irrigation scheme, such as MMA ADA, is a good idea for a project, especially for SBA (School Based Assessment)

i 4




3 kin

Figure 9.7 Vergenoegen Land Settlement Scheme.

The rice Industry ci

11 10.1 Why rice in Guyana?

The rice industry is a good example of the relationship between environmental conditions and human activity. A particular agricultural activity can be explained by a variety of factors: The environmental conditions and their suitability to particular crops. The cultural and social practices of the people. The market demand for the agricultural produce. The infrastructure for the transportation and storage of the produce.. The activity of governmental agencies. slaves who brought with them the techniques of rice farming from their homelands in the deltas and flood plains of West Africa. Slaves often planted rice in places chosen by the estate owners, and there is evidence that rice production showed some growth in the 19th century. The modern rice industry is closely related to several important events in Guyana's history: The arrival of indentured immigrants from India for whom rice was often their staple diet and who had experience of dealing with the crop. The encouragement of the colonial authorities in ensuring that the colony produced adequate quantities of a staple food. The creation of land settlement schemes to strengthen the agrarian ties of the Indian indentured immigrants.

In the case of the rice industry, the environmental conditions are of particular importance since the rice plant is especially suited to the wet conditions of the Guyana coastlands. Guyana's artificial water control systems provide drainage during the rainy season floods, irrigation during dry spells in the growing season, and protection from the sea and rivers.

10.1.3 MARKETS
Rice is a crop with a strong domestic and foreign market. It is the staple food of the Guyanese and for a large number of people in the Caricom countries. There is also a large but highly competitive world market for rice.

Rice has been grown in Guyana for many years and the production of rice was well established by the 18th century. The crop was a familiar one to many of the African 64

Transportation is an important aspect of commercial agriculture. Because of the land use patterns in the Guyana polderlands,

The rice industry

farmers do not usually live on the farm. It is therefore necessary to take machinery onto the polder for land preparation, harvesting, and transporting the harvest to storage and the market. Since rice cultivation is highly dependent on the water control systems, the efficiency and effectiveness of these systems is vital to the success of rice farming.

Hampton Court Coffee Grove ; Anna Regina Wakenaam



Vergenoegen .Q Ruimzigt Cane:' Grove Strangroen Broek-en-Waterland


Rice farming is a very important occupation for many rural families and an important sector in the economy. For that reason, the government has played a key role in the marketing and economic management of the rice industry. In recent times, the government has been concerned with: The construction and management of drainage and irrigation systems. The collection of tariffs for drainage and irrigation services. The provision of extension services and information. Support for the marketing of rice in foreign markets.

Mahaico y ...: Bath

I /



::: : Black Bush .. Polder '$1 Corriverton

: 0



rice 50 km


Figure 10.1 Rice producing areas with major mill

10.2 Geographical distribution of rice production

The polderland system on Guyana's coastlands is ideally suited to the production of rice. Flooding the field to restore its fertility, flood fallowing, is an important part of cultivation, and inundated conditions are necessary for most of the important varieties Zf rice. The location of rice production is closely linked to the development of drainage and irrigation projects in Guyana. It is therefore hardly surprising that the major areas of rice production are also the larger and more complex polderland projects. The existence of adequate water control has meant

that fast-growing and high-yielding varietii can be used, and two to three crops can t grown in one year. There are 94 331 hectares of land on tt coastal belt suitable for the commercial pre duction of rice (Figure 10.1). Of that are approximately 76 171 hectares are cultivate per year. Available land is classified as th, having adequate water control through draii age and irrigation systems. The polderlanc on the Mahaica-Mahaichony-Abary floe plains are the largest producing area in tl. coulr try, accounting for 38 per cent of it total under cultivation. The area between tf Demerara and Essequibo rivers has the mo intensive utilisation, since 96 per cent of if land provided with water control and sui able for rice production is utilised. Th smallest area is found in East Demerai where only 2430 hectares of rice is plants annually.


A New Geography of Guyana

10.3 Methods of rice farming Traditionally, rice farming was done by manual methods but in modern Guyana the rice industry is highly mechanised. The preparation of land and harvesting of the crop is almost universally done by tractor ploughs. The sowing of the crop is normally done by manual means, only the largest of operations using aircraft. ^-

most common method is shying, where the seed is broadcast (scattered in the field) by hand. In transplanting, the seeds are germinated in nurseries and then placed in the main field by hand,


The varieties of seed used in . Guyana are very important to the farmer. Farmers prefer varieties which give high yields but are resistant to plant diseases. Varieties of rice arc bred to produce these characteristics at research institutes in Guyana and other rice growing countries. An example is the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines. At present, Guyana uses two main varieties, Rustic and Dewani. Rustic is most widely used and is planted in over 80 per cent of farms. It is a sturdy, high-yielding variety with a long grain and tolerance for wet conditions. It is, however, susceptible to blast, a fungal plant disease which affects


Land preparation (Figure 10.2) is done by either the dry or wet preparation methods. In dry preparation, the land is ploughed twice, on the first and seventh day, while it remains drained to allow for fallowing and the decomposition of organic matter, In wet preparation, the land is tilled once and then irrigated to allow for flood fallowing. Sowing is done by one of three methods: shying, transplanting, and/or aerial seeding. The

l ^^
^ r

^ lry^Z . H

_- 0 -

" -"t _ t ; _ C ^^r :Ni1, rJl r7

Figure 10.2 Tractor ploughing a field as a preparation for sowing rice.

The rice industry

the rice plant at any stage of growth during humid weather.


Successful rice production in Guyana requires the intensive use of fertiliser, herbicides and pesticides. Nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium must be added to the crop. Two or three applications of fertiliser arc usually applied to the field, which is kept under several centimetres of irrigation water during the important growing season. The rice plant is vulnerable to several pests which can severely reduce the crop yield. The most serious of these is the paddy bug, which lives in the weeds and grasses growing near rice fields and migrates to the rice fields when the crop begins to flower. This pest can be reduced by spraying with monocrotophos in the later stages of plant growth. It is also important that drains and canals are kept clear of weeds since this

Figure 10.4 Mechanical harvester at work.

reduces the risk of bug infestation and the cost of any pesticide. Rice plants are also attacked by water weevils, caterpillars, snails and stem borers (Figure 10.3).

10.3.4 HARVESTING The rice crop is ready for harvesting in approximately 85 days. At that time, irrigation water is removed and the fields are left to dry for harvesting. The harvesting of rice is done by conventional mechanical harvesters (Figure 10.4). Farmers with large-scale operations usually possess their own harvesters as well as their own tractors for land preparation. Small farmers, however, need to hire the machines from larger farmers or from state institutions to prepare and harvest their land. Yields vary from 24 bags of paddy per hectare on poorly drained land with poor management, to yields of over 72 bags^er hectare on well managed farms with good water control and modern agricultural practices.


Rice water weevil

Adult stem borer

Adult paddy bug

10.4 Processing and marketing

Figure 10.3 Some common pests of rice, Processing is the removal of the kernel of the rice grain from the husk to make edible


A New Geography of Guyana

Figure 10.5 A large rice mill with a mechanical dryer.

rice. In 1997 there were 112 rice mills still in operation. They were distributed as shown below: Region 2 Essequibo-Supenaam (20). Region 3 West Demerara (27). Region 4 East Demerara (4). Region 5 West Berbice (30). Region 6 East Berbice (31). Rice mills range in size and scale of operation. Some are small huskers capable of a small output and producing grain of inferior quality. The larger, more complex mills produce a higher quality of grain and have a higher level of grain recovery (Figure 10.5). All mills in Guyana are privately owned and a few large plants dominate the industry. Generally, the larger mills concentrate on the production of rice for export, whereas the smaller operations supply the local mar-

ket. Most of the rice produced in Guyana is exported, around 80 per cent of the total production. Guyana's rice is usually exported in a semi-processed state, known as cargo rice, to be finished at plants in the importing countries. There are several stages in the processing of rice (Figure 10.6). The grain needs to be dried to reduce its moisture content to acceptable levels, usually from 20 per cent to 12 per cent, so that it can be stored and processed successfully. Grain not properly dried becomes discoloured and deteriorates rapidly. Drying is done either by the sun on drying floors or in mechanical dryers. The grain is then cleaned, husked and graded. The grading is done to classify the product according to colour, length and other indices of quality. Broken and discoloured grains

The rice industry are separated out from perfect grain. This broken grain and other by-products of the rice industry are usually sold to make stockfeed and other agricultural by-products.


10.5 Exports
The grain is exported mostly as cargo rice, the fate of the bulk of Guyana's crop. For rice to be eaten, it must undergo further processing. The grain must be polished to remove traces of the dark-coloured skin which surrounds it in its natural state. The rice may also be parboiled by soaking the grain for 48 hours in hot water before it is dried, hulled and polished. This is done to drive the nutrients from the covering of the grain into the grain itself, a process which increases its food value. Parboiled rice is the preferred taste of some consumers in Guyana and abroad.

In 1996, Guyana exported 80 per cent of its total production, that is 262 265 metric tons of rice and rice products. 93 per cent of the exports are of cargo rice and the bulk of exports, 78 per cent, are to European Union countries where Guyana has preferential market access. Tables 10.1 and 10.2 show exports of rice from Guyana. Table 10.1 Exports of rice products. Product
Cargo rice Cargo rice (broken) White rice White rice (broken) Parboiled rice Parboiled rice (broken) Mixed broken rice Rice bran Chips

208924 34617 8894 3658 2647 I I I 2766 398 250

79.70 13.20 3.40 1.40 1 0.04 1.10 0.20 0.09

Figure 10.6 Stages of rice processing: from paddy to fully processed rice.


A New Geography of Guyana

Table 10.2 Destination of rice exports. Destination

Caricom European Union Countries EU territories Others

Hampton Cou rt Essequibo Coast

Hampton Court (Figure 10.7) is a large and

Quantity (tons)
52531 1578 204012 4144

20 0.60 78 1.40

successful rice farm on the Essequibo coast. It is a 348 hectare farm, converted in the
1960s from an abandoned coconut and rice plantation. The farm is highly mechanised and land preparation and harvesting is done by

modern machinery. The crop is sown b, air,

as is the spraying of herbicides and fertiliser. Attached to the farm is a large rice milling

^ J `'

operation with a throughput of 3 tons per

6 tank

mechanical workshop
guard hut


drying floor


office n tank

hour. This processes rice on behalf of many other farmers in the area, which accounts for 80 per cent of the rice processed in the mill. The mill mostly produces white cargo
rice for export, averaging 18 000 metric tons




scales house


shed for scales


guard but

per year. One of the important features of the Hampton Court farm is that it makes full use of all the by-products of the rice plant. For example, the waste from the hulling process is used to fire the boilers used in the plant and to make electricity.

1 1

X ^

rice mill



N b

wa re house


v E

boiler room



dryer and silo

Figure 10.7 Layout of the Hampton Court Complex.

The rice industry is widespread on the coast but you need a systematic approach to get the most out of a field trip. It is best to do a comparison between production at the small and large scale, comparing small farms with large farms and a small factory with a large modern factory. A visit to the research facilities at the National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI) to see the breeding of rice varieties and other important experiments is a worthwhile activity.


Sugar cane farming

11.1 The importance sugar


Sugar cane farming is one of the most significant uses of land on the coastal belt. The story of sugar is the thread which runs through the history and geography of Guyana in general and the coastal belt in particular. Sugar cane farming occupies over 40 470 hectares of land on the coast of Guyana, employs approximately 26 000 people, aceounts for 20 per cent of Gross Domestic Product, earns 5 per cent of foreign exchange, and provides up to 14 per cent of taxes to the government. Sugar has dominated the history, development and political life of the country for most of is existence. The Guyana Sugar Corporation is Guyana's largest single employer.

11.2 Historical context

Sugar cane is a tall grass with a thick stem which is high in sucrose (sugar) content. The plant originated in India and has been cultivated for many centuries in tropical countries. When the Dutch colonised Guyana in the 1 7 th century, sugar cane was one of the crops attempted by the early settlers. The first sugar farms were established in 1658 on the Pomeroon river. Later on, plantations were set up on the banks of the Demerara, Essequibo and Berbice rivers. As we noted in Chapter 9, however, the Dutch settlers soon moved to the coastlands and

sugar cane farming was established on their polders. By 1759, there were approximately 120 plantations along the Demerara river and 200 on the Essequibo. By the end of the 18th century, there were 380 estates growing sugar on the coast from Pomeroon to Corantvne. The cultivation of sugar was highly dependent on the forced labour of African slaves who were used to dig the canals and make the dams and seawalls. The industry has faced many turning points in its history. One of the most significant was the abolition of slavery in 1834 since the newly freed Africans generally refused to work on the sugar plantations in large numbers. This resulted in the importation of indentured labourers from China, Madeira and India to work on the sugar plantations. It is the descendants of the indentured immigrants from India who make up most of the labour force in the sugar industry. Over the years the industry has changed drastically. Commercial sugar farming has ceased in Essequibo and Pomeroon, and is severel y reduced in Demerara (Figure 11.1). The lhdustry is now consolidated into a small number of very large estates centered on factories. There are only a small number of individual peasant cane farmers. The sugar plantations were nationalised in 1976 to form the Guyana Sugar Corporation. This has estates at Utivlugt, Wales, Diamond, La Bonne Intention and Enmore on the Demerara plains of the coast; 71


A New Geography of Guyana

11.4 Sugar cane estates



Bonne Intention Enmore





ooh B Rose Hall


E o



a9 c 0 50 km

sugar estate . sugar cultivation

Figure 11.1 Areas where sugar is cultivated in Guyana.

Blairmont, Rose Hall and Albion in the Canje-Berbice flood plain; and Skeldon on the west bank of the Corantyne. Many of the old historical sugar estates were either purchased by freed blacks and converted into villages during the village movement, or have been converted to other agricultural uses such as rice farming.

11.3 The environment and sugar cultivation

Sugar cultivation is based upon Guyana's environmental conditions and the elaborate mechanisms for drainage and irrigation which control the coastal plain. Sugar cane is grown on the clay soils of the coastal belt which are considered as classes I and II, that is fertile soils in need of drainage and irrigation and also some fertiliser.

Most sugar is grown on large estates though there are around 5000 peasant farmers who produce 10 per cent of the crop every year. Sugar estates are laid out in long narrow strips with the front of the estate facing a seawall or river dam, and the rear fa ng an inland reservoir and protected by a baehdam. Sugar estates are between 2000' and 4500 hectares, approximately 1 to 2 miles in width, and 7 miles in depth. The irrigation canals are higher than the drainage canals and cross them by means of aqueducts. In Guyana the irrigation canals are also used for transportation. The canals divide the fields into long narrow strips and branch into a network of smaller canals. It is estimated that the average estate has 25.8 km of large irrigation canals, and 73 km of smaller drainage and irrigation canals called section drainage. In fact, drainage and irrigation occupies 12.5 per cent of the surface area of a cane field. Sugar fields are flood fallowed after five to six crops have been harvested. Usually, the fields are flooded for six months to a year before being drained and replanted. Land preparation involves ploughing. The cane is planted by setting short pieces of cane in rows near the surface. Cane farming in Guyana requires a heavy input of fertiliser and plant protection. The land is treated with lime to reduce acidity and nitrogen and phosphate are usually added. The sugar cane plant takes one year to mature. Not all the fields are planted at the same time parts of the estate are planted or reaped during each dry season, termed the `spring' and `autumn' crop seasons. As a result, sugar estates usually have fields at different stages of growth. Sugar cane farming is plagued by many pests including the stem borer, the hard-back beetle and rats. Pesticides are widely used as well as flooding the fields for short periods.

Sugar cane farming The plant reaches 2 to 5 metres and sprouts a blossom called an `arrow'. The sugar content of the cane is at its highest when the arrow begins to fade. Reaping is done at precise times to ensure that the plant is reaped when the sugar content is highest. Before cane is harvested, the field is burnt to remove weeds, trash and pests. Reaping is done by hand and the plant is cut so as to leave the root in the ground. This then regenerates a new shoot known as a ratoon. A field may be re-grown in this way for four or five crops before it is flooded and replanted.


riorates very quickly, particularly if the cane has been burnt before cutting. The crop is moved to the factory in barges called punts which are drawn by tractor, mules or bullocks. At the factory it is weighed before processing. There are five processes in the manufacture of sugar (Figure 11.2): Milling is where the juice is separated from the fibre in rolling mills. The fibre, known as bagasse, is used as fuel in the factory boilers and helps to generate power. Clarification and filtration are the processes which remove impurities from the juice. Triple super-phosphate and calcium hydroxide are added to the juice which is

11.5 The sugar factory

The harvested cane stalks must be processed as soon as possible after reaping. This is because the juice becomes acidic and dete-

then heated. The residue, called mud, is removed and used on the land as fertiliser. Evaporation is where the juice is heated in a series of tanks and reduced to a thick syrup by the removal of moisture.


cane . roller




juice meter

li ming tank

\ 1

I r/

lime and water



L^l heater

"J I VIII' +--^ clarifier

scum tank


moisture evaporators


heater ;-



^ JJ
sweet tan




raw sugar

mud to fi elds

to store

Figure 11.2 Production of raw sugar from cane juice.


A New Geography of Guyana

Crystallisation (parboiling) is the process

where crystals of sugar are formed by heating in a vacuum pan. Centrifugation is the separation of sugar crystals from the thick residual syrup called molasses by spinning the syrup in tanks. The sugar crystals are graded according to colour and purity for sale or export. The molasses is used as stockfeed and in the manufacture of alcohol and confectionery. Bulk coastal vessels move the finished product from estates which are on the banks of rivers and from factories on the West Demerara coast. The other estates ship their sugar in containerised trucks. The sugar is stored and exported from a specially constructed bulk terminal on the Demerara river at Ruimveldt.

total, 19 032 tons or 7.62 per cent was produced by peasant cane farmers. Exports from the sugar industry including molasses, but not downstream products such as alcohol, earned approximately 130 million US$. Guyana's sugar is exported chiefly to countries where there are preferential markets, that is where the market for our sugars protected and a good price is offered. Two other interesting facts are: The European Union buys 163 500 tons of Guyana's sugar at special prices. The United States offers Gu y ana an export quota, at special prices, of between 15 000 and 23 000 tons of sugar annually.

11.7 Problems facing the sugar industry

There are many difficulties facing the sugar industry in Guyana: The climate in Guyana has a higher average annual rainfall than that found in many other sugar cane producers. This means that the plants in Guyana grow much faster but have a lower than average sugar content. Sugar cane faces severe competition from sugar made from sugar beet. This crop is grown in the temperate climates of Europe,

11.6 Production markets and exports

Over the last ten years, Guysuco has operated eight factories and planted between 34 400 and 45 680 hectares of sugar cane. The yield ranges from 54 tons per hectare in poor years to 80 tons in good years. The production in 1995 was 249 840 tons, of which 22 631 tons were consumed locally and 227 209 tons were exported. Of that

Table I I. I Guyana's sugar production 1987-97. The figures for harvest yields, sugar production and exports are in '000s of metric tons. Year
87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97

Guysuco Peasant Guysuco hectarage hectarage harvest

38399 30988 31828 34168 34964 37314 36336 38568 38722 39090 41925 4514 3743 3098 2809 2947 3111 3380 3798 4008 4313 4453 2832 2276 2365 1885 2124 2863 2925 2903 2668 2881 2801

Peasant harvest
268 203 183 135 169 217 246 246 240 291 273

Guysuco sugar
203.2 154.8 154.3 121.9 148.6 226.9 224.7 233.8 230.8 252.8 253.9

Peasant sugar
17.7 12.6 10.4 7.9 11 16.1 17.9 18.7 19 22.8 22.5

220.9 167.4 164.7 180.8 159.6 243 242.6 251.5 249.8 275.6 276.4

Domestic Exports market

42.2 35.8 28.5 27.6 23.8 19.9 23.2 21.4 22.6 23.6 22.2 178.7 131.6 136.2 153.2 135.8 223.1 219.4 230.1 227.2 252.0 254.2

Sugar cane farming


in the countries which were once the traditional markets for cane sugar. Sugar cane is harvested manually in Guyana. Sugar cane in many other areas is harvested mechanically which is a cheaper and more efficient method. Sugar cane farming in Guyana always faces the additional costs of drainage and irrigation and the intensive use of fertiliser. Producers in countries where the land is not subjected to flooding may not have these costs.

3 Rice is produced by independent peasant farmers with operations ranging from large scale to small scale. Sugar production is controlled by one large nationwide corporation.

Utivlugt Estate
Utivlugt is a sugar estate which lies between the Essequibo and Demerara rivers (Figure 11.3). It is a 4000 hectare farm which stretches between Cornelia Ida and Tuschen. The estate produces approximately five tons of sugar per hectare. Over 2600 permanent staff and 390 temporary workers are used on this estate.
sea defences

11.8 Comparisons with rice production

1 Rice and sugar production are both dependent upon drainage and irrigation systems to make the industries viable. 2 Both crops use flood fallowing.

lad Settlement old railway

I Rice is milled at mills scattered throughout the harvest area. Sugar is processed at a small number of centrally located mills. 2 Rice is often stored for a long time and may be milled many miles away from the place of harvest. Sugar is milled at plants near to the harvest area, immediately after it has been reaped.


sideline middle walk

ack dam cons!

e canal Figure 11.3 Sketch map of the Utivlugt sugar estate (not to scale).


A New Geography of Guyana

Table 11.2 Production of sugar from the Utivlugt estate I987-95. Year
87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95


Most schools can get to a sugar estate nearby and estates love to have guests. A visit to a sugar estate is a must for every geography student before they leave school. (Most students from estate villages know very little about the sugar industry!) ComAarisons between peasant cane farming and Guysuco make a good start but comparisons with sugar production in other countries also provides a good project topic.

Hectares (harvested)
3950 2839 3180 3494 3552 3726 3610 41 1 1 4013

Cane (harvested)
297 502 198 856 213 533 207 385 198 659 248 038 268 559 250 659 240 064

30.48 28.34 27.19 24.02 22.63 26.94 30.1 24.68 24.2

Sugar (produced)
21 349 13588 13 890 14 780 15 234 21`765 21 980 20 038 20 359

to a phy


Other types of agriculture

lost ttle

t co
gar les

12.1 `Other crops'

In Guyana, it is the practice to refer to agricultural activity apart from the cultivation of rice and sugar as the `other crops'. This is an indication of the degree to which Guyana's agriculture is dominated by the sugar and rice industries, both historically and today. Nevertheless, these other crops do play some part in the national economy and are important land uses.


The slaves and indentured labourers who came to Guyana brought with them traditions of peasant farming and animal husbandry. These took root in Guyana when they moved from the sugar estates in large numbers. Many farmers and rural people still carry on some farming of other crops, often in addition to work with rice and sugar. With the exceptions of cattle rearing and coconuts, the production of other crops is usually carried out by peasant farmers operating on a very small scale.

12.2 Factors influencing other crops

There are several factors to take into account when considering the importance of the other crops.

There is a strong local demand for basic food crops and animal products. This means that tropical roots and tubers (called `ground provisions'), plantains, bananas, tropical fruits
and coconuts are widespread, even though

Rice and sugar cane farming on the coastal belt require extensive drainage and irrigation. Areas on the coastal belt which are not well drained are more suitable for activities where water control is not as critical; for example, animal husbandry or the production of^other crops. There are also soils, such as the cheniers, which are well drained but not suitable for rice and sugar crops because of limited fertility. Many regions in the hinterland are suitable for agriculture but not for the production of rice and sugar by flood fallowing methods.

their contribution to the national export economy is relatively small.


The government has been very anxious to

encourage the production of other crops. Their aim is to reduce dependence on imported food, while increasing the opportunities in agriculture outside of sugar and rice farming.


A New Geography of Guyana

12.3 Distribution of other crops

12.3.2, OIL SEEDS

Peanuts are grown by Amerindian farmers in the Rupununi and in the northwestern areas of the country but production is relatively small. Coconuts are more widespread, however, particularly on sandy soils along the coast on the sand reefs or chenieLs which are unsuitable for rice and sugar. uyana produces 131 255 000 coconuts per year and is almost self-sufficient in terms of its need for vegetable oil and its by-products.


Maize is a cereal which is widely grown in

Amerindian villages and along the banks of the Berbice and Canje rivers. Black eye pea and a related legume, the minica, is widely grown along the coast, particularly in the Corantyne coastal area as a complement to rice farming (Figure 12.1).



Guyana produces a wide range of food staples in almost every part of the country. The most prominent crop is cassava which is grown particularly in the Amerindian areas. Other important crops in this category are plantains and eddoes. The most important areas are the Essequibo Islands and the West Demerara region. Guyana produces 18 million kilograms of plantains each year.


0 v .2 Georgetown ce





e rt i A

r, , . .


A wide variety of market garden crops is produced along the coast of Guyana. Among the most widespread are tomatoes, cabbages, bora beans, pumpkins, spices and peppers. All the coastal regions have vegetable farming. This is very much a peasant farming activity primarily intended to meet local demand.





p o

u v

'^ i legumes oilseeds ground provisions vegetables and seasonings fruits and citrus coffee and cocoa


12.3.5 FRUITS
The production of fruits is widespread though not often on specialised orchard farms. Bananas are cultivated alongside plantains and can be grown on poorly drained soils and pegasse. Mangoes and pineapples are also widely grown on a commercial basis. The regions between the Demerara and Essequibo

100 km

Figure 12.1 Other crops which are grown in Guyana.

Other types of agriculture rivers account for most of the production. Guyana produces 14 million kilograms of bananas and 7 million kilograms of pineapples, over 70 per cent of which are grown in those regions. Coffee and cocoa are grown on the northwestern section of the coast on the well drained laterite soils.


12.4 Livestock and poultry

Animal husbandry represents the third largest sector of agriculture in Guyana. The major







livestock activities are cattle rearing, pig rearing, sheep and goat rearing and poultry rearing: Cattle rearing is the most important of these activities. There is no strict division between dairying and meat production. Rough estimates suggest that about 15 per cent of the cattle population are of the specialist dairy type, while around 60-70 per cent are considered to be combined dairy/beef types. The national herd varies between 200 000 to 250 000 head of cattle. Most of the cattle in Guyana are located in coastal regions though herds exist in the intermediate and Rupununi savannahs (Figure 12.2)., Pig rearing is widespread throughout the coastal belt though most of the production is of the small-scale peasant, `backyard' type. The national herd is estimated as being 175 000. Sheep and goats are also reared on a small scale by peasant farmers. Small flocks of poultry are reared all over the country. Commercial poultry rearing is also widespread along the coastline and along the east bank of the Demerara. Guyana produces over 3000 tons of chicken per year and imports over 4000 tons,

mainly from the United States.

BRAZIL N Saviiii-ahs
1 4

12.5 Markets and exports

There are many factors which affect the crops in the `other crops' sector: Some of the crops are perishable and there are few facilities for preservation and storage As a'result, there are periods of glut which reduce the income earned by the farmers. There is often also much wastage. In many regions farmers must depend on the services of middlemen and wholesale traders, with access to trucks and boats, for getting the crop to market. The roads to many farms are very poor, and farms are often located on the more

S Savannahs

0 L_

1 00km

Figure 12.2 Cattle rearing regions in Guyana.


A Ne w Geography of Guyana

Figure 12.3 Farmer removing a water melon from a field.

remote depths of the polderlands. As a result, these farms are difficult to reach in rainy seasons. Although some sectors have some large farm units, particularly in the coconut industry, farming is largely a peasant activity (Figure 12.3). The level of technology is relatively low by international standards. Modern biotechnology and mechanisation are not widespread. There are few international markets for Guyana's crops; the low level of technology means that many of the varieties do not meet the standard of international

markets, 80 per cent of `other crop' exports go to Caribbean countries which are themselves producers of many of these tropical crops. FIELD WORK SUGGESTIONS The possibilities are numerous: dairying, ground provisions, market gardening, poultry, small stock (sheep and goats). Choose from these the most convenient to study. It is very likely that most of us, or at least our families, have taken part in `other crop' activity so there is always somewhere to start.


Population geography

13.1 Population resource types

Population geography or demography is the study of the location of human population. In general, the geography of population reflects relationships between resources and human activities. Countries are classified by the nature of that relationship. Demographers recognise four types of countries (Figure 13.1): Type 1 countries have high densities of population and a low economic base. Examples are many of the poorer countries of Asia and Africa. Type 2 countries have high densities of population but also have high levels of economic development and technology. The countries of Western Europe are the best examples. Type 3 countries have low densities of population but have highly developed economies and efficient utilisation of natural resources. The examples usually recognised are Australia, the United States and Canada. Type 4 countries have low densities of population and are rich in underdeveloped resources. Brazil and Guyana are usually considered good examples of this type. Some population geography books refer to this population resource type as the Guiana type. These population classes are not permanent since the level of economic development and

the utilisation of resources can change. Foi example, many of the counties of East Asia were once regarded as poorly developed anc overpopulated, that is Type 1 countries These have undergone rapid industrialisation and are no longer viewed as being ol that type. A good example is Singapore which was once regarded as poor and overpopulated but is now one of the world's richest countries.

13.2 Factors in population geography

To study the population geography of Guyana, we need to look at the size of the population in light of the country's natural resources and level of development, and the way in which the population changes: What is the size of the population of the country? What are the dynamics or changes taking place within the population? What is the structure or composition of the country's population? What is the geographical distribution of the population?

13.3 Population dynamics

The size of a country's population is affected by the factors which cause a growth or decline in the population. Populations grow by two means: live births and immigration.

a ^

o ^^ a


0 ^ o


type 2

(^ (^ ^

Tropic of




type I

" a5

ao 0 0

Tropic of


---------------- -------------- ----

d --------ty pe 3

population density: people per square kilometre over 100 10-100


population types: I high density/poor economy 2 high density/rich economy 3 low density/rich economy 4 low density/poor economy population of cities: over 5 million 2-5 million

Figure 13.1 The world distribution of population types 1-4.

Population geography Populations decline by two means: deaths and emigration. Where the number of live births exceeds the number of deaths over a particular period, the population will grow by natural means. Where the number of immigrants exceeds the number of emigrants, the population will grow through the process of migration. The most important measures of the dynamics of population are the crude birth rate and crude death rate. The crude birth rate is the number of live births per thousand of the total population of the country over one year. The crude death rate is the number of deaths per thousand of the population over one year. A high birth or death rate would he around 40 per thousand per year. Low birth and death rates would be near or below ten per thousand per year.
....0.0 birth rate
death rate



0 30

\ L

early expanding








1 950 1955 1960 1965 1970 1975 1980 1985 1990 1995

Figure 13.2 The demographic transition.

13.4 The demographic transition

When geographers study the story of population within countries, they observe patterns in the changes which take place in the birth and death rates. When a country is poor and underdeveloped, the number of children who survive to adulthood is usually very low and the birth rate is very high. Families depend on the large number of children to work and bring money into the household. The death rate is also very high. Nutrition is likely to be poor and public health conditions are often not good. The population of a country with such conditions is usually static. As social and economi^conditions improve, however, infant mortality declines and the death rate usually falls. Changes in public health, such as the control of infectious diseases, cause life expectancy to improve. Birth rate usually remains the same and therefore there is a rapid and large increase in population called a population explosion.

Eventually, the birth rate falls through improved birth control and family planning. The growth in a country's population then declines. Birth and death rates continue to decline to the stage where they are both low and the population grows very slowly if at all. This condition is typical of highly developed countries such as those in the European Union and Scandinavia. This change in the nature of population as a country develops is called the demographic transition. Figure 13.2 shows the demographic transition as it applies to a typical country. The population structure changes from an early phase with high birth and death rates, to an early expanding phase where death rate falls sharply while birth rate declines, to a late expanding phase where the death rate fall is less steep. Over time, it is expected that all countries will reach the mature stage where both death and birth rates are low and population growth is low or non- existent. All countries can be placed somewhere along the line of the demographic transition. Guyana is moving from the early to the late expanding phase. The death rate has already dropped and the birth rate is now dropping rapidly.


A New Geography

of Guyana

13.5 Population structure Another useful way of looking at a country's population is to break it down into groups based on age and sex. This is done by grouping the population into age groups, and-male and female. Each age group spans five years. Grouping in this way tells us how many males and females are in particular age groups, allowing us to study the structure of the population. The structure can he represented by constructing a population pyramid which is a graph showing the number of males and females in each five-year group. The population pyramid for Guyana can be seen in Figure 13.3. You will notice that the pyramid for Guyana shows a higher proportion of people in the younger age groups. This is characteristic of countries with young populations in the early or late-expanding phases of the demographic transition. Guyana has a concave profile to the population pyramid which indicates a younger popula65+ 60-64 55-59 SO -54 45-49 40-44 35-39 30-34 25-29 20-24 15 - 19 10- 14 5-9 0-4

tion. This means that Guyana, and other countries at this stage, have a great concern for matters to do with the welfare of children and young people, such as education and youth employment. Countries in the later stages of the transition, or which have completed the transition, have different pyramids. Such pyramids have convex profile and a narrow base which signals a small number of young people and low birth rates. The concerns of these countries are different since there is greater need to provide for the aging and retired.

13.6 The story

of Guyana's

The population of any country is studied by means of a census which is taken every ten years. In a census, all the households and institutions are surve y ed to determine the population of a country and other useful information about social and economic conditions. It is important to know how many people live in a country andwhere they are located. This information helps the government to plan properly for providing schools, hospitals and roads. In the Caribbean, taking a census is done as part of a coordinated effort for a United Nations project. Census records show that Guyana's population increased from 252 000 in 1881 to 759 600 in 1981. There were several reasons for this increase: The immigration of indentured labourers from China, Madeira and India. The immigration of settlers from the Caribbean from the 1930s to the 1960s. The reduction in the death rate due to better public health conditions, particularly through control of the spread of waterborne diseases. By the 1970s, Guyana had reached the late-expanding phase of the demographic transition with high birth rates, falling death rates and a growth of 2.25 per cent. Since



age groups



Figure 13.3 Population pyramid, Guyana 1991

Population geography

then, however, Guyana has undergone a decline in growth rate. Between the years 1980 to 1981, the population actually declined, falling from 759 567 to 723 827 in 1991. There are two reasons for this decline: There has been a fall in birth rates and in the average size of families. This probably results from the changes in society regarding the role of women and the values held by women of child-bearing age. The average number of children borne by each woman of child-bearing age fell from 6.1 in 1961 to 2.6 in 1991. There has been a significant increase in the number of Guyanese emigrating to developing countries. There are about 15 000 Guyanese emigrating per year.

because they find that there are few op portunitics for employment. People move from their communities ti begin life in a new family, such as afte marriage. People move from small rural communi ties because they believe that the social recreational and other facilities in their village or town are not interesting or var ied enough. Young people move from rural communities to escape from family and community customs. Rural young people sometimes turn awa} from agriculture and other forms of rural employment which they have come tc regard as hard or unrewarding.

13.7 Migration
Migration is of two kinds, internal and external. Internal migration is the permanent or semi-permanent movement of people from one part of the country to another. The most common form of internal migration is rural-to-urban migration, where individuals or families move from rural areas to find work and accommodation in the city. There is also urban-to-urban migration, where people move from one town to another. External migration occurs when people move from one country to another. In one sense Guyana is a nation of immigrants most of our people came from other parts of the world even though some of our ancestors may have come here involuntarily. There are push and pull factors which cause people to make permanent moves from one place to another.


People move to the city where there is a greater variety of better-paid jobs than in the rural areas. People move to the town for further education. People move to the town because their friends or relatives already living there may give them a positive impression of life in the city, and even offer to help by finding jobs and accommodation. Young people may be attracted by the glamour of urban life, such as the entertainment and recreational opportunities.


In rent years Guyana has had a very high rate of external migration, particularly to developing countries. The push and pull factors for internal migration apply here also. One way of estimating the external migration is to compare the figures for arrivals to Guyana and departures from Guyana. The average deficit over 20 years is 13 360 which is the equivalent of a net loss of nearly 2 per cent per year.


People move from an area in search of educational opportunities which may be lacking in their own community. People move from their communities

A New Geography

of Guyana

Table 13.1 Net migration from Guyana (1987-96). Year

1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 i994 1995 1996

129507 139617 129892 132605 134272 170917 189461 181876 184879 170885

141717 151711 145196 150164 157826 164515 196441 181626 192390 183483

Net loss
12210 12094 15304 17559 23554 (gain) 6402 69819 (gain) 250 7511 12598



13.8 Geographical distribution of population

87 per cent of Guyana's population lies on the coastal belt where productive and service activity is concentrated. Region 4, which includes Georgetown and the settlements east and south of the capital city, accounts for 41 per cent of the national population. The other regions of Guyana are very sparsely populated. In general, it would be accurate to say that Guyana is a sparsely populated country. This is particularly true of the hinterland regions where average population is only one person per square mile. On the coastal belt, however, the density is as high as 342 per square mile. If we take the distribution in relation to cultivable land, the density is in fact in the order of 1000 persons per square mile (Figure 13.4). FIELD WORK SUGGESTIONS Population studies are good because work can be done without the need for hiring buses and making long expensive trips. The work here requires using census data which is available at the Statistical Bureau and in some


r persons per km2 101-150 :' 51-100 26-50 6-25 0-5 ' '' ,



Figure 13.4 Population density by region.

research libraries. The electoral register, compiled for voting lists, is also very useful as are some public documents. The best topics in population studies are those which relate to family size and migration. The class will need to learn how to design and administer questionnaires. There is scope here for individual work.


Towns and settlements

14.1 Functions of settlements

People organise their interaction with their environment by creating settlements where they live and base their activities. A settlement is any collection of more than one dwelling place. It can vary in size from a small group of temporary huts to large cities. Settlements perform many functions: They provide shelter from aspects of the natural environment such as rain, cold and heat. They provide a place for protecting children and nurturing families. They provide a place of security for protecting property and assets. They form the basis upon which our communities and economic activity are

types of settlement can be identified (Figure 14.1). Of these, five are described as being rural settlements, and four are urban in type.


--Port Kaituma



'a Baramita
.1 '

Wakapao g Anna Regina Queenstown Georgetown 9 Plalsance

7 Buxton

Bartica 6




t 1

Enmore 4 Bush Lot Rose Hall z w Amstgrdam t


Settlements are usually classified as either rural or urban. Rural settlements have grown up in connection with agriculture and other non-urban activities, whereas urban settlements are larger and more associated with trading and manufacturing. Although urban settlements are larger than rural settlements, the point at which a rural settlement becomes urban varies from country to country.


f 1




, I


14.2 Types of settlement in Guyana

Settlements in Guyana are usually classified by their function, their historical origin, and their social and ethnic characteristics. Nine
0 100 km

Figure 14.1 Types of settlements in Guyana.



A New Geography of Guyana


1 Amerindian communities. 2 African villages. 3 Plantation villages. 4 East Indian villages. 5 Mining settlements, Below are further details about each type of rural settlement: I Amerindians live in small settl<ments. These arc closely related to their system of agriculture and land use, and are characteristic of their relationship to the natural environment. Some settlements are temporary and nomadic; often they are relocated by the community as they move in search of fresh land for their agricultural activity. Others are more permanent, where the need for new land can be met by rotating crops within a relatively small area. These more permanent villages are often tied to social facilities such as schools, health centres or Christian missionary activity. Waramadong and Wakapao are two well-known Amerindian villages. 2 African villages grew up in the 19th century as a result of the abolition of slavery in 1834. In Guyana, many African slaves refused to continue working on sugar estates and left the plantations in large numbers. Many of them settled on unoccupied land near the estates, while other groups bought the estates on which they worked from the former slave owners. 'l'his village movement led to the establishment of the large villages along the coastal belt. These retain the same outline, structure and drainage pattern of the original estates, even though they have long since ceased producing plantation crops. Many of these villages are now engaged in peasant agriculture. Buxton and Queenstown are two examples. 3 Plantation villages are those which have remained part of the sugar industry and in which the major employer is the sugar

company. These estate villages are largely populated by the descendants of indentured labourers brought from India to work on the sugar plantations. Such villages as Rose Hall and Enniore are good examples. 4 Many villages which were once part of sugar estates are now no longer connected with sugar cane farming since tilt sugar industry is considerably reduced in size. In addition, some of the former indentured labourers and their descendants moved from the sugar estates and established farming communities in many parts of the coastal plain. As noted in Chapter 9, the government set up land development schemes for the former indentured labourers. Examples are Bush Lot and hergenoegen. 5 Many small settlements grew up in the hinterland during the expansion of mining activity. These settlements served as trading posts and staging points for the pork-knockers or prospectors. When air travel became established, they were often the sites of landing strips for light aircraft. Such settlements include bnbaimadai and
Baranai ta.


6 Mining towns 7 Urban villages (secondary towns) 8 Administrative centres 9 City Below are further details about each type of urban settlement: 6 Some mining settlements have grown in importance over time. Bartica is located at the point where the Mazaruni and Potaro rivers join the Essequibo. It was the staging post for interior prospecting and exploration, and the point at which boat crews and supplies could be procured for mining expeditions to the gold and diamond fields. Although it originally grew up as a mission station for the Amerindians in the area, it became the centre of the

Towns and settlements


mining industry where gold and diamonds were weighed and government taxes paid. Linden grew up as the headquarters, port and processing plant of the Demerara Bauxite Company and is the second largest town in Guyana. The bauxite industry also gave rise to the towns of Kwakwani and Ituni in the bauxite mining belt. During the 1960s, manganese was mined in the northwest region of the country and two company towns were established there to house the workers for the industry. Matthews Ridge was built near to the mines and Port Kaiturna was set up as the shipping facility for the export of manganese. Though the manganese industry has long since closed, the port is now used to ship logs for the rapidly growing timber industry in the area. 7 There are many urban villages on the coastal plain. These were once sugar estates or farming communities but they now have very little farming or rural activity. A good example is the village of Plaisance east of Georgetown. 8 These are the small towns and secondary towns which are primarily concerned with administrative functions for their region or sub-region. Two examples are Anna Regina and New Amsterdam. 9 The only city in Guyana is Georgetown. This is the capital, chief port, economic centre and the focus of much of Guyana's activity. Cities, like Georgetown, which are so dominant are called primate cities. A primate city is one which is far larger than other towns and which dominates the economic, political and social life of the country. Almost all major activities are Ik)und there.

age and layout of the typical empoldered sugar estate. This includes the sea or river wall, the backdam, and the drainage and irrigation canals. The drainage and irrigation canals also mean that street patterns and field layouts are usually rectangular to accommodate the pattern of intersecting canals and ditches. Many coastal villages have a pattern where their residential area is confined to a particular section of the village, coinciding with the original living quarters of the estate. The coast of Guyana is subject to periodic flooding. This means that many houses are fixed on stilts.

14.4 Central places and marketing

One of the main functions of settlements is that of being a central place for markets. A market is a place where sellers are able to get their goods to buyers, and buyers can acquire the goods they want. There are several types of market.


These are market centres which onl y function on specific days of the week, often only for a limited number of hours. The vendors (sellers) in a periodic market may sell at several markets in one week, moving to a different one each day, or even from one marke to another in the same day.

14.4.2 PERMANENT MARKETS These are markets which are in a fixed location and to which buyers and sellers come every day. Some of the vendors are permanent and some are periodic, only appearing to sell on peak days. Good examples of such

14.3 coastal settlements

Characteristics of

Most coastal settlements are former sugar plantations. They have inherited the drain-


A New Geography



markets are the municipal ones found in Georgetown, and the Parika market.


These arc collections of various retail businesses which attract customers from a wide area or range. The range of a business district relates to the order of the. goods, that is the type and quality of goods. Higk order

goods are expensive and important goods. An example is furniture which a consumer will take a lot of trouble to buy. The higher the order of goods and services offered by a business district, the wider its range and the wider the geographical area it serves. A consumer will buy cheap and simple goods from the nearest market but is likely travel to a business centre if searching for a high order purchase.

Parika Parika is a settlement on the east bank of the Essequibo estuary. It was the terminus for the West Demerara railway and is the location of the Transport and Harbour Stelling which serves settlements on the Essequibo river with passenger and freight transport. Parika is also the terminus for small river boats serving settlements on the Essequibo. Parika is therefore a busy river port goods and passengers going to Georgetown from areas west of Essequibo pass through here, as do goods and passengers from the east. It is also the end point for the West Demerara highway which connects directly with Georgetown through the Demerara Harbour Bridge. Agricultural products for the Georgetown markets pass through this port. A market centre has developed at Parika which is at its peak on the days and times when the ferries serving the Essequibo river are in port. Permanent vendors use this market and also periodic sellers on ferry days. The market provides higher order goods, such as agricultural implements, on ferry days.

Figure 14.2 Stabroek market.

Towns and settlements


Stabroek Market
Stabroek market is situated in the main business district of Georgetown and is the sec-

to Corantyne

park bridge over

ond !argest of six such retail facilities. It is located on the Demerara river and is a collection point for goods and produce being

psychiatric 0 the Conje hos ital., 0 ` 4 " -^; echnica ^


brought to Georgetown by river. The market serves over 1300 retailers and an extremely wide range of goods is offered of both high and low order. The market pro-

ferry stelling

4 `. \ '.

vides fruit and vegetable stalls, grocers, haberdashery, pharmaceuticals, jewellers, stationery
and book stores and even restaurants.

market stelling


Stabroek market attracts wholesale suppliers, vendors and customers from a wide area. It is a central place for the exchange of goods and services (Figure 14.2).

C^ :.

y^'eja ROa


14.5 Administrative towns

New Amsterdam is a town on the east bank of the Berbice river. It has a very long history and was the major up-river settlement in the 17th and 18th centuries. During the 1763 slave rebe ll ion it was destroyed and re-sited at its present site between the Cane and Berbice rivers. The river is shallow near the town so that New Amsterdam was unable to grow and become an important port as in the case of Georgetown. New Amsterdam is the administrative centre of the Berbice area since it is the headquarters for local and regional administration, a market centre, and has the offices of several commercial and other activities. The town has a population of 17 000 and there is little manufacturing or industrial activity. However, because it is a commercial and marketing centre, it has an extensive business district (Figure 14.3). Anna Regina is the administrative centre of the areas on the west bank of the Essequibo estuary. It also has facilities for banking and other commercial services. Anna


regional head offices

public open space public building upper/middle class housing middle/working class housing industrial land use

Figure 14.3 The layout of New Amsterdam.

Regina is really a collection of villages which were only organised into one town in 1991. It is the centre of the rice industry in this part of the country and is a rural marketing centreZvith many retail facilities (Figure 14.4).

14.6 The city of Georgetown

The city of Georgetown was founded by a British officer, Lt. Col. Kingston, in 1781. The Dutch captured the site in 1783 and named it Stabroek in 1784. The site held many advantages, the most important being

92 %.':. Lima

A New Geography of Guyana

La BelleAlliarce







i i

Anna Regina



1813 Plantation La Bourgarde becomes Cummingsburg. 1807 part of Plantation La Repentir becomes Charlestown. 1839 part of Plantation La Penitence becomes Lodge and Albouystown. 1866 part of Plantation Thomas becomes Queenstown. 1971 Greater Georgetown is created incorporating villages and estates south and east of Georgetown. Georgetown had a population of 8810 in 1820 and 12 604 in 1831, 12.5 per cent of Guyana's population. It grew to 47 175 in 1881 and reached 73 509 by 1946. The population of Greater Georgetown is now estimated at 170 000. The following are some important points about Georgetown: Georgetown is the major port through which most of Guyana's imports and exports pass.

B agricultural residentia commercial industrial cemetery community facility




. %J , fi
% >


Figure 14.4 The layout of Anna Regina.

the quality of the harbour in the Demerara river. The city grew as estates became converted to residential land use (Figure 14.5). The estates which became incorporated into the city are reflected in names found within the city. Below are some highlights of the story of Georgetown: 1792 part of Plantation Vlissengen becomes Newtown and Robbstown. 1793 part of Vlissengen becomes Werken-rust. 1816 Kingston fort becomes part of Georgetown.

Figure 14.5 The evolution of Georgetown.

Towns and settlements


The city is the commercial capital of the country where the banks, insurance companies and major businesses have their headquarters. Georgetown is the political centre of the country. It is the location for all the government departments, the parliament and the offices of the representatives of foreign countries. It is the major market centre for Guyana and the place where the highest order goods are available. The city is the location of all the major consumer services and the highest levels of education. Examples of these are the university, the technical institute and the teachers' training college. Georgetown is also the cultural centre, where the main radio and television stations are found. Georgetown is connected to Guyana's only international airport, Timehri airport. It is the focus of the transportation and

communication networks. Roads, telecommunications and the internal air services are centred there.


Cities are divided into zones which have different functions and different forms of land use (Figure 14.6). In Georgetown, the urban zones can be identified as follows: The Central Business District (CBD). This is the `downtown' area of the city with the most valuable and expensive forms of land use. In this zone are the major department stores, the commercial centre of such activities as banking and specialised retailing. The CBD in Georgetown is a ` T'-shaped area which includes Water Street and Regent Street. The zone of transition is found near to the CBD. Here there is some commercial activity, particularly wholesaling and manufacturing, but the zone also includes some very crowded and poorly maintained housing (Figure 14.7). There is a zone of middle and lower income housing which occupies much of the city's land space (Figure 14.8). There is a suburban housing zone where more expensive housing with more extensive land is found.


0 E sugar cane


residential n industrial

open space and recreational facility Figure 14.7 Poor quality housing in the zone of transition.

Figure 14.6 Land use map of Georgetown.


A New Geography of



Figure 14.8 A housing area for lower-middle income families.

14.7 Guyana's regional system

Guyana is divided into ten regions (Figure 14.10) which form the basis of the political and administrative system. Each region is a semi-autonomous unit with its own Regional Development Council for the administration
Table 14.1 Regions and their centres.

Figure 14.9 Illegal squatting by lower income families in Georgetown. I 2 3 4 5 6 7

Official name
BarimaWaini PomeroonSupenaam Essequibo IslandsWest Demerara DemeraraMahaica MahaicaBerbice East BerbiceCourantyne CuyuniMazaruni

Regional capital
Mabaruma Anna Regina Vreed en Hoop Paradise Fort Wellington New Amsterdam Bartica

In recent years there has been an increase

in the unofficial occupation of unused suburban land. This activity is called squatting and is carried out by people who have difficulty in finding homes (Figure 14.9).

9 10

Upper TakutuUpper Essequibo Upper DemeraraBerbice

Lethem Linden

Towns and settlements

0 100 km ATLANTIC VENEZUELA Mabaruma N


Anna Regina


Vreed en


/t 7 Barti<a C


FortWellington New Amsterdam




.t i


BRAZIL Regional headquarters I BarimaWaini




2 PomeroonSupenaam

w 3 Essequibo islandsWest Demerara

4 DemeraraMahaica i 9

5 MahaicaBerbice 6 East BerbiceCorentyne 7 CuyuniMazaruni 8 PotaroSiparuni 9 Upper TakutuUpper Essequibo 10 Upper DemeraraBerbice ^


Figure 14.10 The administrative regions of Guyana. of such activities as education and agriculture. Each region has an administrative centric and the chairman of its council is its political a d administrative head. The regions and their`administrative centres are shown by Table 14.1.

The possibilities for field work in settlement geography include:

1 Study of a village or municipal market. 2 A survey of a business district. 3 A survey of consumers in a market to determine the range and order of the goods offered. 4 A study of the housing and other forms of land use in a community. 5 A historical study to determine the origins and nature of a settlement.


Manufacturing, trade, tourism and transport

15.1 Manufacturing
Manufacturing is the conversion of raw material into a new product. Manufactured goods have much higher value than the origirial raw material out of which they were made. This is one of the reasons why countries which rely heavily on manufacturing have greater wealth and higher standards of living than countries which depend on agriculture and the extraction of raw materials. Manufacturing requires several factors to be successful: Adequate supplies of raw materials. Transportation to move raw materials to the factory and the finished products to markets. Suitable markets for the finished products. Reliable and adequate supplies of energy. The appropriate science and technology for the process of manufacturing. Guyana is not a major manufacturing country. Only 10.3 per cent of the country's production is manufacturing, and of that 6.8 per cent is based on processing the traditional export agricultural crops, sugar and rice. Some of the products manufactured in Guyana include rum and beer, carbonised drinks, stockfeed, oil and margarine, paint, textiles, footwear, garments and pharmaceuticals.

The small population. The absence of a developed source of energy, such as oil or hydropower. "I'he shortage of highly skilled managers and technicians because of the high rate of migration of skilled workers. The quality of infrastructure, such as electricity and water supply.

Most manufacturing, apart from sugar and rice, is concentrated south of Georgetown on the East Bank of the Demerara and where there is an industrial park in Ruimveldt. The locational advantages of the East Bank for manufacturing are: Access to Georgetown for the supply of skilled workers. Nearness to Georgetown where there is the major local market for manufactured goods. Access to Timehri airport. This is important for those industries which import some of their raw materials or export their products by air. Access to the Demerara for river transportation of raw materials and the export of the finished products. Some of the manufacturing plants in this location include the Bank's DIH beverage and distillery plants, the Diamond Distilleries Ltd. plant, and the Barama Company sawmill and plywood factory (Figure 15.1). There are also important factories east of

5. I.


"There are many problems facing the development of manufacturing in Guyana: H

Manufacturing, trade, tourism and transport




Table 15.1 Exports from Guyana, 19 96. Exports Value (US Dollars)
1 51 642 200

06\3 Georgetown 6e ^elOw West Coast Highway Chateau Margot Ogle aerodrome mveldt industrial site East Coast Highway


Bauxite Rice Gold and diamonds Sea foods Other (including timber) Total

84 133 900 93 716 700 113 420 800 15 501 400 90 585 000 549 000 000

Demerara harbour bridge Diamond Friendship Brickery

Table 15.2 Imports into Guyana, 1990.


% of impo rts by value


Ti ehri airport 0 5 km
I 0N

Clothing and Footwear

aP industrial sites n

Durables Other consumer goods Manufactured foodstuffs Chemicals Textiles

Other manufactured goods

2.5 4.3 1.5 22.6 3.9


Figure 15.1 Industrial sites in and around Georgetown.

Building materials Mining and transport equipment Agricultural machinery Other capital goods Miscellaneous

12.5 2.4 7.7 7.2 1.4

Georgetown including an industrial site at Beterverwagting.

ported, including mining and agricultural machinery and motor vehicles (Table 15.2).

15.2 Trade
The goods and services produced in a country from its own resources are not the only measure of its use of resources. One must also take account of the products exported and imported. Guyana's exports for 1996 sho w,that the export worth most money was sugar, most of which was sold to the EEC. The second highest export by value was gold and diamonds (Table 15.1). Guyana's imports include manufactured goods, such as clothing and appliances. The largest imports, however, are fuel and energy supplies. Much machinery is also im-

15.3 Communication and transport

There is a connection between the level of development of a country or region and the density of its transportation and communicatic networks. A communication network shows that Guyana is relatively lightly covered with transportation systems (Figure



The Amerindian communities move from place to place along trails in the forest. Some


A New Geography of Guyana



/ __r-'--;.

Matthews Ridge

Anna Regina

./ ^ 3

^. Cuyu i
. _ _





I.o^ "

imehri / Linde ,

New Amsterdam
Rose Hall





BRAZIL primary road




t ,^

' a i / '

^ secondary road r r airstrip

+ international airport 11 ferry stelling




Figure 15.2 Transportation systems in Guyana.

of these trails have been used as the route of modern roads into the hinterland.


Amerindians also made great use of the rivers, creeks and lakes which are so common all over Guyana. The Indians use korials, made as woodskins or dugouts, to travel long distances to transport their goods, hunt, fish and to move to new farm lands. Although many communities now use boats constructed

using coastal designs, many groups still use the traditional craft. The Indians often travel very long distances, and life on the rivers and in the hinterland is closely hound up with the use of small boats. These enable all social or other activities to be carried out (including attending school).


The early settlers from Europe found that river transport was very important. Early

Manufacturing, trade, tourism and transport plantations were established on the banks of the rivers and were completely dependent on transportation by river. The rivers and sea are still important to Guyana's transportation system: Sugar estates use punts to transport sugar cane to the sugar factories. Farmers who work up the many rivers use hand-propelled or motorised boats to get their produce to market. Motor boats called sloops move much of the agricultural produce, such as fruits and vegetables and market gardening produce, to markets in Georgetown and the Caribbean. Pontoons are used to move timber from the hinterland to factories and ports on the coast. Coastal ferries are very important in moving passengers and freight to various locations on the coast, and also for crossing and travelling up the larger rivers, such as the Demerara, the Berbice and the Essequibo. This service is operated by the government-owned Transport and Harhours Department. There is also a ferry crossing the Corantyne river to Suriname. Recently, traffic has grown up across the major rivers in small 12-seat highspeed boats. There are secondary roads in other parts o the coastal region and all-weather roads i] many parts of the hinterland. Some impor tant secondary roads are the Supenaam Charity road, which will be converted to first class road, the WismarRockstone road and the BarticaPotaro road which goes into the gold fields. The Barama Company any Demerara Timbers Company have also buil secondary roads in their concessions. Ther is a trail to the Brazilian border which wi: become an all-weather road in the future. An important feature of transport ii Guyana is the bridges which cross tw, major rivers, the Canje and the Demerara reducing the number of ferry crossing necessary. The Demerara Harbour Bridg is a complex structure which has a retrac for span to allow ocean-going vessels ti travel upriver to Linden and to berths bcvon the bridge. Guyana once had a coastal rail systen which connected Rosignol to Georgetown and Parika to Georgetown through Vree4 en Hoop. However, these have been aban doned and the only railway in Guyana i the Ituni/Linden narrow-gauge rail whicl moves bauxite from the mines.


Guyana is very poorly served by major roads. There are several difficulties when building roads in Guyana. In particular there arc many rivers and canals which require the construction of numerous bridges and culverts. Some of the major roads are: The East Coast main road from Georgetown to Rosignol. The Corantyne highway from New Amsterdam to Crabwood Creek. The West Demerara highway from Wales to Parika. The SoesdykeLinden highway on the East Bank of the Demerara river. Air transport is very important to Guyana because of the poor road network. Many hin terland communities have landing strip which can accommodate light aircraft, anc many coastal locations also have aerodrome; for light aircraft (Figure 15.3). The aerodroe east of Georgetown, at Ogle, is the focus for the light aircraft services. This sector has many important functions It takes supplies to hinterland communities It allows people working in the hinterlanc to avoid a long and dangerous river o: overland journey. It provides emergency transportation fo. people who are injured or seriously ill.


A New Geography of Guyana

Figure 15.3 A landing strip in the hinterland.


Guyana is connected to the outside world by sea and air. The international airport is south of Georgetown at Timebri international airport which is able to accommodate small and medium-sized modern jet aircraft. The major port is on the Demerara river through which most of our exports and imports pass. The Demerara harbour has a bar offshore, which is a disadvantage in that it limits the size of vessels which can enter. In recent years, an increasing volume of sea trade has arrived in containers and Guyana has increased its capacity to handle containerised cargo. Containerisation reduces the cost and difficulty of handling cargo.

However, there are still many places in the hinterland where a telephone service is not available, and the most reliable form of communication is the two-way radio set.

15.4 Tourism
Although Guyana is regarded as a part of the Caribbean, it has not previously been a part N Kao
I d.

Calf Id. ^ Gazebo Shanklands

Dress Id. Kartabo I o

Ba rt ica

Grass Id. / Riverview DO

% Susan Id. tp b 01 O ^


The connection with the outside world does not only involve the movement of goods and people the movement of ideas and information is becoming increasingly important. Guyana is connected to the outside world by satellite telecommunication and internally connected by our national telephone system.


ap --


r F
/ 2km




Sloth I .

Figure 15.4 Tourist resorts in Guyana.

Manufacturing, trade, tourism and transport


of the profitable tourist industry. Tourism is so important elsewhere in the region. There is now, however, a growing interest in Guyana as a holiday destination. This is due to the interest in the tropical rain forest and its environment, as well as the interest in the natural beauty of Guyana's many famous waterfalls, and further interest in its indigenous communities (Figure 15.4).

FIELD WORK SUGGESTIONS 1 Compare a large factory enterprise with a small `cottage' enterprise. 2 Study a tourist facility or international hotel. 3 Visit Port Georgetown and analyse its operations. 4 Do a study of the volume of traffic at a key transport facility, for example the public road or a major bridge. 5 Study the traffic at a ferry crossing.


Field work and project reports

16.1 The importance of field study

The successful study of Geography is based on the development of skills in observation and field study. The development of field work skills is important because they can be applied to other subject areas, and can be useful beyond the world of school. Field work and related project writing develops skills of observation, measurement, note taking, data collection, data analysis and report writing. The requirements of many programmes, including the Social Studies and Geography curricula of the CXC, mean that the study of Geography should be done on the basis of field study and analysis.

16.2 Choosing a topic

The choice of a topic for field study should be done very carefully. You should ask yourself the following questions: 1 Is there something interesting happening in your region, town or village? 2 Is there a topic which can link up with other subjects which you have to study? For example, you may be able to choose a topic which makes use of your skills in Agricultural Science or Economics to enrich the project. 3 Is information easily available on your chosen topic? 4 Is the location of your study accessible and affordable? 102

Many students make the mistake of being too ambitious. They often choose topics which are too costly and for which they cannot find suitable data. It is far better to do a good study of an accessible topic in an accessible location than to attempt a more ambitious topic which collapses because you cannot afford to travel to the study site. A good study should do one of three things: 1 It should provide new information about the geography of a site or area, or 2 It should provide interesting comparison and contrast between geographical areas, or 3 It should provide evidence of a relationship between people and the environment, or between different parts of the environment. It is important to ensure that the study is geographical it is in fact possible to study a topic from an approach which does not raise geographical questions. For example, a study of a rice mill should not just look at the operations and processes that go on at the mill since that would not be answering geographical questions. For the study to be geographical, it needs to look at the source of the raw materials, and perhaps the destination of the product, as well as factors which explain the location of the factory.

16.3 Planning a field study

A field study project should be thoroughly planned to ensure that the time spent in the

Field work and project reports


field is profitable. You should make a list of all the activities and all the information needed so that you do not find you have left out vital information at the end of field work. It is especially important to consult with knowledgable people who have travelled in the area or have some practical experience of the topic. One of the most common errors when doing a field study is neglecting to find out about previous studics relating to the topic or location. Work relevant to your topic may exist in subject areas apart from Geography; it is important not to repeat the work of others and to learn from the experiences of those who have done similar work.

studies done by students in Guyana and the range of questions which they tried to answer.

Aims: To study the soil, vegetation, erosion

and environment of the foreshore beyond the seawall.


16.4 Sources of secondary data

There are some sources of data which are usually very useful in a field project. The relevant national and regional government offices are often able to supply information, and may publish reports and abstracts containing valuable geographical information for field study. Many public corporations, such as Guysuco and the Natural Resources Agency, are also very useful. Maps and charts are very important in a geographical study and the Lands and Surveys Department, the Forestry Commission, and the Geology and Miners Commissions are also well stocked with information.

16.5 Methodology
Your methodology is the system of study used when finding out geographical information in the field. A good methodology enables you to get interesting and exciting information from a field study project. To understand how good methodology helps in field study projects, we can look at two field

1 What plants are to be found on the foreshore? 2 What is the extent of mangrove forest on the foreshore? 3 What animals and birds are in evidence? 4 What soil types are found in the area? What is the extent of sand, silt, shell, and clay? 5 Are there groynes on this part of the coast? If yes, what effect do they seem to be having on the nature of the coast? 6 What is the prevailing wind, and what appears to be the effect of this wind? 7 What is the nature of wave and tide action on the coast? 8 What evidence is there of human activity such as fishing, hunting, bird catching, wood cutting, recreational activity? 9 Is there evidence of coastal erosion? 10 Is there evidence of deposition on the foreshore? 11 Are there any environmental changes or problems which could give cause for concern? 12 at i5 the gradient of the foreshore?
Equipment needed: A sample folder, a

camera (if available), a measuring tape, a' soil augur or a shovel, a one-metre quadrant, a clinometer or a large protractor, notebooks and pencils, suitable boots for walking in mud, snacks (to be consumed at the end of the project).


A New Geography




Aims: To understand the geography of agriculture in Guyana. Questions: 1 What crops are grown in the, villages of Vergenoegen? 2 How many farmers grow rice alone? 3 How many farmers grow `other crops' alone? 4 How many farmers grow rice and `other crops'? 5 What can we find out about the soils? 6 What is the system of drainage and irrigation? 7 Where do rice farmers take their paddy? 8 Where do `other crop' farmers market their crops? 9 Are any cattle reared? 10 Are small stock reared? 11 What fertilizers are used for the various crops? 12 What pests and diseases affect the crops and animals? 13 What prices do farmers get for their produce? 14 What are the costs of the various inputs to farming? Equipment needed: A list of questions for the farmers, maps of the villages, notebooks

and pencils, a camera (if available), good manners for talking to farmers.

16.6 Data analysis and presentation

The data collected from field workshould be used to get the maximum information and understanding. The data should he arranged in tables showing the different categories and highlighting the differences between them. Wherever possible, statistical analysis should be done, for example, finding the mean or mode for the results obtained and making comparisons between the various means. The data should also be presented in the form of graphs or diagrams, such as bar graphs or pie charts. The area s :udicd should always be shown in a sketch map and a location map should also be done so that the reader of your project will have some idea of where the work was done. The study should he arranged in the following order: Aims of the study. Methods used. Analysis of results. Conclusions. Appendices (long tables and large maps). Bibliography.


Numbers in italics indicate Figures; those in bold refer to Tables. agriculture, 2, 11, 13, 24, 25, 26, 28, 33, 36, 45, 57, 62, 95 air, 16, 18, 20 air systems, world, 17 air transport, 93, 99 alluvium, 62 aluminium, 23, 38, 41 Amakura river, 53 Amazon, 20 Amerindians, 2, 2, 28, 33-6, 37, 78, 88, 97-8 animal husbandry, 77, 79 animals, 2, 13, 22, 23, 45, 49, 79, 80 Anna Regina, 89, 91 aquaculture, 52, 55 Aroaima mines, 43 Aroaima, 41 Atlantic Ocean, 11, 15, 49, 52 atmosphere, 2, 13-14, 16 augers, 26, 32 Barama Company Limited, 49, 49 Barama mill, 51 Barama river, 39 Barim2 river, 39 Bartica, 88-9 bauxite, 38, 41-2, 43, 44, 89, 99 beaches, 6, 11, 103 Berbice, 12, 42, 44, 63 Berbice river, 39, 41, 54, 55, 62, 71, 72, 78, 91, 99 Bermine, 44 birth rate, 83, 84, 85 boats, 53, 54, 55, 98, 99 Brazil, 7, 81 business districts, 90, 91, 92, 95 canals, 11, 52, 57, 58, 61, 62, 72, 89, 99 Canje river, 61, 72, 78, 91, 99 canopy, 28, 29, 31 Caribbean, 20, 60, 99 Caricom countries, 56, 64, 70 cassareep, 34 cassava, 34 cattle, 31, 77, 79 Cayenne, 3 census records, 84 cheniers, 11, 12, 77 cities, 89, 93 clay, 11, 23, 32, 39 climate, 13-14, 16, 21, 22, 28, 31, 103 climatic regions, 21, 21 clouds, 16, 19, 20, 20, 21 coast (main references) 10-12, 23, 24, 25, 25, 57-63, 103-4 colonisation, 37, 57, 58, 71 condensation, 16 conservancies, 58, 60, 62 continental shelf, 52 cotton, 57 Corantyne river, 41, 53, 55, 61, 71, 72, 78, 99 creeks, 98 crops, 33, 34, 57, 59, 60, 63, 64, 77-80, 88, 103 dams, 12, 57-61, 71, 72 data analysis/presentation, 104 death rate, 83, 84 Demerara, 12, 42, 44, 54; East, 65; West, 63, 74, 78 Demerara river, 39, 41, 46, 49, 51, 61, 65, 71, 74, 79, 91, 92, 96, 99 demography see population deposition see erosion/ deposition diamonds, 37, 39, 41, 88, 89, 97 doldrums, 20 drainage, 27, 28, 29, 33, 55, 57, 59, 60, 61, 61, 63, 64, 65, 72, 75, 77, 89, 103 dredging, 39-40, 40 Dutch colonists, 37, 57, 71, 91 dykes, 8, 9 earth, the, 3, 3, 5, 8, 14, 14, 23 earthquakes, 3 economic activity, 2, 11, 33, 36, 37, 41, 45, 52, 77Ekereko river, 7 El Dorado, 37 employment, 36, 41, 45, 52, 84 empoldering, 57, 58, 60 Equator, 13, 14, 16 105


Index Hong Kong, 56 housing, 13, 36, 89, 93, 95 humidity, relative, 16, 18 hunting, 33, 36, 45, 98 hurricanes, 16 ice, 5 indentured immigrant labour,
62-3, 64, 71, 77, 84, 88

erosion/deposition, 3, 5-8, 9,
11, 23, 59, 103

longshore drift, 6, 11 lowlands, 23, 25, 28, 57 Macushis, 31 Mahaica river, 62 Mahaica-Mahaichony-Abary,
62, 65

escarpments, 7, 8, 28, 30,

39, 45

Essequibo area, 12, 25, 31,

63, 70, 78

Essequibo river, 25, 39, 40,

41, 46, 51, 54, 61, 65, 71, 88, 90, 91, 99

European Union (EU), 69,

70, 74

-i ndigenous peoples, 31, 33-6,


manufacturing, 45, 9^-7, 97 .r marble, 5 markets, 89-90, 90, 91, 93,

95, 96, 99, 104

exclusive economic zone (EEZ), 52 faults, 3 ferries, 99, 101 fe rt ilisers, 27, 28, 33, 67, 70,
72, 73, 75

inselbergs, 9, 31 Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ), 16, 20, 21 Ireng river, 30 iron, 23, 38 iron and steel industry, 41 irrigation, 28, 33, 57, 58, 59,
61, 61, 63, 64, 65, 72, 75, 77, 89, 103

Marudi river, 30 Matthews Ridge, 89 Mazaruni river, 39, 88 migration, 81, 83, 85, 86 mills/milling, 40, 41, 51, 68,

69, 70, 73, 75

field work, 2, 102-4

fish, 54, 55, 55, 56

minerals, 32, 33, 37-44 mining, 28, 36-45, 88, 89,


fishing, 33, 36, 52-6, 98 flood fallowing, 65, 72, 75, 77 flood plains, 6, 23, 25, 28,
62, 64, 65

Itumi, 41, 89 Twokrama Rain Forest Reserve, 50, 51 Japan, 56 Kaiteur Falls, 7, 8, 8 Kaiteur Gorge, 7, 8, 8 Kamarang river, 7 Kanuku Mountains, 29, 31 kaolin, 37-8 Kingston, Lt. Col., 91 kokers, 57-61 Konowaruk river, 39 Kwakwani, 41, 89 lakes, 13, 25, 41, 52, 98 Land of Canaan, 49 land settlement schemes, 62-3 landforms, 7, 7, 103 laterite, 38 latitude, 13 latosols, 26, 31 Lethem, 15, 16 Lima, 54 limestone, 5 Linden, 41, 42, 44, 89, 99 livestock, 59, 60, 79, 103 logging, 45, 47-8, 47, 49

MMA/ADA project, 62, 63,


moisture content, 13, 16, 18,


forestry, 36, 45-51 forests, 29 - 30 gathering, 33, 36, 45 geography, definitions, 1-2 geomorphology, 2, 3-12, 22 Georgetown, 1 4, 14, 15, 16,
21, 53, 54, 86, 89-93, 96, 97, 99, 101 gold, 37-41, 41, 88, 89, 97

mountains, 3, 4, 7, 16, 18,

23, 26, 37

mud, 5, 6 mudflats, 11-12 New Amsterdam, 89, 91 North East Trades, 16 nu tr ients, 25, 26, 33 oceans, 13 Omai gold mine, 40-41, 44 Omai river, 41 orogenesis, 3, 4, 5, 7 `other crops', 77-80 overburden, 39, 41, 42 Pakaraima Mountains, 7, 7,
8, 14, 15, 16, 18, 21, 29, 31, 36, 38, 45

gorges, 7, 8 gravel, 39, 40, 40 Gross Domestic Product, 45 gross national product, 41 groynes, 11., 11 Guiana Highlands, 7 Guiana Shield, 3, 4, 37 gullies, 6, 7
Guyana Sugar Corporation

( Guysuco), 71-2, 74, 76,


Parika, 54, 90, 99 peneplane, 8-9, 23, 26, 28,


Guyminc, 44 highlands, 7, 18 hills, 8, 10, 25, 28

pepperpot (national dish), 34 Plaisance, 89 planting, 33

Index plants, 2, 13, 22, 23, 28, 30,

33, 45


sand belt (white sands area; sandy rolling lands), 8,

9-10, 10, 25, 29, 37, 38

plateaus, 7, 26, 28, 36 plywood, 49, 96 polders, 57, 58, 59, 61, 62,
63, 65

thermometers, 21 thorn woodland, 28-9 thunderstorms, 16

tides, 11-12, 57, 59, 60

Pomeroon river, 11, 46, 71 population, 2, 11, 81-6, 92 pork-knockers, 39, 39, 88 Port Kaituma, 49, 89 Potato river, 7, 8, 39, 88 precipitation, 13, 16, 18 pressure, 13, 16 pumping stations, 60 railways, 42, 99 rain forest, 28, 29, 30, 36,
50-51, 50

sand reefs, 12 sandbanks, 6, 11-12 savannahs, 9, 14, 15, 21, 29, 30-31; vegetation, 30 sawmilling, 49, 51, 96
sea: defences, 12, 33, 55,

timber, 47, 48, 48, 51, 89 Timehri airport, 93, 96, 100 Timehri meteorological station, 21 tourism, 36, 51, 100-101
towns, 88, 91

57-60, 64; erosion/deposition by, 5, 6, 11, 23; influence on climate, 21; tides, 11-12, 57, 59, 60; transport, 99; wave action, 6, 12 sea level, 8, 11, 13 scadams, 12 seawalls, 11, 12, 58, 59, 59,
60, 63, 71, 72

trade, 97 transport, 28, 41, 42, 48, 64,

65, 72, 73, 79-80, 90, 93,

trees, 28-31, 33, 34, 45-9

tribes, 31, 35-6, 35 Tropic of Cancer, 14 Tropic of Capricorn, 14 United Nations, 84 United States of America, 56,
74, 79

rain gauges, 21 rainfall, 5-6, 12, 13, 16, 18, 18, 20, 21, 57, 60, 74 rainy season, 20, 21, 25, 57,
59, 64, 80

Raleigh, Sir Walter, 37, 57

rapids, 9, 39

sediment, 6, 11, 59 settlements, 87-9 shields, 3 shifting cultivation, 33-5, 36 shrubs, 28, 30, 31 sills, 8, 9
silt, 5, 11, 23, 24, 32, 44, 59

urban growth, 28 valleys, 6, 7 vegetation, 2, 22, 26, 28-34,

39, 50, 103

regions, 94-5, 94 reservations, 31

rice, 24, 62-70, 72, 75, 77, 91, 96 rivers, 12, 24, 30, 33, 35, 45,

slavery, 57, 60, 64, 71, 77,

88, 91

slope, 25, 27, 33 snow, 5

soils, 2, 5-6, 10, 22-8, 32, 57, 59, 72, 77, 79, 103

52; defences, 59, 60, 64; erosion/deposition by, 3, 6, 8, 9, 11, 23; and gold mining, 38-9; meandering, 6; rapids, 9; three stages, 6; 6; transport, 98-9; walls,

Venezuela, 3, 7, 37 Vergenoegen Land Settlement Scheme, 63, 63 villages, 2, 36, 36, 53, 58,
60, 61, 72, 76, 88, 89, 95

Spirant river, 51 Statistical Bureau, 86 storms, 16, 60

sugar, 21, 24, 57, 62-3, 71-6, 77, 88, 89, 96, 97, 99

vines, 28, 30, 45 volcanoes, 3, 4 Waini river, 39, 46 water control, 57-65 water vapour, 13, 16 waterfalls, 7, 8, 8, 9, 39, 101
wave action, 6, 12, 59

rock, 5, 5, 8, 37, 40 Rosignol, 53, 99 Rupununi area, 9, 9, 14, 21,

28, 78

sun, the, 13, 14-15, 20 Suriname, 3, 99 sustainability, 50-51 swampy areas, 24, 25, 3Q
58, 61

Rupunu^i river, 25, 30 Rupunuifi savannahs, 30-31,

31, 36, 79

Takutu river, 25, 30 telecommunications, 93,


weather, 13, 14 weather stations, 21 weathering, 6, 8, 11, 23 West Africa, 64 wetlands, 33, 57
wind, 3, 5, 11, 12, 16, 18,
1 03

sand, 5, 9-10, 11, 23, 32,

39, 103

temperature, 13-16, 21, 103 Teperu quarry, 44