Friday, 29 August 2014

My time has ended in Dominica

By Gabrielle Heroux, 2nd year MDP student

The last month of my placement, since my first blog post, was a busy one.  There were a number of events planned for the first week of July, to commemorate the 111th anniversary of the creation of the Kalinago Territory on July 4.  One of these was a workshop on land, held on July 4, organized to bring together members of the community to discuss questions of land value, land ownership and inheritance, boundary markers, land as an economic asset, and land protection and degradation.  There were about 15-20 participants, including former chiefs, youth, entrepreneurs, and other Kalinago residents.  Through discussions and small focus group sessions, the participants identified priority issues and produced recommendations that will be worked into a strategic action plan to guide development. 

The next day, I was invited to participate in a hike of the northern boundary of the Territory.  What an experience!  Preceded by men with machetes, hacking a path through the brush, we trekked up and down hills, through lush rainforest, farmland, and ravines.  It had rained during the night, and poured that morning, so the terrain was muddy and slippery and a little bit treacherous.  Along the way, we ate freshly picked mangoes, drank coconut water straight from the source, and heard stories about the families who have inhabited the area for generations.  We ended our hike, dirty, sweaty, and even bloody, with a deeply satisfying swim in the Pagua River. 

Pagua River
 Beach town near Portsmouth

In the weeks that followed, I continued my research on sources of funding for individuals or groups within the Kalinago Territory.  I also had a very interesting meeting with a representative of the National Bank of Dominica, to discuss their policies and practices regarding lending to Kalinago people, and the bank’s perspective on potential partnerships, or other ways forward. 

My time in Dominica was a terrific experience, due mainly to the amazing people I met during my placement.  It has been two weeks since I left, and not a day goes by that I don’t miss that beautiful island, and the community that took me in for three unforgettable months.  I learned so much, and will be forever grateful.

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