Members of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) 4 Engineers Battalion are currently working assiduously to complete two critical bridges, which will play pivotal roles in returning the agriculture potential to several adjoining communities.
The soldiers are constructing two heavyweight timber bridges at Fellowship Mahaicony, East Coast Demerara and Longsdale/ Brothers, East Bank Berbice.
Government of Guyana Project Engineer Brigadier (ret’d) Gary Beaton is overseeing the projects and recently visited the sites.
At Fellowship, the bridge, which is near completion, measures 92 feet and links Tappin Dam to the Bellamy Canal Dam. It, therefore, serves as an access point for residents of neighbouring communities.
Residents recounted that, in the early 1980s, the vast open land was used for extensive coconut farming and cattle rearing as well as cash crop production. However, the bridge became impassible and residents were forced to abandon their livelihoods as the next heavy-duty bride is some three villages away.
Site Supervisor, Staff Sergeant Kwamina Whyte, noted that when the soldiers arrived to commence work, they were faced with the challenge of clearing the area which was overtaken with bushes and made it difficult to transport material. “It wasn’t easy for us to get started. We had to clear the area and also fill the approach to access the bridge, so it took us some time before we started doing the real work, but we are almost finished here. We are grateful to be able to do this for these communities,” he said.
Rudyard Tappin, one of the residents on hand during a recent visit to the site, said he was elated about the construction of the bridge. “I am happy about this development. I grew up in this community and my family was always engaged in farming, but after the area became flooded, we and other farmers had many losses. Then, after the bridge collapsed, we were forced to abandon completely. Having this bridge here now will most definitely see re-cultivation as persons have already indicated that they will come back. Some persons have started to bring back their cattle,” he said. [Press Release]
At Longsdale/Brothers, the bridge lies on the border of the two communities and connects residences to farmlands. The soldiers have completed over 160 feet of revetment work and are currently working to complete a 60 feet heavy duty timber bridge. This project has had some delays, but work has since been restarted. Sergeant Montel Gilead is the site supervisor.
Jainarine Ramoo, who has been resident in the community for the last 10 years, says he is particularly anxious to see the bridge completed as it will be easier for the children to go to and from school. “We are happy with the work the soldiers are doing and at least when this is finished, we could do more farming and poultry rearing as well,” he said.
Nareefa Samwaru said she was also pleased that the bridge will assist parents who are forced to take longer routes to take children to school. “Before, they used to patch it here and there so we could still use it but after a while, it became very bad, and so we were forced to stop using it. Now that vehicles could go down, we would be able to start back farming like we used to do before, and so this would be good for us,” she said.
The opportunity to work on these projects help soldiers to improve their capacity while, at the same time, build capacity in the Engineers Battalion. Lance Corporal Travis July said he has learnt a lot since working on the projects and is grateful for the opportunity to improve his skills.
“I am happy that as a soldier I could come back to one of my neighbouring communities and assist in this way with my skills,” said Lance Corporal Menan David, one of the soldiers working on the project and also a resident of Lightown village.
Regional Executive Officer of Region 5 (Mahaica/Berbice) Genevieve Blackman said that she is grateful for the work being done by the Force in the region. She believes that the region is realizing more of its infrastructural goals through its collaboration with the GDF. “This collaboration is not unique to this region and it helps the GDF to build its capacity. So, we both benefit. We appreciate the assistance of the GDF which result in more returns from the investments made,” she said.
The teams working on the projects are exclusively members of the Guyana Defence Force and are skilled personnel who are qualified in the field and have completed several engineering projects both within the Force and in several parts of the country.
The construction of the bridges forms part of the heightened role of the GDF in the country’s national development and infrastructure transformation and keeping with Commander in Chief, President Dr Irfaan Ali’s vision for a more community-oriented military. The President is adamant in this vision as he seeks to sensitize communities of the developmental role that the military could play as well as insisting on the reinforcement of confidence in the armed forces.