chapter  7
23 Pages

Rice, politics and development in Guyana EricR.Hanley

Guyana, formerly British Guiana and earlier still the site of Raleigh's El Dorado, lies on the north-east coast of South America between Venezuela and Surinam. It is a country almost exactly the same size as Britain, but with a population of only 750,000 densely settled on the coastal plain. The Land of Six Peoples', with its complex ethnic and racial mix of African, East Indian, Chinese, Portuguese, British, and Amerindian, is the outcome of an unsettled colonial history and the continuing search for ways of exploiting its rich potential as a sugar-producing area. It is sugar more than anything else which has made Guyana what it is today, having created the population as a labour supply, completely altered the coastal environment to lay out estates, dominated the country's economy and often had a major and decisive say in political decisions, all of which was aimed at maintaining a convenient supply of cheap labour available for the seasonal tasks of sugar planting. Until the Second World War sugar accounted for some 70 per cent of the country's gross exports and this was still more than 50 per cent by the 1960s.2