Posted on 18 March 2017
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Office in Guyana and the North Rupununi District Development Board (NRDDB) organized a week-long charrette to plan for the expansion of livelihoods that are set to use the upcoming North Rupununi Wetlands (NRW) conservation status to brand and market local products. An approach that would grant economic development for the area and its inhabitants, based on the principle of using natural resources in a sustainable way.
As a signatory to the United Nation’s Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), Guyana has committed to meet a target of conserving 17% of our land area by 2020
. Guyana’s National Protected Area System (NPAS) and the Wai Wai’s Kanashen Community Owned Conservation Area currently protect 8.3% of Guyana’s territory. One of Guyana’s Nationally Determined Contributions’ to the Paris Climate Agreement is a conditional offer to expand NPAS by two million hectares if the necessary support is provided. This expansion would meet Guyana’s commitment to both the UNCBD and the Paris Agreement and His Excellency President Granger has regularly repeated his commitment to achieving this goal.
The twenty communities and 7,000 people of the NRDDB, who have advocated for a conservation area to protect the North Rupununi Wetlands for over two decades, have heard President Granger’s call. The communities are hopeful that their long-held desire can now be fulfilled
. The NRDDB, with technical support from the WWF are facilitating discussions among those communities about the delineation and management of a protected area in the North Rupununi that would begin to meet Guyana’s commitment and establish a new model for conserving indigenous and state lands
in the wetlands of the North Rupununi in which the communities and the Protected Areas Commission (PAC) would collaborate closely and share responsibility.
The North Rupununi Wetlands
are a unique and highly diverse ecosystem
that includes seasonally flooded forests, wetlands, and savannahs that are extremely important for the biodiversity and ecosystem services that they provide to local communities and the nation. The Rupununi River and its tributaries store enormous quantities of water in the rainy season and slowly release it into the Essequibo River, limiting the severity of flooding events in coastal Essequibo communities.
These livelihoods can be quite critical, if people are to live in harmony with their resources
and support the creation and maintenance of an effectively conserved area on their traditional lands. The charrette focused on conservation compatible livelihoods that people in the North Rupununi are already engaged in, in order to identify strategic interventions that foster enterprise growth. The goal being to increase jobs
through improved business viability and profitability and deliver economic benefits that are enhanced by the NRW conservation status.
There is already a growing nature-based tourism industry in the area
, with tourist lodges at the villages of Surama, Rewa, Yupukari, Apoteri, and Karanambu Ranch and Rockview Lodge that would all benefit from the creation of a protected area. Tourism activities that rely on healthy wetlands include birding, wildlife viewing, catch and release sport fishing, and adventure river trips and are already an important contributor to the local economy. Other conservation-compatible activities in the region include: cultivation and agro-processing of cassava, cashew-nuts and peanuts; free-range cattle ranching; and timber and non-timber forest products
(medicinal remedies, cosmetics, crafts and home furnishings).
The charrette team included forty local and international experts
who visited and worked with representatives of the twenty NRDDB communities
to plan for and foster their enterprise development, giving them an alternative to mining, the wildlife trade, or wage employment in Lethem or Brazil. The charrette’s interventions are directly in line with Guyana’s vision of a green economy and can serve to further Guyana’s development along this pathway.
The charrette culminated with an high profile symposium at the Marriott Hotel in Georgetown, featuring key note speeches
by representatives of local institutions, government bodies and distinguished guest, such as Vice President and Minister of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs (MoIPA), Hon. Sydney Allicock
, MP, and eco tourism guru Mr Jan Wigsten
of Nomadic Journeys (Sweden).