Case Study by: Sarah Pawlow

Guyana is located on the northeastern coast of South America, located between Venezuela and Suriname. It has significant potential to fulfill a Nature Needs Half vision because approximately 75% of its territory is covered with natural vegetation, and approximately 8% of the country is currently in permanent protected areas.

Guyana is part of the Guiana Shield which constitutes one of the oldest global land surfaces. It has the world’s second highest percentage of rainforest cover because of the extensive rainforest in the Amazon Basin in its southern region. The state manages 84% of forests, and indigenous Amerindians manage 14%. Four areas have been legally designated as protected areas: Kaieteur National Park, Shell Beach, the Kanuku Mountains, and the Iwokrama Centre for Rainforest Conservation. Other areas proposed for protection include Konashen, a community-owned Conservation Area, Mount Roraima and Orinduik Falls.

Kaieteur Falls: © Allan Hopkins

Guyana is one of only a few countries to have forests that sequester more carbon than the nation’s human activities generate. With funding from Norway, Guyana was also the first country in the world to pursue a Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) to adhere to the United Nations Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation (REDD+). The aim of the strategy is to reduce deforestation, create employment and increase the enforcement of environmental regulations. Indigenous Amerindians can opt-in to the REDD+ programme and receive payments through a consultative process.

Guyana has made considerable progress in involving local communities, some of it achieved through developing an integrated Community Monitoring Reporting and Verification model.  For example, communities from 16 Makushi indigenous villages in Guyana were given smart phones to collaborate with the local government and identify indicators for a REDD+ MRV system. Forest disturbance types were identified and in situ observations were used to validate remote sensing images. The information obtained has assisted the government to have a better understanding of the drivers of forest change and, in particular, the role of traditional shifting agricultural practices in the region.

Amerindian Dancer: © Flickr user: ethantate

This local involvement is important. A report by the World Resources Institute and the Rights and Resources Initiative found from a review of 130 country studies that community control leads to better conservation and sustainable use outcomes. Just over the border from Guyana, in the Brazilian Amazon, it found that since 2000, forests under indigenous control had lost just 0.6 per cent of their trees, compared to 7 per cent outside.

In an example of local community innovation, the Wapichan community from Southern Guyana could see that their forests were being illegally logged, so they started using modern technology and community research to receive legal recognition/titling of their land. A report published by the Forest Peoples Programme (FPP), details how Wapichan community organisations used GPS tools to map their lands and document activities and wildlife habitats. To assist with this, the community also built its own drone by watching YouTube videos (with do-it-yourself instruction) and using improvised materials such as bowstrings and a lollipop stick. With the drone they were able to see that illegal loggers were harvesting trees in the south and in protected areas and a gold mine at Marudi Mountain seemed to be leaching pollution into the water.

The white-faced saki © Flickr user: cuatrok77

Guyana is making great progress towards conserving its wilderness; however there is growing pressure from mining and logging industries. The mining industry is the single largest driver of deforestation with up to 0.06% of annual forest loss. The most degraded forest areas in Guyana are found in the North-West region of the country, which is known to have the highest concentration of mining concessions.  This area coincides with timber concessions, meaning that forestry could be providing infrastructure for mining. Furthermore, illegal deforestation is increasing.

Yellow-bellied Seedeater © Flickr user: Kester Clarke

Guyana’s National Strategy and Action Plan for Biodiversity has committed to expanding protected areas to meet the Convention on Biodiversity’s goal of 17% of terrestrial area in legal protection by 2020. A major force to do this is the Protected Areas Trust of Guyana (PAT), established by the government, the German Development Bank (KFW), and Conservation International’s Global Conservation Fund (GCF). Given that Guyana is the poorest country per capita in South America, the trust will make a significant impact to the long term viability of the protected areas.


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