Conflict of interest, rivalry among community members, favouritism in quota allocation, poor communication and limited entrepreneurial vision are among the constraints the Guyana Forestry Commission has when dealing with Community Forest Organisations, according to Commissioner of Forestry, James Singh.
Singh made the observation during the launching of the National Workshop on ‘Government of Guyana Policy approaches in support of Community Forestry Enterprises.’
During a Powerpoint presentation on policy approaches in support of Amerindian Community Enterprises, Singh said that communities are not well organised for marketing and commercialisation of the non-timber forest product, while at the same time tackle the capacity building problem.
Communities’ lack of financial resources is the main obstacle to competing with big enterprises, he noted.
Highlighting the social benefits of these enterprises, Singh noted that GFC offers yearly scholarships to students from logging communities, who have successfully completed their CXC examinations. They are sponsored to attend the Guyana School of Agriculture’s one-year certificate course in Forestry.
Successful graduates, he noted, are hired by the GFC.
Also addressing the gathering yesterday at the Umana Yana, was Minister of Agriculture, Robert Persaud, who said that five percent of Guyana’s national log and timber production comes from Amerindian reservations and state forests issued to Amerindian communities.
Many of the country’s value added manufacturers and exporters rely primarily on production originating from Amerindian-managed forests for their raw material base.
Persaud said that the discourse among the stakeholders comes at a time when close attention is being paid to the relationship between indigenous peoples and natural resources in areas they inhabit.
Persaud, who is the minister with responsibility for forestry, said that it is now a fact that the global community recognises, ‘albeit belatedly,’ the major role that sustainably managed tropical forests, inclusive of Guyana’s forests, play in providing national, regional and international benefits.
This, he said, is important in terms of mitigation of and adaptation to the adverse effects of climate change at a global level.
Many Amerindian communities have been given legal titles to their lands, making them private land owners, and work is being done to give legal title to other non-titled Amerindian communities.
Amerindian communities, he noted, have exclusive rights to the resources on their titled lands, and any outside party that seeks to utilise those resources must get the approval of the communities to which they belong.
It was further recognised that communities need assistance in key areas, such as negotiation of contracts, accountability, and governance, and this is being provided.
Through the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs in collaboration with other agencies, Persaud said, the GFC has been providing training to hinterland communities.
At present, the revised Forestry legislation, which is currently before Parliament, also recognises the new Amerindian Act and the provisions that it contains, especially in relation to forestry activities.
The Ministry of Amerindian Affairs is represented on the GFC Board of Directors.
The minister said that the GFC has a mandate to promote sustainable forest management in Guyana, in keeping with national laws and international standards and agreements.
To further advance sustainable forest management in Guyana, a new and comprehensive forestry legislation has been drafted and is currently with Parliament for approval, Persaud said.
This legislation, he said, was informed through extensive stakeholder consultation, especially with Amerindian communities.
The Forest Products Marketing Council will soon be re-established as the Forest Products Development and Marketing Council.
An Amerindian representative is one of the five directors representing the private sector and industry on that board, the minister said.
On the operational side, Persaud said, the GFC has prepared, in a consultative manner, many user-friendly guidelines to encourage and promote sustainable forest management.
Whist these prescriptions are mandatory for the state forests allocated to Amerindian communities, their application on titled, forested Amerindian community lands is voluntary in nature.
The Commission, however, has been working closely with residents of Amerindian communities to encourage the use of these guidelines on both categories of forested lands.
Traditionally, Amerindians have been involved in chain saw production of lumber. With the evolution of technology, he added, many communities have now acquired portable sawmills, which optimise their production.
The GFC is currently executing a project that is funded by the British High Commission through WWF, which seeks to promote and practically implement sustainable forest management (SFM) in two remote Amerindian communities of Guyana.
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