Amerindian communities in Guyana, which own 14 percent of the country’s land, will not benefit from any “special” treatment in the consultations that will lead to the adoption of the government’s Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS).
The government is now seeking an international partnership that will provide incentives for keeping alive about 80 percent of Guyana’s forests, or some 15 million hectares, which have not been touched over time. These forests form part of the State Forest Estate and Amerindian communities are being told they can opt into the initiative, or choose not to be part of it.
The government will next week launch a three-month consultation process and public education drive, Cabinet Secretary Dr Roger Luncheon said yesterday, but said “special” stakeholders are not being catered for.
He stated the government has no intention of “soliciting” any community to opt in or out of the strategy when consultations begin in Regions 1, 7, 8, 9 and 10 next week.
According to Dr Luncheon, copies of the strategy will be made available before the consultation process is held. The Norwegian government will monitor the consultation process.
The government of Norway is working with Guyana to determine a system of payment for this country’s climate change programme, particularly that of keeping the rainforest standing, instead of engaging in timber operations, mineral exploration or other economic activities that could mean a destruction of the forest.
Norway is prepared to provide performance-based, substantial and sustained compensation for the progress Guyana makes in limiting emissions from deforestation at low levels and further decreasing forest degradation.
In cooperation with Guyana and its multilateral partners, this will include contributing to the development and implementation of the necessary strategies and reforms, capacity building, and developing, funding and implementing suitable low-carbon and adaptation investments.
Dr Luncheon yesterday said the agreement with Norway is going according to plan.
Amerindian leaders had previously expressed concern about the government’s low carbon development initiative, saying they do not know anything about carbon trading or REDD – the United Nations led collaborative programme on reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.
The Amerindian Act of 2006 gives Amerindian villages legal powers to manage and conserve their lands. The Amerindians are Guyana’s first people and make up 9.1 percent of the country’s population.
According to the strategy released by President Bharrat Jagdeo on Monday, Amerindians are increasingly instituting formal mechanisms to protect the forest within their communities, but are not “obliged by law to protect forested areas.”
As such, Amerindian lands have been omitted from the calculation of the Economic Value to the Nation (EVN) in an expert study that determined how much Guyana could earn by pursuing income-generating activities from the forest. The EVN calculation was limited to the State Forest Estate.
Inclusion of Amerindian land in forest payments, including REDD, will be determined through the consultative process with individual forest communities.
Ninety-six village communities have title over their lands, and another ten villages do not yet have formal legal title. Amerindian lands are owned collectively by the whole village and administered through an elected Village Council that has the power to make legally-binding rules for everyone within village lands.
According to the strategy statement, the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs is continuing to work to expand land under Amerindian ownership, and extra resources provided through REDD and other forest payments will be used to accelerate this process.
Over the next few years, Amerindian villages will have a choice of whether to put their forests into the international protection programme (side-by-side with the State Estate) and, assuming continuing adherence to the agreement, receive their appropriate share of forest compensation payments.
The decision to participate will likely be based on whether participation will lead to improved access to opportunities and services for forest-dependent communities. Communities will be asked to propose priority improvement opportunities, such as expansion of social services including health and education, provision of low-carbon energy sources (most villages are not on the national grid so need alternate power sources), and provision of clean water.
The strategy stated that previous consultations with forest communities in Guyana have highlighted the importance of providing attractive income-generating opportunities – for example, support to grow and market non-subsistence agriculture products without stimulating deforestation (for example, non-perishable spices) and help to develop community-based ecotourism offerings.
Based on proposals from some representatives of Amerindian communities during the preparation of the Strategy, it is planned to set up an indigenous development fund with forest payments that are for Amerindian lands.
Some payments would flow directly to individual villages, and the balance would fund a broader Amerindian Development Fund.
The Amerindian Development Fund would be a grant-based programme where indigenous groups (not just those who live in the forest) could apply for funds for development programs (similar to the Brazilian Amazon Fund).
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