Feb 08, 2012 News
– Villagers to continue sustainable economic activities
Twenty indigenous communities in South Rupununi and South Central
Rupununi, Region Nine, have proposed to conserve 1.4 million hectares of pristine rainforest. This would allow controls of commercial lumbering and discourages destructive activities on forested lands.
However, villagers would continue to utilize the forest for traditional economic activities such as hunting, fishing and farming in a sustainable manner but this would be done in accordance with a development strategy titled, ‘Thinking together for those coming behind us’.
This is according to Patrick Gomes, Toshao of Maruranau and Chairperson of the District Toshaos Council, at the presentations of the digital map outlining the forested areas, and the development strategy. The event was held yesterday at the Umana Yana.
Gomes mentioned that this initiative was envisioned years ago when Government engaged Toshaos on the Convention on Biological Diversity, which entails the protection of the natural environment and its inhabitants.
Nonetheless, in 2000, the Wapichan (Amerindian tribe) communities began extensive works conducting mapping exercises, consulting villagers, particularly land users, and organizations on the conservation of the forest.
Gomes stressed that the first phase of the project has now ended and the second phase, which deals with the implementation of the development strategy and conservation of forest, would commence shortly.
He added that to guarantee the strategy’s effectiveness, an Environmental Monitoring Plan would be developed to monitor every activity. The strategy has a lifespan of 25 years but it will be reviewed every five years, to make changes where necessary.
According to Kid James of South Central Peoples Development Association (SCPDA), villagers must work to ensure that developmental activities are not harmful to lands including mountains, savannahs, forests and waterways.
In addition, the collective right to have Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) must be respected by project developers, outsiders and government agencies.
He stressed that the community’s advancement would be built on elders passing on knowledge, which focuses on forest or local skills such as cotton craft, language and customs.
Villages would establish a Wapichan Institute to promote the tribe’s rights and culture, and build capacity for youths. Currently, about 400 persons can speak and write the Wapichan language.
James enlightened all that the District Toshaos Council will seek allies to support community plans for health, education, food security, income generation, cultural development and sports.
He noted that the plan also seeks to protect the communities’ water sources and fishing grounds from pollution. As such, efforts would be made to keep destructive mining and other harmful developments away from creek heads and water sources. This would see the establishment of a Wapichan Water and Fisheries Research Centre.
While these developments are ongoing, there are several important places in Wapichan territories including wildlife habitats, culturally sensitive sites; things left behind by ancestors, which will remain untouched.
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