Feb 26, 2021 News
– outlines findings from research over past nine years
Kaieteur News – Among a number of recommendations given at their virtual launch of the Participatory Assessment and Geographic Database of Indigenous Peoples’ Land Tenure in Guyana, the Amerindian People’s Association (APA) has recommended that concessions be revoked, once given without free prior and informed consent (FPIC).
The research project which began since 2012 utilizing funding from the European Union and the United States Department for International Development, while technical assistance was rendered by the Forest People’s Programme and the Rain Forest Foundation, sought to assess indigenous villages in Regions One, Two, Seven, Eight and Nine and many of the villages were having land conflicts.
Key findings based on the research were presented by the APA’s Governance and Rights Coordinator, Laura George.
Firstly, it was stated that there is a lack of protection and recognition for indigenous people’s customary tenure systems and failure to recognize collective territories. She said that since 1969, indigenous people would have recommended to the Amerindian Lands Commission that their customary lands be protected. “Our customary lands mean that it is our customary tenure on how we use and manage our lands. For example, the resources we use are shared with several villages within a territory to hunt, fish and farm; to gather resources and we also are able to protect our waterways and sacred grounds,” George noted during her presentation. Further, she said that failing to recognize their lands is a violation of their rights.
Another key finding was that there was confusion over village title boundaries and mapping problems. There was an overlapping of mining concessions in some cases where indigenous lands were to be and despite the government recognizing village titles, some villages still face issues with mistakes and inconsistencies made in their mapping and demarcation. She added that there was also a failure to include villages like Kako during the mapping and demarcation exercises, saying “An example is Kako is missing entirely on the Guyana Lands and Survey Commission database of indigenous village land titles.”
According to George, it leads to conflicts with miners, loggers and ranchers which resulted in some villages being hampered from accessing land and resources for hunting and fishing. The final finding was stated to be that the extractive mining activities are damaging land which includes a number of cultural heritage sites.
In light of the findings, the APA has combined recommendations to counter the highlighted issues.
The first recommendation was to have the Amerindian Act revised in line with international standards for adequate protection of the indigenous peoples’ rights in Guyana. Also recommended was the enabling of villages to hold collective land title over their territory and ensure that the titles correspond with customary lands.
The APA has recommended an improved land titling process and a correction to the highlighted mapping errors.
Additionally, the key recommendation was the addressing of the land conflicts by respecting the FPIC and “revoke concessions and protected areas granted inside or overlapping village titles without FPIC.
It must be noted that the research included 49 local indigenous researchers.
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