Guyana: Wapichan Land Rights

“We make our living from our mother forest. She provides us with all the things we need…she is like our storehouse. And the trees give us clean air to breathe. The bush contains the sacred areas, old settlement sites, ceremonial grounds and former farming grounds of our fore parents. Those places are special to us”

This project aims to aid the Wapichan people to legally secure and protect their vast ancestral territory and maintain their traditional forest. The project, in partnership with Forest Peoples Programme, works with the community to facilitate and enable the Wapichan to maintain traditional forest knowledge in order to sustain their traditional way of life whilst maintaining healthy forest ecosystems, contributing to climate change mitigation and promote sustainable livelihoods.

A team led by the Forest Peoples Programme will aid the Wapichan people to collect evidence of traditional occupation and sustainable use of forest lands to bolster formal land talks with the government of Guyana regarding the Wapichan territorial claim. The Wapichan are also receiving legal advice and training to enable effective engagement in the formal land talks with the Guyanese government.

Money donated from Size of Wales is helping to train community members in the use of GPS and smart phones to collate data about their territory including the monitoring of the damage illegal mining and logging is causing to their forests. Two field monitoring stations have been developed in remote forest areas to act as a base for community forest monitoring and data collection techniques. This data is strengthening the Wapichan’s case.

Size of Wales funds will also support the building of Wapichan schools to provide a space in the forest for elders and holders of traditional knowledge to share their knowledge with the younger generation. This transmission of traditional forest knowledge has been successful in rejuvenating the Wapichan sense of community, language and identity and nurturing respect between youth and elders. Growing interest in younger generations has resulted in the elders holding a Youth Summit this year. The intention of this major gathering is to share knowledge and views, ensuring younger generation can set out their plans and solutions for future of Wapichan communities, their land and forest in years to come.

      

      

      

      

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Guyana: Wapichan Land Rights

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Threats:


• Illegal gold mining
• Logging
• Infrastructure developments such as roads
• Political parties linked to mining industry seek to divide communities and oppose creation of large conserved forest
• Internet and phone connection is poor, unreliable and has high tariffs. This is major barrier to project effectiveness on many levels of the project such as GPS tracking and uploading data to the Wapichan website


Achievements:


• Formal land talks with Guyanese government began in 2016
• Built a drone to monitor their forest lands
• Working with Guyanese government to draw up a formal agreement to tackle destructive mining, this has already lead to closure of many mining operations.
• Community monitors trained in use of GPS and smart phone for land use monitoring
• Legal recognition and official registration of SRDC as formal legal body of self govt in Guyana: 1st Indigenous District Council to be gazetted in Guyana
• Wapichan website with innovative new web management tool launched in May 2017