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Guyana

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Guyana has the opportunity right now to recognize land rights of
indigenous communities
on an unprecedented scale.

Guyana’s biodiversity is unparalleled: a walk through the rainforest might yield a view of red howler monkeys swinging from the trees, black caimans sunning themselves on the shore, stunning blue morpho butterflies landing on heart shaped leaves or giant river otters frolicking inthe rivers. Forests cover nearly 85% of Guyana; some 80,000 indigenous people make up the majority of the population in those regions.

Lack of formal land titles has left the majority of indigenous communities – and the forest they depend on – vulnerable to large-scale logging, mining, and poorly-planned infrastructure development. This makes recognition of indigenous land rights in Guyana critical. Rainforest Foundation, the Forest People’s Programme and our indigenous partners, including the Amerindian Peoples Association (APA), are actively working on:

 

Land Titling: We are pushing for revision of relevant legislation – communities have long argued for revision of the 2006 Amerindian Act, to bring it up to international standards. Guyana’s current administration is committed to revision of the Act.

 

Mapping & Monitoring: Rainforest Foundation,  the Wapichan and Akawaio are monitoring their lands to protect them from mining and other threats. We are also documenting customary use and traditional knowledge–current titles do not cover the full extent of traditional lands, leaving many large gaps where mining or logging concessions are granted. Together we are documenting those gaps through fieldwork, participatory mapping and groundtruthing important sites. 

Youth Media: We are training youth to advocate for their communities, document their lives, and use video, digital media, and other communications tools to reach out and make sure their voices are heard. Youth are also being trained on a range of topics, from indigenous rights and participatory research methods to mapping and monitoring, preparing the next generation of leaders. 

 

Supporting women in Guyana's rainforestSupporting Women: We are strengthening internal governance and the role of youth and women – representative bodies of elected Chiefs play a key role in natural resource management at regional levels. Women are taking the lead on livelihoods initiatives, to consolidate control and sustainable use of their lands and resources. 

Guyana Facts

77% rainforest cover
32nd most biodiverse country

Indigenous Communities

Are 9% of the population
9 Indigenous peoples

Known Species

1,263 animals
6,409  plants

Our Work

Started working in 1995
Began in Upper Mazaruni
Today: Across Guyana

Featured Partners

APA
SRDC

Help Indigenous communities protect their lands & help us protect the future!

Forests protected by indigenous communities are healthier and more robust, storing 44% more carbon per acre than unprotected areas.

Help Indigenous communities protect their lands & help us protect the future!

Make a difference

Just $5 saves an acre of Rainforest!

A Propitious Moment

Indigenous communities have lived throughout Guyana’s rainforest and protected their ancestral or customary lands for millennia.  At this moment Nearly 100 indigenous villages have been titled, and according to official sources, at least another 50 villages are pending title. Nonetheless, vast swathes of community forest lands in Guyana remain without legal recognition despite persistent efforts on the part of indigenous peoples. Untitled territories include large-scale customary lands which indigenous peoples have recognized as their own for hundreds, if not thousands of years, and formally claimed since the 1960s. 

Now that major oil and gas deposits have recently been found off the coast of Guyana; their exploration will likely bring significant changes to the country. Meanwhile, the government is embarking on a “Green State Development Strategy”, and has made international commitments to conserving an additional 2 million hectares of forest. Much of these forests overlap with customary indigenous lands, meaning community participation in these processes, and consent to any projects that affect their lands, will be critical.

#IndigenousLandNow

Indigenous peoples have protected the rainforests in Guyana for over 10,000 years. They are fighting for the rainforest against those who would destroy it by mining and logging their lands, even as they continue to demand the legal recognition of their right to their homelands.

MEET A RAINFOREST DEFENDER

Laura George has dedicated her life to protecting indigenous rights.  Today she works for the Amerindian Peoples Association organizing communities throughout Guyana to protect their rights and their rainforest lands.  “People need to know that indigenous peoples have a lot of knowledge; we can contribute we have lot of information, and traditional knowledge.”

As a small child Laura lived happily in her rainforest home, playing in the river, eating fresh food and taking advantage of all the rainforest and her close knit village had to offer.  It wasn’t until she came to Georgetown, Guyana’s capital to study that she became aware of the rampant inequality indigenous communities faced and decided to fight back and protect her home.

She knows that in Georgetown its all too easy for people to ignore the exploitation that happens far away in the forests. “Most people live on the coast and don’t see the cost of mining and extraction on our communities. They don’t realize that there are people living there, that this is our home.  They don’t know that Guyana has a (legal) commitment to indigenous peoples.”

The world doesn’t need to be exploited for maximum financial gain. In the end we all live on the same planet. Indigenous people’s way of life is what has protected what we have in Guyana today. It’s really important that decisions laws policies promote and protect our way of life. It’s not only for us as a peoples, its for the country and for the whole world.

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