The Darwin Initiative; Integrating Traditional Knowledge into National Policy and Practice project in Guyana was officially launched Monday at the British High Commissioner residence in Bel Air.
Minister of Indigenous Peoples Affairs, Sydney Allicock in his remarks said this project will see traditional knowledge being incorporated into biodiversity policy for poverty reduction and a lot of work will be done in the five protected areas of the Kaieteur National Park, Iwokarama International Centre for Rainforest Conservation and Development, Konashen District Community Owned Conservation Area, Shell Beach and the Kanuku Mountains.
Minister Allicock pointed out that without proper and approved recorded documentation, traditional knowledge which is very significant to Indigenous people will be lost. He lamented the need for a national plan to preserve it which he is hopeful will result from this project.
The Minister who himself is Indigenous noted that indigenous people have an important connection to land and biodiversity. Therefore, “we see it as an opportune time to come together to protect this knowledge and once and for all to have such a policy like the national action plan for traditional knowledge for Guyana.”
He further stated that the knowledge gained from this project will be used to make decisions to protect the history, land forest, biodiversity culture and sustainable livelihood of the 215 indigenous communities.
British High Commissioner to Guyana, His Excellency, Gregg Quinn gave a brief history of the Darwin Initiative which funds projects in countries rich in biodiversity but has limited financial resources, to meet their objectives.
The British High Commissioner pointed out that the project was launched by the United Kingdom (UK) government at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. He explained that it is funded by the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Department for International Development and the Foreign and Common Wealth Office.
“Since the start of the initiative in 1992 a total of 1,055 projects have taken place in 159 countries. These have a total cost of about $37.1B; in that period there have been a total of eight projects in Guyana at a cost of about $371M. So about one percent of all Darwin Initiative has come to Guyana,” Quinn Explained.
Some of these projects include the greenheart initiative in 1994, influence of selective logging in 1995, biodiversity and sustainable development of butterfly production from 2006 to 2009 and most recently supporting Indigenous and local organisations to implement part of the convention on biological diversity from 2010-2013.
The Project Leader, Jay Mistry explained that the project will take a threefold approach. Mistry outlined that the project which began in July, 2017 aims to implement traditional knowledge integration, conduct institutional capacity building at community and national level and develop a national action plan for traditional knowledge. It is expected to conclude in 2021.
The project will use a video method similar to that in the COBRA project which was undertaken between 2011 and 2015 to investigate and research in communities on traditional knowledge.
“There are also other conventions on biological diversity obligations for traditional knowledge and Indigenous and people. So we hope we can also contribute to some of those obligations…we hope that we can look at how specific issues to do with Indigenous people can be worked on in this project and we’ll be working with other partners in Guyana to contribute to Guyana’s green state strategy…” Mistry underlined.
Partners for the project include Ministry Indigenous Peoples Affairs, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), North Rupununi District Development Board (NRDDB), South Central Peoples Development Organisation, Royal Holloway University of London, UN World Conservation Monitoring Centre and Cobra Collective.
In brief remarks Denise Fraser, Commissioner at the Protected Areas Commission (PAC), said PAC welcomes this project which comes as an opportune time when it is implementing its management plans and striving to strengthen the relationship between indigenous communities and PAC and promoting sustainable use of Guyana’s resources.
Kemraj Parsram, Executive Director, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), said the EPA is committed to the collaboration with the other sectors’ agencies in meeting its mandate through this project and will certainly do its fair share to ensure a successful completion.
Vice Chairman NRDDB, Michael Williams lauded the project. He said the initiative means a lot to the NRDDB and is hopeful that it can assist them in many years to come.
Minister of Foreign Affairs, performing the functions President, Carl Greenidge, Minister of Communities Ronald Bulkan and Minister within the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples Affairs, Valerie Garrido-Lowe were also in attendance at the launch of the project. (DPI)