Rainforest tribe establishes massive sustainable-use reserve
October 4, 2007
An indigenous group in Guyana has established one of the world’s largest sustainable forest reserves, reports Conservation International.
The Wai Wai, a forest-dwelling people who received title to 625,000 hectares (1.54 million acres) of land in 2004, will build a “conservation economy” based on principals of sustainable use. With assistance from conservation scientists, the Wai Wai will seek to develop ecotourism and expand their traditional craft business.
“We have always been keepers of the forests that support us, and now it is official, recognized by the government and the world,” said Cemci Sose, chief of the Wai Wai. “The immediate challenge we face is creating economic opportunity through the Community Owned Conservation Area to prevent our young people from leaving, which could destroy our community.”
Conservation International, an environmental group that is working with the Wai Wai, hopes that the reserve will generate additional income from payments for ecosystem services, like carbon sequestration and watershed protection. Carbon credits for forest conservation could be worth tens of millions annually to Guyana.
“This shows the power of giving land rights to indigenous populations, because they know what’s best for their communities,” CI President Russell A. Mittermeier said. “The Wai Wai could have sold off the timber and other natural assets for a one-time payoff, but instead they chose to protect the rainforest and allow future generations to continue to benefit from it.”
This article is based on a news release from Conservation International.