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Wednesday, April 19, 2006 

Iwokrama plans for further development, self-sufficiency
Tuesday, April 18th 2006

The Iwokrama International Centre for Rain Forest Conservation and Development last November celebrated its tenth anniversary since its formal foundation. Originally the conception of President Desmond Hoyte who in 1989 announced it at a meeting of the Commonwealth Heads of Government, this project involved setting aside 370,000 hectares of pristine tropical rainforest in the middle of Guyana for sustainable development and to promote the concept of conservation through use.

Much has been achieved. There is a field station at Kurupukari which provides the living and working environment for forest activities. A canopy walkway has been erected and a campsite has been established at Turtle Mountain. It has acquired an international reputation for research into sustainable development, established links with conservation agencies such as the World Wildlife Fund, the Darwin Foundation and the Audubon society.

It receives support from the North Rupununi District Development Board and the villages of Surama and Fairview. And it has received financial and other support from the government and the Commonwealth. The patron is HRH The Prince of Wales.

Yet it faces a challenging future. At a time when there is increasing competition for donor funding it has recognised the need to transform itself from a research organisation largely relying on donor funds (almost US$1.1M last year) to a self-sufficient body generating revenue from its products and services. It has already taken steps in this direction and last year earned US$300,000 from eco-tourism and other activities.

The Board of Trustees headed by former British High Commissioner Edward Glover, adopted a new five-year business plan at a meeting on April 17, 2006. This plan in brief outline involves:

(a) the promotion of sustainable timber harvesting in the Iwokrama forest. In partnership with Demerara Timbers Limited, it has developed an approved scheme of Reduced Impact Logging which is being implemented as a flagship project, an example of sustainable development in action. It will benefit from royalties on logs felled and eventually, it is hoped, from a share of the profits. There is further scope for development in this area;

(b) to greatly increase the push to attract visitors who have been averaging 500 a year. The government's commitment to build an airstrip by October will provide a major boost and there are plans to substantially develop the facilities and amenities available to visitors;

(c) to develop the provision of courses for ranger training, tour guides and management for conservation, forestry and government organisations within the Caribbean and Guiana shield regions;

(d) to seek specific grants for research and conservation and to focus on corporate sponsors and private trusts instead of the existing mix of development agencies and donors.

It will also explore opportunities for the development of businesses based upon land use and the sale of Certified Emissions Reductions (carbon credits), issued under the UN Clean Development Mechanism. This could include new plantation forestry and agricultural fuels.

This is an ambitious plan to revitalise this imaginative and pioneering project and make it self supporting. One has always felt that its full potential has not been unfolded and reports suggest that Mr Glover has already done a considerable amount of preparatory work since his appointment as chairman and will hit the ground running. If the plans fructify, in three or four years time it could be a model to the world both of sustainable forestry development and eco-tourism, attracting foreign and local visitors in larger numbers, and be completely self-supporting.

© Stabroek News

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