Region Nine residents want Kanuku Mountains made a Protected Area

by Stacey Davidson
Guyana Chronicle
August 17, 2000

THE Indigenous people of Region Nine (Upper Takutu/Upper Essequibo) are working towards transforming the Kanuku Mountains into a Protected Area. The mountain range divides the North and South Savannahs.

A team of Regional officials accompanied by personnel of Conservation International (Guyana), paid a visit to neighbouring Suriname, recently, to analyse what the Amerindians there have been doing in terms of conservation and Protected Areas System (PAS). The Guyanese are seeking to adopt some of the strategies for the implementation of the local project.

Suriname was chosen because its bio-diversity is similar to that of Guyana.

Regional Vice Chairman of Region Nine, Mr Vincent Henry, briefed reporters on Tuesday on the outcome of the visit to Suriname. The press conference was held at the GTV Studios, Homestretch Avenue, and media representatives learnt that the team members were very impressed with what they saw in the neighbouring country.

The Guyanese visitors were particularly impressed with the preservation of the Amerindian culture there and the active involvement of Amerindians in decision-making issues relating to themselves.

"We found and learnt other positive things happening with the Indigenous people. We visited Galibi, where they have acquired economic and social development, and the preservation of the culture we are striving for in Region Nine," Henry remarked.

In Galibi, he said, the local team had a first-hand look at the nature reserve, and also observed how the Indigenous peoples manage their affairs, are not denied jobs, and are provided with whatever assistance needed.

The visitors also toured Kwamalla, located in the deep south of Suriname, and were very impressed at the way in which the tribes live in harmony.

"We are working to ensure that this happens (in Region Nine)," Henry pointed out.

According to the Vice Chairman, the team had a lengthy meeting with the Touchau of one of the Tribes, and was very surprised at the level of consultation among the people.

"So far, Conservation International (CI) in Suriname has been doing a good job, and allowing full participation (of) the people."

He is strongly of the view that this level of dialogue should take place in the Upper Takutu/Upper Essequibo area.

"We will not allow any organisation to run our affairs," the local leader asserted.

"We will ask others to help us in whatever way we want them to help us," Henry declared.

He gave the assurance that residents will be consulted on the proposal, and will decide whether it is good or bad for the community.

Referring to the expansion of the Kaieteur National Park, the Vice Chairman pointed out that the residents were not fully informed, and this was the reason why it was opposed.

This area was their main source of survival for fishing and hunting, and they were prevented from performing any activity, Henry lamented.

The Vice Chairman noted that this visit will help strengthen ties between the Indigenous peoples of Suriname and Guyana.

The local Amerindians were greeted with open arms, Henry declared.

He said a family type relationship has emerged and that he will ensure that this relationship is an ongoing one.

A very small percentage of Amerindians reside in Suriname.

Other officials who visited the neighbouring state included, Mr Willie Clement, Touchau of Shulinab, South Central Rupununi, Mr Andrew De Metero, Touchau of Nappi, and Mr Eugene Andrews, Touchau of Sand Creek.

They all expressed satisfaction at what is happening in Suriname and with their fellow Amerindians.

The trip was deemed a success.

Conservation International (Guyana) is also involved in many other projects in Region One (Barima/Waini); and Region Two (Pomeroon/Supenaam).

Its focus is to link conservation projects around community development, protect bio-diversity, and educate citizens in the process, CI's Programme Director, Mr Neville Waldron, explained.

He indicated that part of CI's national priority is the involvement of people, and that the body will continue to work with residents on projects at their own pace.

The trip to Suriname was facilitated by Conservation International (Guyana).

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