In April and May 2013 the Wapichan people of southern Guyana sent clear messages to the government that all mining and other developments must respect their customary land rights and uphold the principle of free, prior and informed consent (FPIC).
In March 2013 a delegation of six members of the Organisation of Kalin’a and Lokono peoples in Marowijne (KLIM) from Suriname travelled to the South Central and Deep South regions of Guyana to visit the Wapichan and Makushi people (united in SCPDA, the South Central Peoples Development Association) to exchange experiences and approaches related to community resource mapping and territorial management planning. The exchange visit between the Forest Peoples Programme partners demonstrated the great value and benefits of community-to-community learning. This was a long-standing wish of KLIM and SCPDA and was made possible through a grant from Siemenpuu Foundation.
- Completion of a community digital map of traditional use and occupation of Wapichan wiizi (territory) by Wapichan mappers and a GIS specialist.
- Community map is based on thousands of waypoints geo-referenced with satellite imagery.
- The land use map has been finalised through multiple validation meetings in Wapichan communities as well as consultations with the Makushi and Wai Wai communities to the North and South of Wapichan territory.
- Over 80 community consultations and workshops have been carried out to compile the innovative territorial plan titled Thinking Together for those Coming Behind Us.
- The land use plan includes proposals to establish a Wapichan Conserved Forest and contains dozens of inter-community agreements on actions to secure land rights, promote sustainable use of resources and enable self-determined community development.
- Participants at the Wapichan map and plan launch event in Georgetown, Guyana, praised the work as a potential model for other indigenous peoples in Guyana, and throughout the world.
After years of hard work, the Wapichan people of southern Guyana have finalised their community map, which demonstrates the full extent of the Wapichan territory and the customary use of the land and resources by the Wapichan communities. The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Working Group on Article 8(j) and Related Provisions (WG8(j)-6) meeting in Montreal was used as an opportunity to present this map to the public. The international audience was greatly impressed by this community-based initiative and praised its value.