Paris, 26 November 2015 – The Wapichan people in Guyana, South America, have received the prestigious Equator Prize from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in recognition of their prolonged efforts to legally secure their ancestral lands and conserve extensive rainforests and diverse wildlife habitats in the South Rupununi.
October 2015: Wapichan Village Leaders and District Toshaos Council in Guyana call on the government to halt all mining activities affecting the southern portion of their territory until land and territorial rights are secured and proper safeguards for FPIC are put in place
Mutual recognition, mutual respect and mutual benefit are among the desirable attributes of all human relationships. Indigenous peoples and other forest peoples also expect these qualities in their relationships with others – be they governments, private corporations, NGOs or other indigenous peoples’ organisations and communities. This issue of Forest Peoples Programme’s E-Newsletter reports on the state of various relationships between forest peoples and different institutions – as these are forged, tested or broken –in the course of assertions for upholding basic human rights, social justice and solidarity.
Balancing human beings’ need for decent livelihoods against the imperative of securing our environment is, arguably, the biggest challenge facing our planet. This struggle between ‘development’ and ‘conservation’ is being played out in global policy negotiations, with the decisions of so-called policy-makers being imposed on the ground. But not everything is or should be ‘top down’. Enduring solutions also spring from the grassroots, from the ‘bottom up’.
Georgetown, 7 February: The indigenous Wapichan people of Guyana, South America, will make public today a locally-made digital map of their traditional territory alongside a ground-breaking community proposal to care for 1.4 million ha of pristine rainforest for the benefit of their communities and the world. The territory’s rich variety of rainforests, mountains, wetlands, savannah grasslands and tropical woodlands are the homeland of 20 communities, who make a living from small-scale farming, hunting, fishing and gathering, which they have practised over the whole area for generations. The same area, located in the South Rupununi District, south-west Guyana, has an outstanding abundance of wildlife, including endangered species such as giant river otters, jaguars, and rare bush dogs as well as endemic species of fish and birds, like the Rio Branco Antbird.
The grassroots proposal comes at a crucial time because the entire Wapichan territory in Guyana, like many other parts of the Amazon basin and Guiana Shield, is threatened by mega road and dam projects as well as external plans for logging, mining and agribusiness development. In common with many indigenous peoples across Guyana and South America, the communities are vulnerable to land grabs and marginalisation because they lack secure legal title over much of their traditional lands.