Wapichan people in Guyana make community based agreements for protecting ancestral forests
After years of painstaking work and multiple community consultations, the indigenous Wapichan people of southern Guyana have set out agreements and proposals for caring for their territory in a ground-breaking plan titled Baokopa’o wa di’itinpan wadauniinao ati’o nii (Thinking together for those coming behind us). This innovative grass-roots effort has resulted in more than one hundred inter-community agreements on sustainable land use, including proposals to establish an extensive Wapichan Conserved Forest over old-growth rainforest in the eastern part of their territory.
Discussions and agreements also involved documenting a community vision for community land use, livelihood and culture in Wapichan Wiizi (Wapichan territory) in 25 years’ time.
“In another generation our communities will continue to preserve the forest, bush islands, sacred places and cultural heritage sites. Key resources like pokoridi and ité palms will be protected and abundant. Some of our resources will have been increased, including replenishment and planting of useful plants, trees and medicines. Our children and youths will be well educated, employed in Wapichan wiizi, be respectful of our culture and will have taken up the challenge as future leaders.” [Wapichan woman elder, Shizizi, 2010]
Key contents of the territorial plan are summarised in a brochure (see links below) that includes examples of agreements made between villages on ways to secure and care for their lands, forests, savannahs, wetlands and mountains and promote self-determined development in Wapichan communities.
It is hoped that the experience of the Wapichan people will be of interest to indigenous peoples in other parts of Guyana and in other countries.
The Wapichan people and their representative organisations are now seeking partners to help them take their plan forward to secure their traditional lands and realise their vision for their territory.