Commission to help Amerindians develop forest management plan
Guyana Chronicle
October 17, 2001

THE Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) will be offering assistance to Amerindian communities to develop a forest management plan - a long-term strategy being set up to help in the sustainable use of their forest resources.

The GFC is also embarking on a social development programme for those communities to improve the quality of life for the people there, Commissioner of Forestry, Mr. James Singh has said.

He announced the measures while responding to concerns raised by Amerindian community leaders about logging and the sustainable use of forest resources in the North Rupununi.

Singh was among a team of government officials who visited Region Nine, (Upper Essequibo/Upper Takatu) over the weekend to discuss with village leaders and other members of the communities, matters relating to land use and available forest resources.

He noted that economic development in Amerindian communities very often raises some peculiar questions on the implications it could have on the people's way of life and the preservation of their culture.

He said the Forestry Commission is keen on those issues, and will be working with the relevant agencies to address some of the concerns.

"Previously, we focused on forestry as a source of money or as economic activity, and talked about harvesting in a particular way so as to protect our environment."

This policy, he said, was being looked at from an economic and ecological perspective, but the commission has admitted that the people element is important as well.

"We are linking up with various government agencies such as the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Amerindian Affairs, the Ministry of Education and the Department of Occupational Health and Safety, the Ministry of Local Government and the Human Services Ministry to visit the various villages and logging communities and investigate the problems, " he explained.

He said that similar visits were made to other communities, and some of the problems identified were poor educational standards, poor hygienic living conditions and domestic violence.

Although those problems were not severe in the areas visited, Singh said that the inter-agency approach is an effort to improve the standard of living in hinterland communities.

He told gatherings at Annai and Ruperte villages that the commission would be willing to assist, also by helping those communities do forest inventories as part of the forest management plan which is free of charge upon request.

"Once a written request is sent to the GFC, the commission will send officers to the region to discuss with the communities, the method of forest management that will be applied," he explained.

Mr. Fred Allicock, a forest operator from Surama village, said he is concerned about the bad way logging is being done by some people in his community, attributing this to a lack of training.

He explained that even though some criticisms are being levelled against some small-scale operators using chain saws, new methods could be implemented that will allow the operations to continue and produce quality boards, once they are trained.

The Commissioner, acknowledging that the GFC is aware of the common problem among small-scale operations, pointed out that measures are in place to address these.

He also pointed out that there is particular need for training in directional felling of trees with the use of chain saws to minimise damage to other trees that may not be ready for harvesting. (JAIME HALL)