A historic signing of an agreement between the Protected Areas Commis-sion (PAC) and the Village Council of Konashen in Region Nine on 7th July has paved the way for the declaration of Guyana’s first Amerindian Protected Area under the National Protected Areas System.
Konashen is Guyana’s southernmost Amerindian village and it is located in the Upper Takutu-Upper-Essequibo on the border with Brazil, according to a media release from PAC. In 2004, Konashen was granted Absolute Title to the entire Konashen Indigenous District, an area of 648,567.2 hectares (3% of Guyana’s land mass) of relatively intact forests, rich in biodiversity and ecosystems, and containing the head waters of the Essequibo River.
In 2007, according to the PAC release, the residents declared their land as the Konashen Community Owned Conservation Area (KCOCA) under the Amerindian Act, dedicating it to “the protection and maintenance of biological diversity, natural resources and the preservation of the cultural heritage and traditional lifestyle of the Wai Wai community of Konashen.”
According to the press bulletin, over the years the Konashen community has demonstrated astute stewardship of the natural resources and formed partnerships with key stakeholders, most notably Conservation International Guyana, to improve the management of the very remote Conservation Area. In 2013, the community applied to the PAC requesting to be included in the National Protected Areas System.
The Protected Areas Act of 2011 states that “A village council may apply to the commission for village lands or any part thereof to be recognized as an Amerindian Protected Area.”
At the signing ceremony Toshao Paul Chekema and Denise Fraser, PAC Commissioner expressed gratitude to all the stakeholders and partners that worked over the years to see the process through to these final stages, the PAC press statement said.
The Agreement is for a period of ten years and is subject to renewal for the same period by written agreement of both parties.
Minister of Indigenous Peoples Affairs Sydney Allicock reassured those present that the Government is committed to ensuring that protected areas are managed effectively managed and encouraged the community to continue being good stewards of the land, according to the PAC bulletin. Representatives of Conservation International Guyana, Department of Environment, Protected Areas Trust Fund and the World Wildlife Fund Guianas also gave brief remarks.
According to the release, the final process will be the signing of the Declaration Order to be done by the Minister of State, followed by a notice in the Gazette.