What is the origin of your innovation? Tell the Changemakers and media communities what prompted you to start this initiative.
Since the late 19th century Guyana has been known as a gateway to the South American tropical forests. The Rupununi region including Kanuku Mountains are within the Guiana Shield, the world's largest remaining tract of tropical rainforest wilderness and a conservation priority as a massive carbon sink and critical to stabilizing the weather patterns in Northern South America. CIG became active in Guyana in 1990, working to strengthen people-centered conservation. CIG has supported the government and indigenous communities on numerous initiatives to conserve critical biodiversity while fostering sustainable community economic development opportunities.
In 2002, the CIG partnered with the Government to pioneer the "conservation concession” concept, leasing 200,000 acres of primary rainforest in the Upper Essequibo Conservation Concession, on land previously slated for logging. Indigenous communities in the area now directly benefit from the concession's Community Fund, which provides resources to support environmentally and economically sound, (often tourism related) projects. The concession model has since been replicated in several other countries, protecting more than two million acres in some of the world's most critical biodiversity conservation areas.
In 2004, the government granted land title for 1.5 million acres of primary forest to the Wai Wai indigenous community in southernmost Guyana. With support from CIG, the Wai Wais manage the Konashen Community-Owned Conservation Area, Guyana’s first community-owned and largest protected area, and forward a conservation-based economy on the principal of sustainable use of natural resources. The Wai-Wai now welcome visitors, and have a growing traditional Wai Wai crafts industry.
When the Guyana government decided to establish a National Protected Area System, CIG was invited to be the lead agency in developing the Kanuku Mountains National Park as a model. The Kanukus are home to incredible biodiversity, including 60 percent of Guyana’s forest-based bird species and 70 percent of the country's mammals. A 10-year participatory process with local communities, government and the private sector recently lead to an agreement on proposed boundaries with a perimeter of 590km. The proposed park includes no community lands; shared decision-making will be ensured by co-management structures established between Government and the communities. CIG’s relationship with the Communities allows it to play a key facilitating role in the development of ecotourism in the region, based on a long history in supporting ecotourism enterprise development.
CIG works in close partnership with the million acre Iwokrama International Centre for Rain Forest Conservation and Development, one of only two legally-protected areas in Guyana.
CIG’s tourism program originated out of the initiatives to establish protected areas in Guyana, and is specifically aimed at empowering Amerindian communities to realize economic benefits from sustainably utilized protected areas.
With the construction of the Takutu Bridge and the upgrade of the Georgetown-Lethem Road, the Rupununi Region is now under further threat from intensive industrial development. A viable community tourism industry will provide a unique and competitive means to mitigate these environmental and social impacts often associated with trans-border crossings and forest roads.
Please provide a personal bio. Note this may be used in Changemakers' marketing material.
David Singh, Executive Director for CIG, has over ten years experience in conservation and natural resource management. A former University of Guyana senior lecturer, he has held several leadership positions in Guyana. As Director General of the Iwokrama International Centre. He led in the formalizing of community shareholding relationships. He assisted in the establishment of the Guyana Environmental Protection Agency, and served as the inaugural Chairman of the Environmental Assessment Board. With a broad range of experience in strategy and leadership, managing field-based operations, facilitation of complex stakeholder relationships, he has built effective teams in difficult and complex institutional circumstances.
Describe some unique tourist experiences that your approach provides. Be specific; give illustrative examples.
Rewa, located at the confluence of two of Guyana’s most biodiverse rivers, provides a world class wetlands-based wilderness/wildlife experience. Monkeys and otters are commonly observed from the lodge - overlooking a bend in the Rewa River.
Nappi is the centre of Guyana’s revived balata (latex) crafts industry. The lodge, located on the proposed Kanuku Mountain National Park boundary and within a few hours of numerous spectacular waterfalls, is developing balata themed décor and crafting activities.
Yupukari, located along the banks of the Rupununi River, is home to Caiman House and its Black Caiman Research Program. Visitors accompany the research team and assist in data collection. The “Creatures of the Night” Tour allows visitors an excellent opportunity to observe nocturnal wildlife.
Konashen: The Wai Wai retain many traditional crafts including cassava shredders and hair combs that are highly prized in the region. Although the community is extremely isolated, their crafts bring benefits of the wider market.
Surama, the 2009 Educational Travel Community’s Responsible Tourism Showcase Honoree, has the best developed interpretation and community integration; Surama began hosting tourists since 1994.
Wowetta’s exceptional primary forest hiking trail ends at a Guianan Cock-of-the-Rock lek, where as many as 30 fluorescent orange birds display daily.
What types of partnerships or professional development would be most beneficial in spreading your innovation?
Volunteer conservation tourism: with scientists, researchers and companies such as Earthwatch to assist with developing, marketing and enabling programs that combine scientific field research, conservation and experiential education.
Marketing: a NG Geotourism map guide, an amazing and powerful destination video and other marketing actions to convey information about Guyana’s critical and fragile biodiversity, the unique culture of the people of the Rupununi and attract ecotourists
Business training and mentorship: communities need help to develop and implement business and marketing plans, and to acquire business skills.
Guides: training and equipment to reach international interpretation and group management standards of excellence
Investment: to support the development of lodges, purchase of equipment and other tourism capital and infrastructure.