Sustainable Development: Can money for forest conservation really work?

Money for forests, that’s essentially Guyana’s Low Carbon Development Strategy. And why not? Almost 80% of Guyana is covered in rainforest: suitable for timber extraction, post-harvest agriculture, and it has significant mineral deposits below its surface. The question for any administration in a developing country is “how to accelerate the development process to attain the same improved economic conditions enjoyed by developed market economies, with little environmental impact”. If Guyana were to exploit its natural resources, it would be on a fast-paced economic trajectory; much like the early histories of the more developed countries.

But its forests provide a service to the world. Keeping it intact reduces the emission of greenhouse gases and contributes to the protection of biodiversity. Not to mention the eco-tourism opportunities: eco adventures, sport fishing, mountain climbing. Take the Rupununi for example, vast savannahs, tropical rainforests, abundant flora and fauna, looming mountains and hospitable people.

4The Interior Savannahs: non-forested land for possible agriculture use?

Environmental sustainability is nothing new to Guyana; the Iwokrama rainforest is part of a unique reserve of rainforest managed by the Iwokrama International Centre, established jointly by the Government of Guyana and the Commonwealth Secretariat.

1Trails along a community eco-tour.

Guyana’s efforts as a guardian of mother nature has received world acclaim with former President Bharrat Jagdeo being named Champion of the Earth, Guyana being named one of National Geographic’s top 20 places to visit in 2014, and a visit by the world’s sexiest man on a jungle-survival course.

To maintain its tropical paradise, Guyana’s strategy is to focus on a low deforestation, low carbon, climate resilient development trajectory. To this end, the focus will be on investments in low-carbon sectors such as eco-tourism, expanding access to services and new economic opportunity for Amerindian communities, and mainstreaming the use of non-forested land for agriculture.

But how do Guyana’s Indigenous population maintain their way of life if they are no longer able to use the land the same way their forefathers did? The IDB, through the Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF) has provided financing towards demonstrating how the LCDS can be implemented at the community level in the Rupununi.

This pilot will test how low carbon, community based enterprises in the Rupununi can receive more value for their products through the development of bankable business plans, implementation of these plans and provision of seed financing through a Rupununi Innovation Fund. Baseline research on the agriculture and tourism industry will set the stage for the design of climate change adaptation and mitigation actions.

Practical Action, the baseline assessment consulting firm, has already completed the data collection and have begun their analysis. This will provide a data map of the socio-economic and environmental conditions of the Rupununi region, an analysis of greenhouse gas emissions by sectors in the Rupununi with models of possible future emission trends and a value chain and commodity chain analysis of the tourism and community agriculture sectors.

The baseline assessments will be complimented by a State Of Food and Agriculture in the Rupununi Report compiled by the Food and Agriculture Organisation. This report will provide the background information for identifying key sub-sector value chains in community agriculture to better understand the issue of food security in the Rupununi. These studies will guide the creation and strengthening of  environmentally sustainable business models for community based enterprises.

Through the project, the assumption of the LCDS that low-carbon businesses can receive a premium for their products will be tested by understanding and valuing the benefits of operating within, and maintaining an intact environment.

So what do you think? Is this money for forest thing a good idea? Can people’s livelihoods still be guaranteed while saving the forests? The project team is in the field testing the model.

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