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  • Saving the Guyanese forest



    By Gerard Alleng and Sara Valero*

    Guyana sets an example on how to use technology to monitor deforestation and protect tropical forest. 

    About three-quarters of Guyana is forested, roughly 60 percent of which is classified as primary forest. Photo: Getty images.

    GUYANA – Kaietur Falls – About three-quarters of Guyana is forested, roughly 60 percent of which is classified as primary forest. Photo: Getty images.

    Guyana is a relatively small, heavily forested country, on the Northern coast of South America. It has a population of 750,000 predominantly settled along the coast.

    In 2009, the Government of Guyana undertook its first national forest stock assessment for the decade. This assessment revealed that Guyana had lost nearly 75,000 hectares of forests, averaging 3,800 hectares of forests lost per year, due mainly to mining, agricultural activities, and logging.

    The highest rates of deforestation within the country occurred in the northwest, where the greatest density of secondary roads exists, along with important gold and diamond deposits.

    To temper the deforestation rate and keep it low in the long run, Guyana decided to focus its attention on building the country’s capacity to manage the drivers of deforestation in a sustainable manner.

    Agriculture, mining, and forestry are economic drivers for Guyana that account for almost 50% of  total GDP. While expanding the exploitation of natural resources is a plausible development path for Guyana, where 86% of the forests are still intact with large reserves of minerals yet to be explored, this would have significant negative implications related to addressing climate change and managing biodiversity.

    Therefore, to address the issue of climate change, the country launched a Low Carbon Development Strategy and joined the REDD  partnership (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation, Forest Degradation and Sustainable forest Management) with the dual goal of avoiding deforestation and CO2 emissions.

    To achieve this, the IDB supported the country in its efforts to become one of the first in the region to develop and adopt a national monitoring, reporting and verification system, known as MRV, in order to conduct a comprehensive forest area change assessment.

    After establishing a baseline of the level of deforestation, Guyana has been using remote sensing data and a Geographical Information System (GIS) to assess changes in land use and forest cover.   Monitoring the forest will help protect it, and ensure that the deforestation rate remains low in the long-run.

    The fact that a small developing country like Guyana has established a globally accepted protocol to monitor its forests is an important milestone, as the MRV allows Guyana to oversee the progress towards achieving a low carbon development and provides a basis for the country to participate in climate financing as it facilitates the verification of the financial value for the carbon stored in forests.

    Guyana can be a model for others in the region, such as Brazil, Colombia, Peru or Venezuela, to better monitor deforestation or forest degradation in their territories.  The Guyanese model is third party driven and a transparent system that follows a well-established protocol which other countries can easily follow.

    The challenge for Guyana now is how to transfer the knowledge across the country to facilitate the embedding and use of the methodology in decision making across sectors, ensuring the long-term sustainability of the MRV system, together with the development of an action framework that helps identify specific actions that should be implemented, so as to reduce deforestation and forest degradation.

    This post is part of a blog series on development effectiveness featuring stories on learning and experiences from IDB projects and evaluations.

    *Gerard Alleng joined the IDB in 2008 as a specialist in clean energy and climate change and currently works as a senior specialist in the Division of Climate Change and Sustainability at the Bank. Gerard coordinates the activities of the Division on adaptation and mitigation in the Caribbean region.

    Sara Valero joined the Division of Climate Change and Sustainability at the IDB in 2009. Sara is part of the adaptation and mitigation group and focuses on energy efficiency, renewable energy use, policy reform and building adaptive capacity and resilience to climate change in Caribbean countries.


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