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The 7th February 2012 is a very important date for the communities of the Wapichan people of the South Rupununi  in Guyana: on this date, we will present to the national and international communities a map of our traditional forest lands along with our grassroots proposals for the continued care of our lands, forests and other natural resources found in our traditional territory.

Through the vision, persistence and hard work of our past and present Wapichan Toshaos (leaders) a dream has finally become a reality. Ten years ago, a Wapichan land use map and management plan were just ideas that came out of discussions in our village meetings and in meetings of our District Toshaos Councils (DTCs). Putting forward our own plans to have our lands secured, to save our forests, wetlands, mountains and savannahs from harmful development and to determine our own future was something we used to “gaff” (chat) about in our “manores”? (collective work parties).

Now we have our plan, “Thinking Together for Those Coming Behind Us: An outline plan for the care Wapichan territory in Guyana”, in our hands and we are ready to share it with the government and allies like the Size of Wales. Our territorial plan is the fruit of several years of tears, sweat and very hard sacrifice. It means a lot to us. Our map and land use plan will be used to guide our communities in coming up with collective agreed actions and decisions reflective of the true visions, aspirations and struggles of the Wapichan people in Guyana. We hope that these documents and the agreements they contain will help our communities to deal with certain issues and move into the future with secure rights to our customary lands.

The territorial plan sets out key steps on how we use and care for our lands and resources. These steps are guided by proven customary law and traditional knowledge. Some of the actions aspire to conserve key sites and areas important to our communities, including sacred sites, cultural heritage sites, places with key livelihood resources and habitats important for rare birds, fish and animals. As part of our agreements,Wapichan villages have agreed to set up a WapichanConserved Forest over much of our forest lands.

Our inter-community agreements in the plan are part of our efforts as a people to guarantee respect for our rights and the continued proper management of important areas in our territory. Our Wapichan communities anticipate the plan will greatly assist the government to better understand our relationship between our lands and resources. We hope that it can greatly inform, influence affirmative action and improve government policies that affect our lands and the very resources upon which we rely for our livelihood and way of life. Ultimately, our villages and communities aim to work together to make sure that our lands and its resources remain healthy and strong so that our future generations, Wapichanand Guyanese, will have secured futures.

We finally hope that this initiative will add to strengthen the international knowledge base on how indigenous peoples, like the Wapichan, can contribute to proper management of the environment, sustainable use and conservation of lands and the environment.

Find out more about the Wapichan Land Rights Project by clicking here.

Kid James,
South Central Peoples Development Association (SCPDA),Rupununi District, Region 9, Guyana


Extpub | by Dr. Radut