The EU FLEGT VPA is a bi-lateral timber trade agreement (between Guyana and the EU) which seeks to curb illegal logging, foster inter-agency collaboration, and improve transparency and market access (among other benefits).The 2017 round of national stakeholders’ consultation on the development of the VPA is on-going throughout Guyana.
Three teams comprising of members from the NTWG and FLEGT Secretariat are currently conducting these sessions. Team 1 which consists of Ms. Laura Singh, NTWG member, Mr. Sunil Gopaul, Technical Officer and Mr. Quintyn Patrick, Project Officer of the FLEGT Secretariat is engaging with Amerindian Villages within Region 9.
These sessions used a focused approach which encouraged dialogue on the requirements Forest Sector Operators (FSOs) which would be required by Amerindian Villages under the FLEGT VPA, and the type of support they would need to satisfy those requirements.
On February 3rd 2017, two separate sessions were held in the villages of Rupertee and Wowetta, and in Toka on February 6th 2017. Like previous sessions held in Greatfalls, Rockstone and Annai, the participants from Rupertee, Wowetta and Toka were happy to be included in the discussion relating to the finalization of the Guyana-EU FLEGT VPA. The total attendance for the sessions amounted to 58 persons, and comprised of Toshaos, Deputy Toshaos, Senior Councillors, Saw operators, WWF representatives, farmers, teachers, and health workers from the villages.
Discussions within these villages focused on clarifications relating to social issues such as NIS, Income Tax, 3rd party Contracts, Minimum wage, First-aid and safety gears.
In this regard, participants advocated for an improvement in the services offered by the NIS and GRA offices based in Lethem. They stressed on the high cost and time associated with travelling to the Head Offices in Georgetown to address matters relating to NIS and Income Tax. Additionally, villagers made complaints concerning the non-payment of their NIS by local businesses/companies of the area. Mr. Leslie Allen, NIS officer for the Lethem Branch was present for the meeting held in Toka, and provided an overview of NIS requirements and its associated benefits.
Further, requests were made for greater access to first-aid kits, snake-bite kits and user friendly safety gears (appropriate for tropical climates) since there is a lack of these items in the area. Stakeholders also believed that training in first-aid, timber grading, sawmilling and downstream processing, proposal writing, quality assurance, general forestry operation practices and afforestation would supplement on going activities of the Commission towards sustainable community development.
Additionally, there was a demand for additional posters, information booklets and videos on FLEGT to foster greater understanding throughout the villages.
Meanwhile, Villages were also hopeful that the EU FLEGT process can improve the collaboration between the Government and the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission (GLSC) with regards to fostering greater discussion on issues relating to titling and/or demarcation. They were also pleasantly updated that the NIS and GRA are being mobilized through the VPA.