On February 10th 2017, another successful session on the EUFLEGT was held in Lethem with participation from a total of 39 persons from 18 villages, namely Potarenau, Moco Moco, St. Ignatius, Tipuru, Tiger Pond, Hiowa, Yupukari, Shulinab, Quarrie, Kumu, Parishara, Sawariwau, Baitoon, Quiko, Meriwan, Nappi, Sand Creek, Katoka. Many of the villages were represented by either a Toshao or a senior counselor. Moreover, the Forest Officers of Lethem, a representative from the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) and a senior NIS officer were also in attendance.
Each consultation session continues to focus on providing a detailed update on Guyana’s VPA process (since 2012), and fostering joint discussions on key Annexes. Participants are optimistic about the benefits of the FLEGT VPA since many of the villages are currently engaged in logging while some are exploring the possibility of going commercial in the near future. In this light, participants welcome the FLEGT initiative, and congratulated the approach used with regards to maintaining continuous dialogue with the people of the Region. Participants strongly believe that although FLEGT would provide a clear path towards the sustainable development of Amerindian communities, support will be needed to meet the requirements set out under the VPA. As such, specific requests were made with regards to Annex VIII: Supporting Measures and Financing Mechanism.
Quite notably, the requests made by these villages were similar to those recorded during previous sessions held in Greatfalls, Rockstone, Toka, Annai, Rupertee, Wowetta and Karasabai. For instance, participants advocated for training in forest inventory, Reduce Impact Logging (RIL), Forest Operations Planning, Mensuration, Biomass estimation, GPS use, and application of Lesser Used Species. Villages also believe that youth empowerment should be a primary focus of Guyana’s VPA given that sustainable community development is a goal of the agreement. As such, participants called for the inclusion of scholarships (in Annex VIII) to carry-out studies in forestry and environmental management. Additionally, villages recognized that many of their youths have completed CSEC examinations, and can therefore function as extension officers for the FLEGT VPA. Finally, villages requested additional meetings with GRA and the Ministry of Labor to better understand the process of becoming tax compliant and to be aware of employer-employee rights under the Labour Act. Participants feel that as the process continues, other verification agencies under the VPA should also be a part of future meetings.