– Guyana-EU FLEGT VPA process highlighted
In an effort to continue participatory dialogue between stakeholders in the forestry sector, the NTWG and FLEGT Secretariat held cluster based consultation session in Annai on February 2nd 2017. A total l of twenty seven (27) persons participated which included Toshaos and senior council members from the villages of Massara, Kwatanmang, Annai, Crash Water, Apoteri and Aranaputa.
Students from the Bina Hill Institute (BHI) and members of the North Rupununi District Development Board (NRDDB) also participated in the informative session. The session focused on providing a detailed update on the Guyana-EU FLEGT VPA process, and sharing information relating to the development of the VPA agreement (particularly Annexes VIII, II and V) and its benefits to each stakeholder.
Issues arising from the discussions included important areas such as capacity building, community involvement, continuous information flow at the administrative and grassroots level as well as fostering discussions between civil society and government on various issues.
These issues include land tenure, communication and transparency, forestry operations, and the consensus of indigenous groups on signing the VPA. Indigenous representatives including Toshoas and council members expressed the need to be more involved in the joint discussions between the NTWG and Amerindian NGOs such as APA, TAAMOG and GOIP on the positions of the indigenous people in terms of the VPA.
In this regard, the NRDDB has requested an opportunity to meet with the EU and Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC).
Further, the NRDDB is of the view that at the beginning of the discussions on the Guyana EU FLEGT VPA (2013), the trade in timber within the Region was never envisaged. However over the four years of consultations (since 2013), they have been approached by buyers for the supply of timber produce for the purpose of exportation.
As a result, participants welcome the EU FLEGT VPA since they envisage an increase in timber trade throughout the Region. For instance, the village of Surama currently conducts commercial harvesting, and Wowetta is exploring the possibility of doing the same in the near future. This view was also expressed by other villages such as Apoteri recognizing the need to undertake stock inventory so as to prepare a marketing strategy for future market demands. The goal is to generate revenue for the village which will go towards the sustainable development of that village.
In addition, participants were happy to know that the VPA is seeking to improve on aspects relating to the social management of villages such as the use and availability of first aid and safety gears, and encouraging the compliance with social requirements dealing with NIS, minimum wage and exploitation.
In closing discussions the group saw more value in having workshops with NIS and GRA, as well as training in first-aid, timber grading, forestry practices (within the WTS and COPs), FLEGT, GPS use, stock inventory, tree spotting, proposal writing, and sawmilling. One participant expressed “as a people we want to build our capacity so as to meet international standards and move from primary processing to areas of downstream processing or value adding to get more value for money”.
According to Lakeram Haynes, Senior Council of Kwatamang Village “FLEGT is a good step forward towards the right development of our communities because it outlines the proper way of doing things. And once the VPA goes into effect, it can be a mode of enforcement of OUR rules and we are happy to be a part of the process, and we look forward to more information like this”
Some of these training sessions are essential as they would assist the villages in meeting the requirements of Annex II: Legality Definition, a key element that forms the basis of the VPA.
Meanwhile, requests were also made for the provision of more posters, information booklets and DVDs for the placement in public centers within the different villages.