GFC in working relationship with Indigenous communities

DPI, GUYANA, Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) says it has a positive relationship with Indigenous communities and has often been able to quell issues before they escalate into a state of conflict.

Ministerial Advisor to the Ministry of Indigenous People’s Affairs (MIPA), Mervyn Williams said there have been few reports from Amerindian communities on misunderstandings between villagers and officials of the GFC. Even in times when issues arise, there have been amicable settlements.

GFC officials at the Press Conference on Monday

“The villagers have always engaged in conversation with the commissioner himself and those matters have been resolved,” he told media operatives during the GFC’s press conference on Monday, February 19 adding that the ministry is quite pleased with the relationship shared between the villages and GFC.

“I believe we are on an even keel and progressing quite nicely. The commission has always been receptive to the need for engagement.”

The advisor said the plus for indigenous communities is that the Forestry operations in villages are managed by the Village councils, in the interest of villagers. Responsibility for harvesting the natural resource is therefore at a high level.

The commission has also been offering scholarships to the indigenous youth and has been increased its quota to the Guyana School of Agriculture from three to five.

“It works well for the relationships within the village and the commission, where young persons are in receipt of scholarships, employed following the training by the commission and work as resident officers of the commission in their respective villages”, that, he said, strengthens the capacity of the villages to manage those resources.

GFC’s chairperson Jocelyn Dow said the new Forest plan and policy has a joint responsibility among the front agencies. These include the Ministry of Indigenous People’s Affairs. She said, however, there are currently no areas that are in contention to the Amerindian communities. “We can’t, and we don’t, but we are not deaf to their complaints. We are not mining.”

Commissioner James Singh explained that one of the strongest programs within the GFC is the Community Forestry Programme, where assistant Commissioners of Forest are dedicating to ensuring that all of the issues are resolved even before they reach the stage of a conflict.

“We have a very amicable relationship with the indigenous communities and we are very receptive to their requests for training and capacity building. We even made GPS’s available to them at cost recovery prices and even a payment plan.”

He said the ministry is working with the Amerindian Land Titling Project is working with the Forestry training centre to carry out training in communities, continuing the work which began last year under the new FLEGT program and the GFC.

By: Alexis Rodney

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