Tourism

Jungle Fever

Description: 

Skye Hernandez treks through Guyana’s Iwokrama forest, where she discovers a new kind of mosquito repellant and hears the growl of a jaguar…or so she thinks

From the May/June 2008 Issue of Caribbean Beat

A gift to the world

In Guyana, the natural world overwhelms. It is unimaginably vast, the rainforest in many places unbroken as far as the eye can stretch, neither road nor clearing penetrating the dark green blanket over the land. Here is where much of Guyana’s richness lies, both in the land and under, and some of this huge reserve of nature is being preserved for generations to come.

In 1989, President Desmond Hoyte made a startling offer at a Commonwealth meeting: Guyana, he said, would donate a large area of virgin forest to the world. A few years later, this “gift to the world” became the Iwokrama Centre for Rain Forest Conservation and Development, a unique experiment in conservation and the sustainable use of Guyana’s natural heritage, and a model for similar projects worldwide. Located in the Guiana Shield, it’s part of one of the last four pristine rain forests on the planet.

Last November, President Bharath Jagdeo stunned the international community by suggesting developed nations pay the country for conserving these forests—asking the rich to make an investment in the carbon bank, so to speak.

Native vibes


Break time at the Kurupukari Primary School at Fair View Village
Photography by Skye Hernandez

In Guyana ones sees the faces that history erased from much of the rest of the Caribbean—the indigenous people who migrated from South America, north up the islands, and who were decimated with the coming of the Europeans.

Nine tribes live here, with names as rippling as the many rivers which run through their territories: Arawak; Carib; Patamona; Makushi; Warao; Arecuna; Wapishiana; Wai-wai; Akawaio.

Fair View is the only indigenous community within the Iwokrama preserve, and is a mixed village. Being at the meeting of the road and the river, it’s the first place travelling people reach by either.

Bradford Allicock, named “Toshao” (tribal leader) by the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs, says that, years ago, the village was an important stop during the annual cattle drive. Hundreds of cattle would be driven from ranches in the Rupununi to Georgetown, and at Fair View they would have to cross the river over a wooden pontoon. It takes six hours of fast four-wheel driving to get to the capital from Fair View now, so it would have taken weeks to travel by horseback keeping a massive herd of cattle on track—any sign of a jaguar would have caused a stampede.

This drive was stopped in the 1940s, and the balata run also stopped after the second world war when synthetic materials were developed that were cheaper than the labour-intensive balata rubber.

Fair View villagers are now part of Iwokrama, working on every aspect of the project, cooking meals and looking after guest rooms, guiding hikers as rangers and sharing in the profits from lumber felled in their part of the forest.

Another day in paradise


An Amerindian boy gets ready to jump into the rapids on the Essequibo River, near Fair View village
Photography by Skye Hernandez

The day begins and ends at the Iwokrama field station in the open thatched-roof dining “room” of the two-storey command centre. Classes are held in one part of the upper floor while guests, scholars and scientists share findings over meals. The most fascinating information comes to light over a casual meal of pepperpot or fish and vegetables grown right there.

While I was there, a team of experts was spending a week to inspect the progress of a new butterfly centre under construction, and researchers were counting the (dwindling) numbers of arapaima fish along the Essequibo river.

The centre was also training community leaders; that week there was a lecture and discussion on sexually transmitted diseases, which was attended by several staff members and people who live at Fair View, the Amerindian village nearby.

Land of the giants

It’s a greenish-yellow giant of the river, but the air-breathing arapaima hasn’t been able to defend itself from humans. The strange-looking fish wasn’t popular as food among indigenous Guyanese, but their Brazilian cousins considered it a delicacy and, finding their stocks diminishing, taught them to hunt and eat it—and exporting it to Brazil was the natural follow-up.

For several years, researchers have been seeking out arapaima populations, counting the fish (when they come up to breathe) and figuring out where the population is in danger—in most places—but they have also found a few places stocked with fish where they did not expect.

Take a hike


Canoes await their owners at the spot where hikers set off for Turtle Mountain
Photography by Skye Hernandez

Easy enough for those who get only occasional exercise, and difficult enough to make one feel a sense of real achievement, a trek to the top of Turtle mountain—under the careful guidance of a skilful Iwokrama ranger (in my case Paulette Torres, who knew instinctively when to pause, giving me a moment’s rest)—must not be missed. It takes about an hour and a half either way, and you spend an hour at the top.

What we saw on the way: Little timamou (small ground bird); screaming piha (the shrillest sound in the forest, but one of the shyest of birds); spider monkeys and capuchins with their young, feeding on the same trees in the canopies; agouti.

Most precious moment: when we reached the top, a pair of red and green macaws spotted us as they swirled over the sprawling expanse of rainforest; they made a circle and came gliding back, turning their heads to look at us, before flying off again.

Canopy walk: Fear of heights and swingy things aside, this is a most enjoyable way to get intimate with the big trees you otherwise see only as trunks disappearing into a blur of leaves in the sky.

Heart of the rainforest


Sustainably harvested purpleheart trees at the Iwokrama sawmill
Photography by Skye Hernandez

Iwokrama is situated right in the middle of the vast South American country, six hours by fast four-wheel drive from the capital, Georgetown, or a shorter ride by light plane to a nearby landing strip. A few more minutes by boat and visitors arrive at the field station which is the base for all activities in Iwokrama, to a welcome of freshly-squeezed juice, a cold face towel and friendly faces.

The centre is named for the Iwokrama mountains, sacred to the native people, and comprises a million acres of rainforest, veined by the mighty Essequibo and its tributaries. The rainforest is populated by the bird, animal and plant species that make it a tropical jungle, including tapirs, macaws, jaguars, and the great purpleheart tree. Iwokrama is also home to the Amerindian village of Fair View, and its inhabitants are an integral part of the activities of the centre.

Iwokrama’s business falls into three categories of conservation: research, sustainable use of forest products and eco-tourism; and community development, also a high priority. The one million acres of the Iwokrama project are divided in half between the Sustainable Usage Area (SUA) and the wildlife preserve.

Iwokrama inventory


The jetty at the Iwokrama field station, where essential supplies like gasoline and some types of foodstuff are offloaded after a six-hour trip from Georgetown
Photography by Skye Hernandez

Iwokrama is home to hundreds of people, most of whom make their living from the forest. And a long list of wildlife:

• More than 200 species of mammals, including healthy jaguar populations
• 420 fish species, the greatest diversity of fish species of any similar-sized area
• More than 90 kinds of bats
• 150 species of amphibians and reptiles
• More than 500 species of birds, including that majestic raptor, the harpy eagle

Call of the wild

The week before I visited the Iwokrama field station, a harpy eagle had landed on the banister of one of the cottages, a few feet from where a researcher sat looking out at the peaceful early evening glow on the river. This magnificent creature had been an occasional visitor to the camp, flying in from the rainforest to perch at the edge of the clearing, but that day he had come right into the camp.

A jaguar had also been seen nearby, and the news of the two sightings brought an extra excitement that made the six-hour drive from Georgetown whizz by.

I did not see the harpy during my three-day visit, nor did I glimpse a jaguar, but that did not take away from the experience.

I have to admit the nearest I came to seeing a jaguar had to do with my own excitement. Returning to the cottage after dinner and a lecture discussion one night, I heard the unmistakable low purring sound of a wild animal; I decided not to panic and continued walking.

But soon, I thought, “What if ….?” And hurried back to the main building, returning with two friends, who also heard the sound…and confirmed it to me—it was the snoring of a guest who’d probably climbed too many mountains that day.

Don’t leave home without…..

A flashlight: the generators are turned off at 10 pm and visits to the washroom are infinitely more pleasant when you can see your way.

Raincoat with hood, umbrella: There are two rainy seasons in Guyana (roughly May and June, and December to the end of January) and even in the dry season, it can rain at any time. It’s the rainforest after all.

Insect repellant, or better crabwood oil: There were surprisingly few bug-attacks when I was there (early December) but I didn’t take the chance. The commercial bug spray stayed in the suitcase, though, when I began using crabwood oil, a pure and natural rainforest product. It’s bitter to the taste (to humans as well as insects, it seems), but its strong woody smell is pleasant and now to me wonderfully reminiscent of the Guyana “bush.”

Cover exposed parts of your body with the oil if you are at the field station and at night, and when you go hiking, rub it all over before putting on underwear—this will protect against “bete rouge,” mites that burrow under your skin and are annoyingly itchy for a period of some weeks afterward. For the record, I did not get a single insect bite in the five days I was in Guyana.

More information: www.iwokrama.org


Document

Skye Hernandez treks through Guyana’s Iwokrama forest, where she discovers a new kind of mosquito repellant and hears the growl of a jaguar…or so she thinks

From the May/June 2008 Issue of Caribbean Beat

A gift to the world

( categories: )

The Iwokrama brand and climate change

Description: 

Article first published on 13 May, 2007


IWOKRAMA patron, Prince Charles, will hold a global meeting next month to highlight the centre’s goals and draw on international support for the forest conservation initiative as it seeks to play a more meaningful role in the global climate change debate.

Iwokrama, set up more than ten years ago has two main battles: getting money to runs its programmes, and even more grave, getting attention. In trying to win on both these fronts, Iwokrama underscores its relevance in the world climate change debate.

“As the implications of climate change become ever more apparent, the international community looks towards institutions such as the Iwokrama International Centre to demonstrate, through scientific research, education and local community relations that it is possible to achieve environmental sustainability and social responsibility without recourse to actions that may cause profound ecological damage to the world,” the Prince of Wales is quoted by Iwokrama as saying.

Former United Kingdom High Commissioner to Guyana Mr Edward Glover is not shy to admit that Iwokrama has been hidden from the people of Guyana and the rest of the world. Glover is in his last year as chairman of the international Board of Trustees that manages the Iwokrama Centre, which aims to demonstrate that money can be made from forests, without destroying it.


The Minister of Education Dr. Desrey Fox at a recent meeting of the Iwokrama Board said that she would seek to work with Iwokrama to get Guyanese schoolchildren to know about Iwokrama and its work.

President Bharrat Jagdeo has stressed upon Iwokrama the importance of Guyana playing its part in the international climate change debate. This comes as Guyana braces for torrential downpours of the May/June rainy season which many get nervous about when remembering the floods which killed over 20 and destroyed the livelihood of thousands on the coastland in 2005.

The unusual rainfall was as a result of changing weather patterns the authorities believe and the government recently reinvigorated the National Climate Committee. In addition, through a motion taken to the 65-seat National Assembly in mid-March this year, the Parliament of Guyana agreed to examine the possibility of setting up a National Commission on Climate Change and Mitigating Measures to make recommendations and monitor actions which must be taken to address the situation.

Opposition parliamentarian James McAllister said sea level rise coupled with an increase in destructive storms will threaten the existence of small island states and low lying communities.

He posited that since more than 90 per cent of Guyana's population live on the coastland, which also accommodates a vast majority of the country's agricultural and economic activities, global warming would a "a significant impact on Guyana."

Minister of Agriculture Mr. Robert Persaud, speaking in the National Assembly during the debate on the motion warned that the El Nino Southern Oscillation phenomenon that brings extreme weather impacts to Guyana is evidence of a changing climate and the forecast is of an 85 per cent probability of an El Nino event this year that is likely to produce drought-like conditions.

According to Glover, the International Board of Trustees has pledged, through facilities available at Iwokrama, to ensure the Centre is an important element “in this process of responding to climate change through mitigation and adaptation.”

Glover, in an interview with the Guyana Chronicle, said the board of trustees is taking seriously the President’s charge to highlight Iwokrama in the global discussions on climate change.

“Protecting and enhancing (the Iwokrama) forest, a home to the people who live there and treasury to some of the world’s endangered species is our major contribution to the Commonwealth’s response to climate change”, President Jagdeo has been quoted as saying.

Glover noted that Iwokrama’s Trustees, particularly those in London have been working hard to secure sponsorship and support from major UK companies who are committed to corporate social responsibility with an emphasis on climate change.

By the end of the year, the establishment of a climate change monitoring unit will commence at Iwokrama’s management centre at Kurupukari thanks to the good offices of University of New Castle.

The Commonwealth Secretary General Don Mckinnon has welcomed Iwokrama’s new plan for greater partnership with the institutions and investors who are committed to playing their own part in responding to climate change.

The scientific community believes that the global climate is warming because of greenhouse gas emissions from human activities, including industrial and manufacturing processes, fossil fuel combustion (gas) and changes in land use, such as deforestation.

The U.S. and Australia have refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol which sets legally-binding targets for developed countries to reduce greenhouse emissions within seven years, to about five per cent below 1990 levels.

The Kyoto Protocol is the first international agreement to fight global warming. It was signed by 141 nations, including all European and all other developed industrial nations except the U.S. and Australia.

The pact went into effect on February 16, 2005, and expires in 2012. The Kyoto Protocol has been celebrated by its backers as a lifeline to save our planet from disastrous human-caused effects of a warming global climate.

In Guyana, the National Climate Committee was first set up in 1995 with the primary responsibility to decide on policies and projects relating to climate change, and was intended to determine appropriate mechanisms and personnel for implementing and managing climate change projects and for the allocation of available funds.

Guyana's carbon dioxide removal levels exceed emission under the Kyoto Protocol and it is classified as a Non-Annex. As such, Guyana is not legally required to reduce emission like many other countries.

The Government Information Agency (GINA) said focus is currently on developing cleaner sources of fuel with the construction of a co-generation plant at Skeldon in Berbice while bio-diesel is being explored by the Institute of Applied Science and Technology (IAST).

The government is focused on establishing a Climate Change Unit in the Hydrometerological Service of the Ministry of Agriculture to act as a precursor to the development of a Climate Change Centre.

GINA stated that the NCC's revised terms of reference are to examine national conditions relating to climate change and to make recommendations to the Adviser to the President on Science, Technology, Energy and Environment, and relevant ministries on appropriate national measures to address the conditions.

It will advise on developments and the needs for policies and regulations in relation to activities responding to climate change and promote technical, scientific, technological and financial cooperation among organisations/agencies dealing with climate change issues, the agency said.

Monitoring the implementation of national policies, programmes and action plans related to climate change and making recommendations for appropriate changes and revisions are other functions of the NCC, it said.

Although the NCC was in existence for two years, the experience of El Nino and La Nina in 1997 heightened Guyana's awareness of climate change and the committee became an important component to address and assist in adaptation measures.

In 1996 La Nina caused heavy downpours, resulting in widespread flooding in all regions of Guyana, many areas having to be evacuated with the attendant losses of millions of dollars.

The 1997-1998 El Nino effect brought drought to the country. Many areas were declared disaster areas, brought on by forest fires and salt water intrusion into major rivers, affecting the extraction of irrigation water and loss of crops was widespread in many areas.

Sea level rise affects Guyana’s coastal defence as the coast is about 1.2m below sea level, meaning that defences are necessary to keep out the tidal surges that are sometimes in excess of 2m. Guyana experiences tidal surges that are sometimes in excess of 3m at high spring tide. Inundation of low lying areas is often caused by overtopping, breaches of seas defences and erosion of the near shore area due to shifts of ocean currents due to wind changes.

Minister Persaud has outlined a number of adaptation strategies being pursued by the government, including increasing the network of data collection stations to guide decision making, such as the redesign of drainage channels to facilitate the higher intensity of rainfall being experienced.

Another measure, he said, is the design and construction of sea defences to accommodate the projection of sea level rise. He pointed out that the "rip rap" design of the "sea wall" allows for the raising of defences to prevent overtopping.

He said research into "disease resistant, high yielding" crops to flower and produce within the season is also being pursued. He further pointed out that management plans are being developed in the fisheries, forestry and mining sectors to accommodate climate change impacts.

Further, he said the government is developing and promoting the use of renewable energy, such as wind, hydropower, and solar, to further reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

Meeting its goal
The Iwokrama Forest is zoned into two sections; a wilderness preserve, and a Sustainable Utilisation Area, which allows for sustainable use activities, conservation and evaluating the impacts of such activities on an intact forest.

The experiment for which Iwokrama was created, that of showing show how tropical forests can be conserved and sustainably used to provide ecological, social and economic benefits to local, national and international communities, is finally underway. Glover says this experiment, Iwokrama’s business venture in sustainable timber harvesting, will test the proposition that conservation, environmental balance and economically sustainable activities are “not contradictions, but neutrally enforcing.”

The concept of Iwokrama was born in 1989, when Guyana said it wanted to make available to the commonwealth an area of land to carry out the fundamental experiment to determine if tropical rainforests, vital to life continuity on earth, can be conserved, but at the same time utilized to the benefit of people.

The offer by Guyana came amidst growing anxiety about climate change, global warming, and its impact on seas level rise in the Caribbean.

The timber harvesting venture is being being developed through financing from Timber is Iwokrama's primary business initiative and has largely been developed through funding from the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO).

The five year plan, which can be renewed, has the communities as shareholders, reflecting the relationship that they have with the Iwokrama Forest.

Through the timber operations, not more than 20,000 cubic metres per annum could be harvested by the private sector company, Tigerwood Guyana Incorporated.

A monocyclic silvicultural system that involves felling only a few of the commercial trees in an area (selective logging) will be employed, utilizing a 60-year cutting cycle.

Reduced Impact Logging techniques requires much more planning than conventional techniques, but results in a more efficient, cost effective operation on the ground, as well as less impact on the environment and surrounding forest.

Upon completion of harvesting activities, felling blocks will be closed down and the environment directly affected will be rehabilitated to the extent that is practicable.

Iwokrama and the joint venture company managing the timber harvesting plan is implementing practices which are in accord with the Guyana National Initiative for Forest Certification (GNIFC), National Standards for Forest Management (such as the Code of Practice and other GFC requirements) and those of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), to conserve and protect the ecosystem.

With this commitment, Iwokrama believes, ecosystem effects are predicted to be mainly temporary and acceptable.

According to Iwokrama, business operations will be based on detailed research and planning that included management and pre-harvest forest inventories; marketing and feasibility studies; and consultations with local communities and potential business partners.

Timber products such as Greenheart squares, prime and select construction material, flooring and moulding will be directed toward green and socially responsible niche markets.

They will be branded with the Iwokrama name, which will indicate social, cultural, ecological and economic sustainability. Market conditions, low production volumes and high transportation costs will directly affect the determination of products.

Financial sustainability
The timber harvesting project is one of the means by which Iwokrama hopes to achieve financial sustainability by 2010.

A five year business plan (2006-10) will hopefully see the center being able to chalk up the US$600, 000 it needs to meet operational costs.

At the moment, the Centre gets support from the Government of Guyana, the Commonwealth Secretariat, the International Tropical Timber Organisation, the German government and other donors.

The Iwokrama Centre came into operation in 1996 on the basis of an agreement between the Commonwealth and Government of Guyana, and after included in the Laws of Guyana, the agreement paved the way for the establishment of an international board of trustees to manage the nearly one million acre (371,000 hectares) rainforest.

Glover says at the heart of the business initiatives of Iwokrama is tourism, owing to the rich biodiversity that Iwokarama possesses.

He admits that in the past, Iwokrama lacked the expertise in marketing, and hence Iwkorama remained “in the jungle”, hidden from Guyana and the world over.

Now, however, through arrangements with UK companies Glover would only at this time call “big”, that will hopefully change, and there will be “well packaged” initiatives to sell Iwokrama.

Glover issues high praises to President Jagdeo and his government for constructing an airstrip at Iwokrama that now makes access to the rainforest much more convenient.

However, it is still far too expensive for locals, and hence Glover is encouraging them to come to visit Iwokrama overland.

Iwokrama forest's ecosystem is located at a crossroads between Amazonian and Guianan flora and fauna. As a result, it contains high species richness and several species of animals that are threatened or extinct across most of their former geographic ranges, like the Giant Anteater.

The Iwokrama forest has the highest species richness for fish (over 420 described so far) and bats (90) for any area this size in the world. It also has extraordinarily high bird diversity (over 500). Additionally Iwokrama Forest has also been identified as a global hotspot for several plant families, including Lecythidaceae and Chrysobalanaceae.

Working with communities
Glover says too that another story often not told is of Iwokrama’s partnership with local communities, which he sees as unique.

Iwokrama currently employs 70 members of staff, of which 70 per cent are the Amerindian residents of the surrounding communities.

The Iwokrama forest is in the Makushi homeland. The Makushi people are one of the last remaining Amerindian tribes who are the original settlers of Guyana.

From very early in its history, Iwokrama focused on building strong participatory mechanisms and partnerships the indigenous communities of the North Rupununi District that adjoins the forest.

Iwokrama was instrumental in the formation of the North Rupununi District Development Board (NRDDB). The Board represents the communities and takes responsibility for the planning and coordination of many Iwokrama educational, developmental, cultural and research programmes in the North Rupununi.

Iwokrama seeks to make this a model partnership that other forest managers and owners may replicate with local peoples.

The NRDDB, established in 1996, is a locally formed Amerindian community-based organisation composed of village leaders and other community representatives.

The Board was created by Iwokrama to establish a formal link between the communities, government agencies, and Iwokrama.

According to Sydney ALlicock, a Makushi from the village of Surama, the NRDDB is progressing as a fairly successful initiative by the Makushi people to take control of their resources and developmental processes.

Iwokrama, he said, has affected the residents of the North Rupununi in positive ways.

Allicock noted that Iwokrama started as a political vision that did not take into account the “views, fears, hopes, or interests” of the Makushi people whose lands and sacred and spiritual values, as well as modern aspirations were at stake.

Also, at the start, only two communities, Fairview, and Allicock’s own, Surama, were listed to receive benefits from the venture and suspicions grew.

Though the NRDDB was set up in 1996, it was only until 2002 that an Amerindian representative began to sit on the Iwokrama Board of Trustees.

The NRDDB has undertaken some unique initiatives, including them the establishment of the Bina Hill Institute at Annai, which among other things seeks the revival of the Makushi language.

A group of women, who barely completed primary school, pioneered the use of solar powered portable computers to record date, draft texts, and translate their booklets on fishes, birds, cassava, the Iwokrama mountains and the traditional and modern uses of alchohol. Sale of these books have brought in significant finances for the group.

Today, through the accomplishments of the Bina Hill Institute, the Makushi language is now being taught in schools in the North Rupununi through the support of the Ministry of Education. ‘

In additions, through the NRDDB, youths, are taking an active role in conservation. There are Wildlife Clubs in most if not all of the communities of the North Rupununi.

Every year, the wildlife clubs hosts a festival. The events include archery, cotton-spinning and a quiz competition.

Another effort with which Iwokrama has involved the communities is in the construction of an canopy walkway in the Iwokrama forest.

The Iwokrama canopy walkway is managed on behalf of Iwokrama International Centre by Community and Tourism Services Inc (CATS). CATS is a unique partnership formed between the Makushi community at Surama and two private sector businesses: Rock View Lodge and Wilderness Explorers. CATS plans to make this partnership a model of how ecotourism can be financially successful and provide real benefits and ownership to local communities.

The company is equally owned by the three principals and current Chairman of the Board is Sydney Allicock from Surama.

With all these initiatives, Glover sees Iwokrama poised to meet its mission of “promoting the conservation and the sustainable and equitable use of tropical rain forests in a manner that leads to lasting ecological, economic, and social benefits to the people of Guyana and to the world in general, by undertaking research, training, and the development and dissemination of technologies.”

Iwokrama's website is at http://www.iwokrama.org

Article first published on 13 May, 2007


IWOKRAMA patron, Prince Charles, will hold a global meeting next month to highlight the centre’s goals and draw on international support for the forest conservation initiative as it seeks to play a more meaningful role in the global climate change debate.

A fort with a view

Description: 

Nicholas Laughlin braves the heat as he goes in search of Kyk-over-Al, the ruined Dutch fort that is one of Guyana's most storied historical sites

On a concrete wall above the stelling at Bartica, in bold black and red letters, someone had painted an appeal to public morals. But the final line had been worn away by the rain, and the message trailed off ambiguously. “What’s the Rush? Maybe everybody is thinking about Sex but not everybody is doing it. Why not wait! You can have . . .”

We clambered from the speedboat up the wooden stelling — the Dutch word for a wharf, still used on the coasts and rivers of Guyana. The little blue-painted huts of the Bartica market came right to the edge of the river. It was mid-morning, and the market was crowded with women shopping, men pushing barrows laden with vegetables, dogs hovering anxiously near the butchers’ stalls.

An hour before, we had pulled away from the stelling at Parika, near the mouth of the Essequibo, thirty-five miles downstream. The speedboat, laden with sixteen passengers and three crew, had extricated itself from the knot of river-traffic, swept past the ferry being loaded with bales of cargo, and pointed its bow south. At its mouth, the Essequibo is more than ten miles wide, with three main channels divided by islands, but up-river it narrowed to a mere three miles. Along the banks, small houses and lumber yards gave way to mangrove, then thick forest. Finally a plume of smoke appeared, then a line of colourful buildings like dots in the distance.

Bartica is a small, busy town of maybe eight thousand people, with an orderly street grid, a hospital, a school, and a nearby Benedictine monastery, all situated on a sort of promontory where the Essequibo, Guyana’s biggest river, is joined by its biggest tributary, the Mazaruni. Three miles up, the Mazaruni is in turn joined by its own most important tributary, the Cuyuni. At the confluence of these three great rivers, Bartica is sometimes called the “gateway to the interior”.

For more than a century, it has been the last outpost of “civilisation” for miners, loggers, missionaries, and explorers heading into Guyana’s remote forested north-western region. In the early twentieth century, during Guyana’s modest gold rush, it grew into something of a boom town, with saloons and brothels springing up to service hard-working, hard-living “pork-knockers”, as gold and diamond prospectors were once called.

But Bartica’s history stretches even further back, to the earliest days of European colonial contact with this part of South America, and we had come in the hope of visiting one of the oldest surviving relics of that time: Kyk-over-Al, the ruined Dutch fort in the mouth of the Cuyuni.

But first we had to find another boat.

In a semi-official-looking hut at the top of the stelling sat a man with a huge ledger. We asked him where we could catch a boat to Fort Island.

“Talk to my friend Carter. Carter! Some persons looking to hire a boat.”

Carter was a tall, serious-looking man wearing a red baseball cap.

“To go to Fort Island and come back? Ten thousand.”

Ten thousand Guyanese dollars: about US$50. Clearly some bargaining was called for. “Too much. We’ll stay in Bartica” was our opening gambit, and we strolled away through the market. Carter followed, explaining that boat fuel was expensive, boat captains in high demand.

The price nudged down, but not enough. “No, thanks.” We climbed a rickety staircase to a little restaurant above a general goods store, and ordered orange juice. Ten minutes later Carter reappeared in the doorway. Had we reconsidered? Had he?

Half an hour later, a deal was struck. In return for a “special rate” we would detour to a nearby settlement, to deliver another batch of passengers with all their morning shopping.

The Guianas, the region of South America between the Orinoco and the Amazon, fascinated European adventurers. A century after Columbus sailed past, Walter Raleigh explored this coast, feverishly searching for the route to El Dorado. But the Dutch were the first Europeans to establish a permanent settlement here. In the early seventeenth century, a party of Dutch colonists sailed up the Essequibo and a short way up the Mazaruni, and chose a small island for the site of a star-shaped fort. Armed with a few guns, it was first named Fort Ter Hoogen, but soon its nickname, Kyk-over-Al — “see over all” — took over. Offering admirable vantage over the three river highways, Kyk-over-Al became the effective capital of the Dutch Essequibo colony.

From here, Dutch traders penetrated far into the interior, developing commercial relationships with the indigenous Amerindians. By the 1650s, sugar plantations stretched along the banks of the Essequibo. On the promontory where Bartica would be built was a plantation called Vryheid.

In 1666 — the year of the Great Fire of London — English forces managed to capture Kyk-over-Al. A trio of French ships did the same in 1708. Both times the Dutch recaptured it. In 1716, Kyk-over-Al was bursting at its seams and a roomier site on the nearby river bank was developed. Eventually, as Guyana’s fertile low-lying seacoast was reclaimed by Dutch engineers, the focus shifted north, and in 1748 most of Kyk-over-Al was demolished, its bricks used to build a sugar mill at a plantation downstream.

The Dutch administration was moved to the east bank of the Demerara River, to a settlement called Stabroek. Later, the English would rename it Georgetown. And for eighty years the forest reclaimed the one-time capital of Dutch Guyana.

In 1829, the Church Missionary Society established a station in the north-west, the better to proselytise the Amerindians. As the Dutch had done, the missionaries liked the advantages of the Essequibo-Mazaruni confluence, and on the former Vryheid plantation they established Bartica Grove. By the end of the century, Bartica, having dropped the “Grove” and forgotten its spiritual origins, was on the verge of becoming a minor gold-rush boom town.

Kyl-over-Al also enjoyed a return to relevance: during the 1897 boundary dispute between Britain and Venezuela, its ruins were excavated in an attempt to prove the antiquity of the Dutch settlement. The keystone of the fort’s surviving arch, it’s said, was removed and taken all the way to London for examination, then transported back across the Atlantic for careful replacement.

We returned to the stelling and found Carter’s boat, and headed off round the promontory and into the Mazaruni. The confluence of the rivers was a vast expanse of water, rimmed on three sides by low river banks. It felt as if we were putting out to sea. A couple of small islands rose from the “bay”.

Had the history of Guyana taken a slightly different turn, this might today be the site of the country’s capital city. Bartica’s situation rivals for grandeur any of the world’s great harbour cities: San Francisco, Hong Kong, Sydney.

Twenty minutes later, we approached a small, nondescript island. From behind a couple of trees a brick arch emerged, familiar from dozens of photographs.

We docked at a long jetty. There were flowering shrubs, and a big mango tree, and someone had recently cut the weeds and vines that covered the low rise. There, behind a hibiscus bush, was all that remained of the once-crucial outpost. The red-brick arch was perhaps ten feet tall. The much-travelled keystone once sported a coat of arms, but centuries of rain had worn the carving down to a few lumps. The sun beat down relentlessly, and the river, swollen by August rains, oozed silently by.

I’d like to report that we had some kind of epiphany as we walked around the arch, some unexpected historical insight. But the heat was overwhelming, and after nearly four centuries the Kyk-over-Al arch was well-practised in keeping its secrets.

It was too hot even to talk. On our way back to Bartica, Carter stopped at Baracara Island, a little sandspit in the Mazaruni just big enough for a beach-house and a few palm trees, so we could swim in the Coca-Cola brown river water. Across the river macaws circled and called. Kyk-over-Al, maybe a mile behind us, felt hopelessly far away.

The western sky was darkening and glowering as we returned to the Bartica stelling. Thunder hummed down the river. At the first market stall a woman sold us cups of sweet, milky coffee and freshly fried plantain chips, while her husband made a still-life in his vegetable barrow, arranging bundles of string beans, eggplant, cabbages, with the deftness of an Impressionist. A cow lumbered past. Two men clutching beer bottles started arguing loudly, hurling baroque obscenities. The rain came with a roar, and Bartica hunkered cosily down.

“IT’S COMMITMENT THAT COUNTS”

Description: 

From the Caribbean Beat of May/June 2006
Michelle Kalamandeen tells Caroline Neisha Taylor why she has a special love for Guyana’s Shell Beach

Leatherback at Shell Beach, Guyana
Photo from Guyana Marine Turtle Conservation Society/Michelle Kalamadeen





Shell Beach is amazing—ninety miles of mangrove and lowland swamp forests, seasonal palm savannahs, and nine beaches consisting entirely of seashells, with thousands of plant and animal species.

As an undergraduate at the University of Guyana in 2000, writing an article on Shell Beach for the Nature Society’s newsletter, I fell in love with the area so much that I conducted my thesis at Shell Beach, and after graduating in 2002, was hired by the Guyana Marine Turtle Conservation Society as their technical and environmental education officer. GMTCS was born out of Dr Peter Pritchard’s work on marine turtles in Shell Beach back in the 1960s.

I also assisted in community development projects and helped design the GMTCS Turtle Museum at the Guyana Zoological Park. After completing my master’s at Oxford University in 2005, I was invited to assist in the management of the project. Since then, I have volunteered as the sea turtle co-ordinator.

Each March to August, Shell Beach hosts one of the world’s most spectacular events, when endangered marine turtle species come ashore to lay their eggs. The female comes ashore under the camouflage of night, often to the beach where she was born, and digs an egg chamber that she fills with 100 or more soft-shelled eggs, each about the size of a tennis ball. She then gently covers the eggs with sand, moving over a wide area to obscure the exact location of her egg chamber. A few hours later, she slips back into the vast brown Atlantic Ocean, perhaps returning up to eight times within a season. Her hatchlings are left to fend for themselves and emerge 45-70 days later, making a dash for the water. In a swimming frenzy, the young turtles swim furiously for deeper water where they will be safer from predators. They usually lodge themselves in floating seaweed to hide from other ocean predators. Many of the hatchlings will only return to Shell Beach when they are sexually mature, some 15-40 years later.

Unfortunately, numbers of marine turtles have plummeted over the years. They are hunted by transient settlers and the indigenous Amerindian communities—mainly Arawak, Warrau and Carib Indians—and have also been impacted by habitat loss, commercial fishing and pollution of the oceans. With this in mind, and with funding from the Florida Audubon Society, Dr Pritchard began a pilot programme with two Amerindian former turtle hunters, Audley James and Compton Edmonson. The programme grew, and in April 2000, GMTCS was formally established.

Our work today involves four main areas. The first is our monitoring programme, where we have nightly sea turtle patrols to safeguard nesting females, while also providing tourists and visitors to the area a chance to experience this phenomenon first-hand. What’s more, we actively employ people who would ordinarily have been turtle consumers—turtle hunters or consumers—so that they can experience an alternative to killing the animals, and why it is so important to save them.

The second is our conservation camps for young people. They’re usually held between May and July each year, and accommodate up to 48 youths, eight parents, and eight teachers from local communities in the Shell Beach area. The participants are usually people who depend on fishing and poaching for their livelihood, so we aim to provide them with information that we hope will help them make the transition into being a community that offers the turtles protection and sanctuary while they are at their most vulnerable.

Our third ongoing initiative is one in partnership with the World Wildlife Fund, Ministry of Fisheries, and fishermen to reduce the number of turtles that are accidentally caught in the drift seine nets of fishermen, which can extend for up to two miles. Our first sea turtle by-catch study last year showed that over 100 sea turtles were caught and killed in this manner. The result is that, in addition to further jeopardising sea turtle populations, the sale and consumption of turtle meat is now spreading from traditional rural communities to the capital, Georgetown. Naturally, this works against our conservation efforts, if the wider population develops a palate for turtle meat.

Finally, I work closely with communities to ensure that conservation activities are always on their radar, and that turtle meat and eggs are not consumed or sold. Several communities have shown their commitment to sea-turtle conservation by writing it into their local laws. We are also developing our line of Northwest Organics products, such as crabwood oil, which is made from the Waini community and sold in various supermarkets. Several communities are developing eco-tourism based activities, like tours to Shell Beach to view sea turtles. But it is extremely challenging, as alternative projects are difficult to implement and are not always successful, so how do you tell a poor man not to kill a sea turtle to feed his children when there are no other options available to him?

Probably the greatest threat to these turtles, outside of hunting and errant fishermen’s nets, is lack of funding for conservation efforts. There are several conservation projects vying for the same limited pool of funding, so it is only the World Wildlife Fund that has directly funded sea turtle conservation activities for several years. But that only covers monitoring for 20 miles out of a 90-mile stretch of beach!

It’s sometimes overwhelming on an institutional, let alone an individual, level to feel you can make a real impact. But conservation goals are a bit like getting in shape: commitment is everything. The most effective way for people to support conservation and sustainable development in their everyday lives is just to talk about it, with friends, colleagues, children. We can also make careful choices as to what and how much we consume, like minimising the use of non-biodegradable products, and disposing of our waste properly. When plastics find their way into the ocean, turtles often mistake them for food. It’s also important not to buy or eat products from endangered or threatened species. And of course, volunteering for community and environmental organisations is a great way to spread the message and make an impact outside your own personal life.

Anyone who would like to get involved can contact the Sea Turtle Project at the Guyana Marine Turtle Conservation Society (GMTCS): Le Meridien Pegasus, Kingston, Guyana; T: (592) 225-4483/4. E-mail: gmtcs at bbgy.com

From the Caribbean Beat of May/June 2006
Michelle Kalamandeen tells Caroline Neisha Taylor why she has a special love for Guyana’s Shell Beach

Leatherback at Shell Beach, Guyana
Photo from Guyana Marine Turtle Conservation Society/Michelle Kalamadeen





Shell Beach is amazing—ninety miles of mangrove and lowland swamp forests, seasonal palm savannahs, and nine beaches consisting entirely of seashells, with thousands of plant and animal species.

( categories: )

Guyana Travel Guide - 2001

Description: 

This guide was first drafted by Sandie Tanner and Lex Hogenbosch, who did a stint with VSO in Guyana. This guide was prepared after they had visited several parts of Guyana, and realised that there were no other travel guides.

The information was compiled in 2001. Please note that some of the prices and details would have changed.


Document

This guide was first drafted by Sandie Tanner and Lex Hogenbosch, who did a stint with VSO in Guyana. This guide was prepared after they had visited several parts of Guyana, and realised that there were no other travel guides.

The information was compiled in 2001. Please note that some of the prices and details would have changed.

( categories: )

Tourism and Hospitality Association of Guyana (THAG)

Email contact: 
thag@networksgy.com
Description of organisation: 

THAG is an umbrella body of all Tourism related entities in Guyana. Members include hoteliers, resort owners, tour operators, travel agents, restaurants, jewellery and craft shops, transportation services among others. This association was formed twelve years ago by a small group of five persons. THAG is also a member of the Caribbean Hotel Association.

THAG is an umbrella body of all Tourism related entities in Guyana. Members include hoteliers, resort owners, tour operators, travel agents, restaurants, jewellery and craft shops, transportation services among others. This association was formed twelve years ago by a small group of five persons. THAG is also a member of the Caribbean Hotel Association.


thag@networksgy.com

KAIETEUR – Awaken, O Sleeping Giant

Description: 

This is from the Guyana Chronicle of 26 November, 2006

Here is a natural wonder of unparalleled distinction, one that invites reverential awe, but attracts a mere 200 visitors or so per month. Some of its teeming plant and animal life are rare and endangered. Its beauties include the rare Guiana Cock-of-the-rock, and the gold dart-poison, giant tank bromeliads and carnivorous plants.

As for the falls, Kaieteur, its distinction lies in the unique combination of great height and large volume.

It reflects a tumble of 741-feet in a single drop, rushing 45, 000 gallons of Potaro’s black water off the escarpment down to a magnificent gorge, making it one of the most powerful waterfalls in the world, rivaling even the Jog falls of India’s Karnataka state during the monsoon season.

In the western hemisphere, Kaieteur Falls is second in height only to Angel Falls, Venezuela (3012 feet), and is five times the height of Niagara Falls at the border of the US and Canada. Unlike Angel Falls, Kaieteur carries a large volume of water year round.

According to legend, the falls is named after Kaie, one of the great old chieftains of the Patamuna people, who inhabit the Pakaraima mountains in Guyana’s interior. He is said to have committed self sacrifice by paddling his canoe over the edge of the falls, to appease Makonaima, the great spirit god, in order to save the tribe from being destroyed by the savage Caribs.

However, as Shyam Nokta, the chairman of the Kaieteur National Park Board says, there is much to relish than the falls itself.

He says Kaieteur is a protected area since 1929, having been so designated by the colonial government, “out of recognition of its immense value” in terms of its landscape and ecological value.

“In 1929, it became perhaps one of first protective areas in this part of the hemisphere, and preceded Guyana becoming independent. This tells the extent to which Kaieteur has been recognised,” he says.

When local tour company Rainforest Tours and the National Parks Commission decided to undertake an overland trip to Kaieteur to help boost its ratings, Shyam decided to take the trip.

In the four years he has been at the helm of the management body for the Park, he has not been satisfied with the visitor figures to Kaieteur. What’s more, he operates on a tight budget and there is only so much he can do to protect the biodiversity of Guyana’s best known, but least experienced natural wonder.

Usually, visitors are flown from the Ogle airport, on the outskirts of Georgetown, to the Falls. There they spend a mere two hours. Nokta says it is unfair to them to spend so much money, about US$200, about the same cost to a Caribbean island from Guyana, and experience so little.

The overland trip was decided upon not only to aggressively begin a marketing strategy that allows visitors to experience the rich biodiversity of the Park and the challenges of the landscape, but also to examine ways of restricting illegal activities and unauthorised entry to the park.

Nokta headed the team that included representatives from the National Parks Commission, the Guyana Forestry Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Hydromet Department, and myself, as the lone journalist.

The 11-member team departed on November 1. Our journey would take but two days. The team departed Georgetown and headed to Pamela Landing, Mahdia, where we then boarded speedboats for Amatuk, where Frank Singh of Rainforest Tours has a house and employs Amerindians to cooks meals for those he takes on expeditions to the Park. He has been doing it for years now.

From there, it was off to Waratuk, the station at the entrance to the Park. Here, Nokta has come to commission the monitoring station, which was completed at a cost of G$3.8M. Two wardens from the Amerindian community of Chenapau have been hired to conduct the monitoring exercise. They have been provided with a multi-frequency radio set, an electrical generator, a water pump and wooden boat.

Nokta tells members of the team that the station is ideally located as it allows for monitoring and enforcement of the rules governing the park, which details no mining or hunting.

He says too the station has facilities to provide overland visitors with accommodation for a night. We would know, we were able to sling our hammocks for a good night rest.

Nokta points out that the most difficult challenge he faces is being able to monitor the Park.

The 1929 law was effected “to provide for the control of the said park and for the preservation of natural scenery, fauna and flora of the said park”.

It originally encompassed 44 square miles, but in the in the early 1970’s the park boundaries were reduced to 7.5 square miles around the falls to take advantage of the mineral resources of the area.

The Act has been amended over the years, the last being in March 1999, when the area of the Park was increased to 242 square miles with the hope of conserving the inherent natural beauty of Kaieteur for future generations.

Nokta says much of the Park is densely forested and much of it is inaccessible. Much activity, whether for tourism or research, is carried out in just about a five mile radius around the falls, as such Nokta says the challenge is being able to monitor the wider Kaieteur area, “being able to monitor the movement of people in and out, and to prevent illegal activities such as mining.”

The Park board has adopted a zero tolerance policy towards mining, and the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission, the EPA, the Forestry Commission and the Police conduct a coordinated exercises at least twice a year to ensure that this policy is not being violated.

For all of the Park, there are but four wardens, and another is currently being trained. Nokta says the Park board is looking to strengthen its relationship with the various agencies to be able to better monitor Kaieteur. He envisages a permanent police presence at Kaieteur.

The challenge he faces is that the Board does not benefit from a government subvention and so primarily depends on the landing fee it collects from visitors. This is a mere US$10, but this might soon increase to US$15. The rest of the revenue comes from that charged for overnight visitors who occupy the guest house for a measly US$12.5 each. Further, little revenue comes in from a newly erected souvenir shop which lies just off the airstrip.

As such, much development of the area depends on this minimal funding and the behest of the National Parks Commission which has to budget funds for Kaieteur and the country’s other parks.

BIODIVERSITY
Kaieteur National Park supports abundant plants and animal life but Nokta says a comprehensive biodiversity assessment has not been conducted. All the research done, has concentrated just around the falls, and he says that’s just “scratching the surface.

According to the EPA, in addition to outstanding geophysical features, the Potaro Plateau in which Kaieteur nestles, supports many different habitats. In some areas the forest opens into a wide shrub-herb “Guiana” type savannah. Absent of all but a few trees, the pink sands support scattered shrubs and a dense mat of small herbaceous plants that appear in the wet seasons. Numerous species of lichens and delicate herbs spring out of tiny cracks and on the surface of the rock.

Along the river, white sand forests are composed of numerous tree species, such as wallaba (Eperua), Brazilnut (lecythidaseae) and the coffee family (Rubiaceae).

At night, a group of us decide to take a walk on the airstrip. Intermittely, we are covered with the mist from the falls. With all but white in view, its like if we are walking in clouds. It’s a beautiful feeling that speaks to the majesty of the natural giant nearby.

Gibson explains that as the mist rises from the gorge, a cloud forest habitat is created at the top of the falls along the riparian forest which supports more epiphytes than a typical rain forest, yielding tree branches covered with mosses, orchids, ferns and aroids.

There are several endemic species of plants found in Kaieteur area including a member of the family Rapateaceae, endemic to the Guiana shield and a recently described fern, Hecistopteris kaieteurensis.

Little is known about the animal species of the Potaro Plateau, according to documents supplied by the EPA. Preliminary studies from recent visits by specialists have indicated that this area is particularly rich in animal life, and that the presence of previously unidentified species is probable.

Historically, agouti, paca, tapir, red brocket deer, collared peccary, bushmaster, labaria, jaguarundi, raccoon, golden frogs and tegu have been recorded for this area.

Although the fauna inventories for the area are incomplete, there are a number of animals considered under the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) to be extremely rare, in broad geographic range.

Important species known to be in the area are the cock-of-the-rock bird, as well as bush dogs (Speothos venaticus), listed by CITES as extremely rare.

The avifauna of the area attracts interest and enthusiasm. Several of the species are new to Guyana and others and considered to be rare or endangered. The Plateau has a number of larger mammals of international conservation importance, including the giant otter and bush dog. Jaguar is said to be present and is reported not to be hunted, and small wild cats are known.

The presence of these large mammalian predators, combined with such large avian predators as the harpy eagle, as well as the abundance of smaller species of hawks and falcons, suggest that both the Plateau’s aquatic and terrestrial ecosystem are probably healthy, each with a large volume of prey species, the EPA points out.

The number of primate species is high for the region, and the list includes a number of species that are elsewhere rare in the country, such as Spider monkeys. The presence of Cebus albifrons, the EPA says, means that the Plateau has three species of capuchin monkey in the same area, a very rare occurrence.

Recent studies have recorded 187 species of bird and 53 or 54 species of mammal. The area’s topography means that the plateau has the potential for exceptional biological diversity due to the enhancing effects of altitudinal zonation of flora and fauna.

However, at Kaieteur, an overnight night tourists’ delight and that of the overland team, is being able to see the golden dart-posion frog and the Guiana cock-of-the-rock, the dance of the swifts and the giant tank bromeliads.

Gibson boasts that the Cock-of-the-Rock, called so because they build their nests on faces of cliffs, large boulders, caves or steep gorges, knows his call. Maybe so, he has worked here for over a decade, both as warden and tour guide. We were not able to see one as he claimed from the bottom of mount Tekuit, from where we had to climb 1, 800 feet up and then 300 feet down to the falls. But as he conducted the tour of the falls’ immediate environs, we did catch site of the beauty.

He informs us of the dance the males perform to win over the attention of the females. Their courtship leks include loud noises, brilliant coloured plumage and active display.

Unfortunately, such conspicuous advertising also attracts predators to Cock-of-the-Rock leks. In Suriname, Trail (1987) found that the calls of Guianan Cock-of-the-Rock males displaying at leks could be heard several hundred meters through the forest and a diverse group of predators was attracted to the leks studied.

The golden dart-poison frog, called Colostethus beebei, Gibson informs, has toxins 1, 600 times that of cocaine. It’s a scary but amazing revelation for us. You know we aren’t going close to that thing, except with our cameras of course.

The bright yellow/orange frog spends its entire life-cycle inside the micro-ecosystem of the cloud forest's bromeliads. It is an opportunistic sit-and-wait predator whose diet includes many small arthropods, but especially mosquitoes and midges.

The most eye-catching plant in Kaieteur National Park is Brocchinia micrantha, a thick-stalked terrestrial Bromeliad that can grow to 12 feet high. Gibson actually knows these by their scientific name. He says it comes from the years he has spent at Kaieteur and his privilege of interacting with the different researchers that come.

The bromeliads grow through the unique microclimate the falls has created. It collects water in a "tank" formed by the base of its leaves.

Unlike tourists who fly in to Kaieteur for a two hour stay, those who stay overnight are able to see the dance of the swifts, either at sunset or sunrise.

The white-chinned and white-collared swifts are easily recognized by their rapid, fluttering flight, and long, narrow wings.

They make their home on the nearby cliffs of the plateau as well as behind the falls itself. These insect-eating birds fill the air at dawn and dusk, and they spend most of their waking time in the air, skimming around the falls and feeding on flying insects.

At night they sweep down at amazing speed to settle in their roosts. The roar of the torrent is immense, yet these tiny birds dive through the raging water to safety behind.

PLANS
There currently exists no management plan for the environmental conservation and protection of the Kaieteur National Park although a master plan for ecotourism development of the Park has been produced with support and assistance from the Organisation of American States.

The Government of Guyana is pursuing the establishment of a Protected Areas System and is currently advancing this objective through the National Biodiversity Advisory Committee, with the implementation of the National Biodiversity Action Plan, which was approved by the Cabinet in November 1999.

However, with his limited funding, Nokta looks at improving the infrastructure at Kaieteur, not just for tourism, but for managing the Park.

The plan is to develop eco-lodges to encourage more overnight visitors. Ideally, it would be located next to a stream, in an open area, so as not to interrupt the vegetation in the immediate area of the falls. The walk to the falls would be under 10 minutes.

Also, the plan includes establishing a center for visitors, which would provide washroom facilities, basic interpretation, and refreshments.

Nokta is currently “shopping” around for donor funding to realise the plan. He also wants to see an administrative centre that would house the wardens. He also wants to see a health worker based at Kaieteur.

He sees a continuing role for the two communities closest to the falls and it immediate environs. Chenapau is most important.

It is located outside the boundaries of the Park, but two of its representatives, including the Patamuna village captain sit on the Kaieteur board.

The community has but 500 inhabitants, and over half of the workers at Kaeietur are from Chenapau. The people speak their traditional Patamuna dialect, but they understand speak English as well.

For a living, they engage in hunting, farming, fishing and small-scale mining. They use bow and arrow to catch birds, animals and fish. Warishi, a traditional backpack made of vines, is used to transport their produce and during their spare time they knit fishing nets, hammocks and slings used to carry their babies.

Their traditional meals include cassava bread, pepper pot, fish, and wild meat such as labba, wild hog, wild deer, agouti, and birds such as marudi and powis.

With the establishment of the souvenir shop at Kaieteur, Nokta says a new door is opened to the Patamuna people. He wants to help the community to go into craft production to supply to the shop, so that they can have another source of income.

Nokta points out that the eco-tourism project of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is important to the community. A guest house is on its way to completion and an airstrip is underway.

Nokta says this will open up the community to tourism. It will give outsiders a change to indulge in the traditions and history of the Patamuna people, who have over the centuries mastered the art of living off the mountains.

However, while Chenapau rests outside the Park, Menzies Landing, a community of coastlanders rests within the Park.

According to Nokta, it has existed for over a decade now and was formed to facilitate the movement of goods to the miners in the greater area. Menzies Landing came into existence because of the fact that the only airstrip for the area was at Kaieteur.

Nokta has had his share of problems with this “transient community”.

“We work closely with them, they know they are residents in park and they have to abide by the regulations. When we noted activities to the contray, we have had to take firm action,” he says.

What happens to Menzies Landing in the long run, is beyond the jurisdiction of the Park board which Nokta heads.

He wants to see no activity that troubles with the biodiversity of Kaieteur. His ultimate goal is to see an increase in visitors to Kaieteur, not those who spend only two hours, but those want to spend longer.

As such, Nokta would like to see much more of the overland expeditions to Kaieteur.

“The true experience lies in being able to visit areas much beyond the falls - the experience of camping out in the rainforest, interacting in an intimate way with biodiversity, being able to visit Chenapau, and other communities. It is much more that experiencing the natural beauty of Kaieteur, but the culture and rich history of the Patamuna people,” he says.

And why, he doesn’t leave out the self accomplishment of being able to traverse the same terrain of Charles Barrington Brown, who became the first European visitor to discover the falls on April 24, 1870. Along the Potaro river, a feeling of euphoria envelopes your entire being as you spot the falls from a distance, with forest covered mountains surrounding you, each painting a new picture of the world beautiful. When you see waters from Kaieteur gushing at the bottom of mount Tukeit, the climb ahead seems no more daunting.

When you trek up the “Oh, my god!” mountain and the falls opens to your eyes, you know you have accomplished no ordinary feet. And what a trophy the view is for the effort!

As it is, Kaieteur is but a sleeping giant, waiting to be awakened and to be explored by the world over.


Document

This is from the Guyana Chronicle of 26 November, 2006

Here is a natural wonder of unparalleled distinction, one that invites reverential awe, but attracts a mere 200 visitors or so per month. Some of its teeming plant and animal life are rare and endangered. Its beauties include the rare Guiana Cock-of-the-rock, and the gold dart-poison, giant tank bromeliads and carnivorous plants.

As for the falls, Kaieteur, its distinction lies in the unique combination of great height and large volume.

( categories: )

Charismatic Jewel of the Lost World: The Golden rocket frog

Description: 

This is an article on the golden rocket frog in Guyana which was available from http://www.reptilia.net. It is authored by Philippe J. R Kok, Godfrey R Bourne, Deokie Arjoon, Nicole M Wolf and Georges Lenglet


Document

This is an article on the golden rocket frog in Guyana which was available from http://www.reptilia.net. It is authored by Philippe J. R Kok, Godfrey R Bourne, Deokie Arjoon, Nicole M Wolf and Georges Lenglet

Linden Economic Advancement Programme (LEAP)

Description: 

EAP is a Government of Guyana and European Union programme with the objective of fostering entrepreneurship and enterprise for economic development of the town of Linden.

In the face of continued decline of the bauxite industry in Region 10, and the consequent severe economic dislocations, the Government of Guyana and European Union initiated efforts to expand Region 10’s economic base through the diversification of the local economy away from the traditional bauxite dependency. The Linden Economic Advancement Programme LEAP was launched in 2002 with a planned injection of Euro €12 million for the execution of the project over a seven year period.


Website

EAP is a Government of Guyana and European Union programme with the objective of fostering entrepreneurship and enterprise for economic development of the town of Linden.

In the face of continued decline of the bauxite industry in Region 10, and the consequent severe economic dislocations, the Government of Guyana and European Union initiated efforts to expand Region 10’s economic base through the diversification of the local economy away from the traditional bauxite dependency. The Linden Economic Advancement Programme LEAP was launched in 2002 with a planned injection of Euro €12 million for the execution of the project over a seven year period.

Small and Medium Forest Enterprise in Guyana

Description: 

Authors : Raquel Thomas, Duncan Macqueen, Yolanda Hawker and Taryn DeMendonca
Abstract
Guyana is one of the poorest countries in South America and the Caribbean with an average per capita GDP of only US$ 2.2/day. With almost 75% of its land area covered in forest, the forest industry is important for Guyanese national development and poverty eradication. This study assesses the opportunities and constraints facing the Small and Medium Forest Enterprises (SMFEs) in Guyana. Almost all (90%) of SMFEs are owned by Guyanese individuals or family firms. Similarly, most (but not quite all) are directed towards the domestic and not the export market. The government policy towards SMFEs faces the conundrum that they are important for rural income generation, but less desirable in terms of enforceable sustainability. There is a clear need for a concerted programme of work in Guyana to address the various obstacles to economic, social and environmental sustainability faced by SMFEs. This study argues maps out how wide ownership of such a process could lead to significant gains for sustainable development.
Click here to download the report from the website of the International Institute for Environment and Development

Authors : Raquel Thomas, Duncan Macqueen, Yolanda Hawker and Taryn DeMendonca
Abstract
Guyana is one of the poorest countries in South America and the Caribbean with an average per capita GDP of only US$ 2.2/day. With almost 75% of its land area covered in forest, the forest industry is important for Guyanese national development and poverty eradication. This study assesses the opportunities and constraints facing the Small and Medium Forest Enterprises (SMFEs) in Guyana. Almost all (90%) of SMFEs are owned by Guyanese individuals or family firms. Similarly, most (but not quite all) are directed towards the domestic and not the export market. The government policy towards SMFEs faces the conundrum that they are important for rural income generation, but less desirable in terms of enforceable sustainability. There is a clear need for a concerted programme of work in Guyana to address the various obstacles to economic, social and environmental sustainability faced by SMFEs. This study argues maps out how wide ownership of such a process could lead to significant gains for sustainable development.
Click here to download the report from the website of the International Institute for Environment and Development