Bibiana Bilbao

Bibiana Bilbao

Simón Bolívar University, Dept. of Environmental Studies
Caracas, Venezuela

Ecological & Cultural Basis of Fire Occurrence in Canaima National Park of Venezuela

Interpreting the use of Fire by Pemon Indigenous Communities

March 15, 2016

On the 11th February 2016, a workshop was held at Royal Holloway of University of London about the results of ecological and human dimensions of fire uses by Pemon Indigenous communities in tropical savannas of Canaima National Park, Venezuela

The workshop led by Dr Bibiana Bilbao was part of the activities of the Participatory and Intercultural Fire Management project, funded by British Academy  and dictated during the RHUL postgraduate course Politics, Development & Sustainability (PDS) 2015/16, coordinated by Dr. Jay Mistry.

Canaima National Park (CNP), Venezuela, is an area of great value due both to its biological and cultural singularity. The control of high incidence of fires is considered one of the major challenges for the CNP conservation. Conflict has arisen over fire management because while fire plays an essential role in the Pemón way of life, the policy of the park authorities is to prevent fires, creating a mismatch between fire policies and Indigenous burning practices.

The Introduction of the workshop presented the experience gained over 20 years integrating Pemón Indigenous and ecological scientific knowledge in the developing of an integrated and participatory fire management in savanna ecosystems of CNP, Venezuela. The presentation was divided according to the results obtained from four research-action areas: 1) fire ecology studies and long-term fire experiments emulating indigenous traditional practices; 2) Recording and documentation for conservation of Pemon Indigenous knowledge of fire uses through interviews and dialogue with grandparents carried on by young indigenous researchers; and 3) efforts to articulate knowledge and experiences (indigenous people, environmental managers, academics, etc) for the elaboration of a proposal oriented towards a legitimate and intercultural environmental fire management policy.

Following the presentation, there was an opportunity to feedback with the group and the participants took part in a practical session to answer a questionnaire. The emerging points for the discussion were the role of fire in tropical system dynamics, and the value of integration of traditional indigenous and ecological academic knowledge for alternative fire management options to the actual fire suppression policy in the Park.



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