Celine Tschirhart

Royal Holloway University of London
Egham, United Kingdom

Kicking off with “Best Practices” in the North Rupununi

Field Report n°8

March 1, 2013

This is a personal account from Dr Céline Tschirhart, Post-Doctoral Researcher in the COBRA project, who traveled to the North Rupununi from 22 January to 8 February 2013.

Project COBRA – Creative Commons

London, 1 March 2013 - When I left London on a snowy Sunday morning of January, for the warmer and drier weather of the North Rupununi savannas, I can’t say I felt fully confident. Although thrilled at the idea of spending a little more than two full weeks in the North Rupununi, I was also very aware that, along with Grace, Rebecca, Ryan, Lakeram and Deirdre (the Guyanese team of researchers), we had only two weeks to achieve a lot. This step of the project is particularly crucial and exciting as it builds on the results produced over the past year-and-a-half, to extract the very best Local solutions for future challenges. The main objective of this trip was to use the data collected in Workpackage 2 (the current situation in the North Rupununi) and Workpackage 3 (Future Scenarios), in order to select best practices (Workpackage 4) which will be recorded for show casing in the Guiana Shield (Workpackage 5; see more about COBRA’s structure and activities).

How did we select best practices?

As a consortium, we developed a series of criteria against which each of the North Rupununi viability indicators were marked. For example, one of these criteria was: ”Does this indicator have a satisfying threshold[1]?” So indicators with a satisfying threshold got a high mark, which increased their chances of being selected as a best practice. To do that, we needed to finalise and verify thresholds for the community indicators of viability. We went through all the 180 viability indicators, deciding on how to measure them and what the tipping points were. For example, for the “Timber” indicator, the limit between the “good” and “bad” situation is now when “the majority of people in a community knows how, what, why, when and how much to extract on their land.” This one got a top mark, as it was considered extremely satisfying: without the knowledge, no sustainable use of timber can be carried out.

Another important criterion for selecting best practices was whether they geared towards best-case scenarios or not: we have to promote practices that create a good future. To do that, each indicator was confronted to the local future scenarios and given a mark according to whether they thought it could make the scenarios come true…whether best or worst. For example, practices related to “Timber” got a high mark for worst and best case scenarios. Best practices for timber extraction are of crucial importance for the self-sufficiency of the North Rupununi, but the potential for conflict, divide, corruption and bribery is very high, as it is a commercial resource. In that case, it becomes particularly important to document, share and implement best practices.

Through this process, we short-listed key areas for sustainability, in which best practices will be captured and documented. When I left the North Rupununi, two best practices had already been identified and were being documented: “Developing a successful project with partners” and “Transmitting culture to youth.” Storyboards have been developed, champions of these practices identified and engaged, interviews led, information gathered, some footage captured, and these two films should be completed for mid-March.

We could say our brains have been relentlessly teased (as the picture shows!) over these two weeks of work, but the sessions were fruitful, even seedful as Lakeram would say, and we achieved our objectives! Now at least six Best Practices are being documented, to be shared with other indigenous communities of the Guiana Shield.

[1] Thresholds are the tipping points between an acceptable situation and a critical situation in a community.



QUICK DOWNLOAD: Check out the English version of the COBRA Handbook for Practitioners.