Odacy Davis


Local Solutions for Protected Areas Management

Cobra Participates in Symposium of the Guiana Shield Protected Areas

October 22, 2014

Odacy Davis, Manager of the Cobra Project in Guyana, shares her experience of this recent trip to French Guiana

presentation The Cobra Project was invited by the Guiana Shield Facility (GSF)-UNDP to participate in this Symposium held in Cayenne, French Guiana from 10th – 15th October 2014. The event was organized by SEPANGUY who is celebrating 50 years of work in the region, the Council of Culture, Education and Environment in French Guiana (CCEE) and the GSF-UNDP. SEPANGUY is a non-profit association created under the 1901 law and working to protect the environment in French Guiana. It was founded in 1964 by Father Barbotin of the Zoological Society and is the oldest of its kind in the region.

The overall objectives of the Symposium were to bring together protected areas practitioners, indigenous leaders and scientists to:

  • present and document data and examples illustrating contributions of protected areas within the Guiana Shield particularly in terms of science, socio-economic development and governance with local communities;
  • discuss environmental risks and global changes;
  • follow-up on the Kurupukari Plan of Action on Guiana Shield biodiversity corridors;
  • strengthen the networking between local communities.

SAM_2776The Guyana delegation included representatives of Cobra Project, Iwokrama International Centre, North Rupununi District Development Board (NRDDB), Kanuku Mountains Community Representative Group (KMCRG), Guyana Marine Turtle Conservation Society (GMTCS) and GSF-UNDP. After traveling for two full days by land, the team finally arrived in Cayenne on Friday night to a warm welcome by the symposium organizers and chief hosts Mr. and Mrs. Claude Suzanon. The symposium commenced with two simultaneous field trips on Saturday 11th. I opted for the overnight trip to Maripasoula in the Parc Amazonia where I had the great opportunity of meeting local inhabitants of the park to observe and discuss issues related to conservation and management of protected areas. The journey upriver to the first indigenous community included several rides over huge rapids that the indigenous captains so skillfully negotiated.  Due to the low water level, we were unable to reach as far as Antecume Pata where the Cobra project has worked to find and share local solutions, nevertheless we spent significant time in the community of Elae where we sat and shared our experiences with the Granman (Chief Leader). Mike Williams of NRDDB, who understood the native language, greeted and spoke to the community leaders on our behalf.

We were then given an overview of the management of the protected area participants from Guyana were particularly interested in the relationship between the communities and park management, since communities lived in the park and had no title to the land. It was explained by the park managers that although the indigenous people have no exclusive rights to the land as is the case in Guyana, communities have user rights to extract for traditional purposes (a right that is protected by law).  We then met the administration of Maripasoula, which is the largest French territory (in size) – here issues of illegal gold mining and its impacts on communities were shared. Again indigenous leaders from Guyana were able to share their experiences and similar challenges. I also took the opportunity to update the park mangers on the collaboration between the Cobra Project and the community of Antecume Pata – they were eager to hear of the success of the engagement and the recently concluded film festival that they supported.

presentationThe symposium continued from Monday to Wednesday with plenary, round table and workshop sessions on various topics. The Cobra Project was asked to present in the workshop session that focused on the theme “What strategies can be used to improve the preservation and valuation of cultural heritage, in the protected areas. I made the first of three presentations in this workshop, where I shared the concept of local solutions, what they were, how they were identified using the Cobra Handbook, their importance and recommendations for protected areas managers and policy makers. Specific emphasis was placed on the fact that the indigenous culture or way of life was directly linked to their methods of protection and conservation of the environment and by embracing these practice, park managers and Protected area systems can give value and significance  to the culture of the local people. Using the examples of the six best practices identified in the North Rupununi, I pointed out that each of best practices demonstrated an element of indigenous culture, with one best practice solely focusing on the transmission of culture to youth. In closing my presentation, I reiterated the need for the scaling up of these local solutions and the indigenous – indigenous exchange which can help foster better management practices and programmes in protected areas. An invitation was made to protected areas managers and other actors to use the cobra handbook and the participatory methods.

The Cobra Project received additional visibility during the symposium, through the following presentations:

  • Iwokrama – where it was mentioned that the project was using innovative ways to engage with local communities;
  • Parc Amazonien de Guyane – where Cobra Project was mentioned as the first external project that the Parc has supported to work with the indigenous communities in the park. They also expressed an interest in future collaborations using these interactive Cobra methods;
  • GSF-UNDP in their presentation on the Kurupukari Action Plan, stated that they have an existing MOU with the Cobra Project and will be engaging the help of the project to use the Cobra Handbook to build capacities across the Guiana Shield Region. This action plan and its recommendations will be taken to the IUCN World Parks Congress, in Sydney 2014.

This symposium also gave me a good opportunity to network with participants from the various countries, while sharing the Cobra experience. On the whole, many participants were impressed with the approach and expressed interest in applying it to their field of work. Parc Amazonia and Staff of the Roura- Kaw Nature Reserve were very keen on collaborating with the Project to which follow up will be made.

Over the coming weeks the Cobra Project will be engaging the GSF on how best we can address the action point of the Kurupukari Action Plan that speaks to “strengthening indigenous and other networks at the regional level to share experiences of territorial management and facilitate platforms to promote idea exchange and best practices, capacity building and natural resource management”. The GSF is seen as a strong link between the countries of the Guiana Shield, institutions, NGOs and individual experts and as such the Cobra Project is excited about the prospects of this partnership.

Read more on the Kurupukari Action Plan




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