Bibiana Bilbao

Bibiana Bilbao

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

New advances building the Participatory and Intercultural Fire Management in Venezuela (Part 2)

Meetings and workshops with authorities and officials of Venezuelan government institutions: General Direction of Hydrographical Basins Conservation, Ministry of Popular Power for Ecosocialism and Waters (MINEA)

September 15, 2016

New advances and agreements with Venezuelan government institutions and policy makers for the construction of the Intercultural and Participative Fire Management in Canaima National Park, Venezuela.

Foto-reunion-autoridades-KavanayenDuring year 2016, the research group of the “Building the case for integrating Indigenous and academic knowledge into a participatory and sustainable fire management policy”  project, supported by British Academy, UK, and coordinated by the Royal Holloway University of London and Simon Bolivar University carried out a series of activities to comply with the “next steps” agreements reached during first meeting (2015) of Intercultural and Participatory Fire Management Network in Canaima National Park, Venezuela.

The present report comprehends the activities developed and new agreements reached with the General Direction of Hydrographical Basins Conservation, Ministry of Popular Power for Ecosocialism and Waters (MINEA), for the diffusion of the declaration and commitments of the Fire Network and building cooperation for the implementation of Participatory and Intercultural Fire Management in Canaima National Park, Venezuela.

1. Visit of authorities of Government Institutions: Dr. Guillermo Barreto, Vice Minister for Research and Application of Knowledge, Ministry of Popular Power for University Education, Science and Technology, and Ing. Adrián León, Head of General Direction of Hydrographical Basins Conservation, Ministry of Popular Power for Ecosocialism and Waters (MINEA) to the Pemón Indigenous community of Kavanayén. 10 September 2016.

During the visit, the authorities of government Institutions had the opportunity to observe the development of the Participatory and Intercultural fire management workshop (see the details of this workshop in this webpage) and hear from different members of the community their point of view and impressions about this activity.  Captain Humberto Chaní explained to the authorities the importance for the Plan de vida Pemon the recovery of the ancestral practices of fire management and the necessity of integration with the Institutions to work together for the strengthening of the Participatory and Intercultural Fire Management. Ing. Adrián León invited Dr. Bibiana Bilbao to take the proposals and results from all these initiatives in the region to the presentation of “Integral Water Management Plan and the Program for the Sustainable Management of Natural Resources in the Caroní River Basin” to be held in Caracas at the MINEA facilities during the following days.

2. Attendance to the presentation of the “Integral Water Management Plan and the Program for the Sustainable Management of Natural Resources in the Caroní River Basin” by Ing. Adrián León, Head of Conservation of Hydrographic Basins Direction, Ministry of Popular Power for Ecosocialism and Waters (MINEA). 18 September 2016.

The basin of the river Caroní represents a strategic zone for the country. It is the second most important basin after the Orinoco River, covering a region of important natural resources with high biological diversity, is the habitat of the Pemón Indigenous communities of great cultural value and through the dam systems the Caroní Basin supplies 70% of the country’s energy. The Canaima National Park comprises the upper and middle basins of the Caroní River, so the establishment of management and conservation policies of the Basin are of vital importance for the sustainability of the region.

During the discussion of the Program’s guidelines among attendees, the importance of incorporating the Indigenous fire theme, based on the Indigenous and ecological approach to fire management and conservation of the Basin was emphasized. We mentioned the urgency to overcome the traditional view of public institutions regarding the suppression of the use of Indigenous fire, since on the one hand, it causes an increase in the vulnerability of indigenous communities, due to fire plays an essential role in the Pemón way of life, on the other hand, increases the biomass of fuel accumulation that produces large fires in the Basin. The traditional view of fire suppression has proved to be inefficient in fire control through Institutional Programs that have not been able to combat the high numbers of fires in the Basin despite having a relevant budget and human resources for its execution.

Due to the importance of this topic, Dr. Bibiana Bilbao was invited to give a workshop in the General Direction of Hydrographic Basins Conservation about the value of Indigenous fire management and the integration with scientific knowledge and technical capabilities of institutions for the conservation of tropical ecosystems.

Foto-Quemar_o_no_quemar_20-SEP3. Workshop: Burn or not burn? Changing Fire Management Paradigms at General Direction of Hydrographic Basins Conservation (MINEA), 20 September 2017

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 tropical ecosystems of Canaima National Park, Venezuela. Following the presentation, there was an opportunity to feedback to the 30 official and members of the different dependencies of MINEA.

The emerging points for the discussion were the function of Indigenous fire in tropical system dynamics, and the demystification of Pemón indigenous people as destructive burners causing deforestation and damage to the forest of the Caroní basin. Another key point of the discussion was the perception of indigenous communities recorded in the documentary: “Pemón Culture: the fire that cannot be extinguished” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hlS2MIfzRoY) about the necessity that institutions understand the uses of fire and Indigenous practices, This invited to the reflection about the significant value that can have the integration of knowledge and capabilities between public Institutions, academics and Indigenous communities for an integrated Management plan of fire management in the Caroní Basin. Participants showed their great interest in joining initiatives and actions in the implementation of Participatory and Intercultural Fire Management and the importance of incorporating all this information in the “Integral Water Management Plan and the Program for the Sustainable Management of Natural Resources in the Caroní River Basin”.

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