Our sustainable forestry work: Iwokrama, Guyana
Iwokrama is an area of tropical rainforest in Guyana, South America, covering an area of about 3,710 square kilometers – that’s roughly the size of Cornwall!
The forest is managed by Iwokrama International Centre for Rainforest Conservation and Development (ICC). It’s a not-for-profit organisation, with a focus to create programs that utilise the forest sustainably, allowing for a mutual benefit between the people and the forest itself.
To demonstrate its commitment to social, environmental and economic ways of working, Iwokrama approached Soil Association Certification in 2014 to certify their forest to FSC® (Forest Stewardship Council®) Certification standards. It has since shown exemplary practises in annual surveillance audits.
IIC is the first forest in Guyana to get FSC certification. As the programme grows, and the benefits of certification become evident, local communities who have titled forest area, as well as forestry and logging companies will be encouraged to follow its lead.
A unique reserve of rainforest
Iwokrama is one of the world’s most pristine areas of tropical rainforest, home to some of our largest and most endangered species – the harpy eagle, jaguar, giant otter, anaconda, giant river turtle and more than 30% of species found there are classified as rare and endangered.
The forest is divided into two sectors. One is kept as a wilderness preserve (50% of the total area). The other is the Sustainable Use Area. The majority of the forest is also classified as an intact forest landscape, meaning that overall more than 70% of the area is preserved from any industrial activity.
Responsible forestry practises
Reduced impact logging techniques are used in the Sustainable Use Area, notably full tree inventory, directional felling and skid trail design. This minimises damage to the remaining trees and ensures logs are easily accessible for extraction, which minimises disturbance to surrounding vegetation. Fewer than 10 trees per hectare are removed and regeneration is left to happen naturally.
As well as many other species, the forest has healthy coverage of the highly prized greenheart (Chlorocardium rodiei) and purpleheart (Peltogyne sp.) trees. Both offer natural density and water resistance that make them useful as pilings and decking in the construction of ships, ports and docks, and Iwokrama has successfully used its FSC certification to access valuable export markets in Europe and the US
Iwokrama is exceptional among conservation organisations for joining with local people in every aspect of its work. Close relationships with local indigenous communities, based on equality and mutual trust, help drive the co-management of Iwokrama and its resources.
16 local communities (approximately 7,000 people) are shareholders and participants in the IIC’s sustainable timber, tourism and research operations and share benefits through co-management of the forest and benefit-sharing agreements.
Upholding the rights of local communities is an integral aspect of FSC certification, and during our audits it was important that we consult with local stakeholders, including meeting with local representatives and villagers.
Iwokrama is many things to many people; it is a well-managed forest seeking to balance conservation, social consciousness and economic use while meeting the needs of present and future generations. Forest Management certification with Soil Association Certification validates Iwokrama’s efforts to demonstrate social, environmental and ecological sustainability, conservation and community benefits.Dane Gobin, Iwokrama International Centre
Guyana’s gift to the world
Iwokrama is a magical place; preserved as one of the last untouched rainforests in world. Under the stewardship of the ICC, Iwokrama populations of jaguars, primates, bird species, and other flora and fauna are flourishing, as well as empowered communities whose voice is vital to how the forest is managed.
Learn more about the work at Iwokrama or read about the work we do across our organisation to protect and celebrate forests around the world.
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