Georgetown, Guyana – (January 18, 2018) President David Granger, today, committed to ensuring that Guyana preserves its land assets and promotes more efficient mining and logging practices at a signing ceremony for a US$15M project document for the implementation of a four-year Sustainable Land Development and Management Programme (SLDMP). The sum was acquired by the Project Management Office (PMO) of the Ministry of the Presidency, under the Guyana REDD+ Investment Fund (GRIF), which is a fund for the financing of activities identified under the former Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS). The fund receives money from Norway in performance-based payments based on an independent verification of Guyana’s deforestation and forest degradation rates and progress on REDD+ enabling activities.

The Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission (GLSC), with support from the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) in Guyana, will be the executing agency.

In his remarks to the heads of agencies and other government and non-governmental functionaries gathered in the Baridi Benab at State House, President Granger said that Guyana’s land-based natural capital must be managed sustainably if present and future generations are to enjoy the ‘good life’. He noted that Guyana has made progress on the crafting of its Framework Document of the Green State Development Strategy in order to ensure sustainable development. Sustainable land development is essential to protecting the nation’s natural patrimony and ensuring economic development.

“Land use planning and natural resource management are among the core strategic areas. The ‘Strategy’ will place emphasis on the effective management and protection of our land and marine resources, our ecosystems and the rich biodiversity of these systems, inter alia. Land resources could be degraded, depleted and devalued by both natural and man-made actions. Rising sea levels, caused by global warming, have eroded our natural sea defence structures. The porousness of some of our drainage systems has allowed for intrusion of salt water into farmlands. Excessive rainfall could lead to the swelling of rivers; affect soil productivity and exact crop losses,” he said.

President Granger noted that the increased demand for lands for farming, logging and mining has increased the threats to the country’s natural capital and are the main causes of deforestation. Small-scale mining alone accounted for 89 per cent of deforestation over the past three years while river mining is polluting the waterways on which many hinterland residents still depend for bathing, drinking, fishing and washing, the Head of State said.

“Reckless use and management of land can impact adversely on the environment and citizens’ quality of life. Land degradation has the potential to affect food security, sustainable livelihoods, poverty reduction and social stability. Guyana therefore, recognszes the importance of protecting its land assets. It knows that the land degradation will result in natural resource depletion which, if not controlled, will lead to underdevelopment. Guyana has committed itself to preserve its land assets. We shall also promote more efficient mining and logging practices, including post-extractive land reclamation; push sustainable forestry practices including reduced-impact logging and improved forest monitoring and pursue mineral mapping so [as] to identify areas of marginal, or less than viable, mineral deposits,” the President said.

The President said that Guyana’s green development agenda demands the fulfilment of these environmental obligations and the adoption of practices to better manage land resources and the augmentation of institutional capacity to improve monitoring and verification of land use.

“It demands the modernisation of archaic land development and management systems. It demands integrated land development and management practices to resolve the problems of land degradation. Land governance is central to the green development agenda. The Mainstreaming Sustainable Land Development and Management Project will allow Guyana to protect its natural capital by reducing land degradation. It promotes responsible farming, logging, mining and other land uses. I am confident that it will allow Guyana to build capacity, strengthen its land governance and move more quickly to the goal of becoming a ‘green state’,” President Granger noted.

Minister of Finance, Mr. Winston Jordan, who signed the document on behalf of the Government of Guyana, in his remarks, said that the Government welcomes the project, which has been designed to ensure that the productivity and economic potential of land is maintained even as the natural resources are used to streamline and develop the ‘green’ economy.

“The overarching goal of sustainable land management should be to contribute to Government projects and programmes that are aimed at achieving poverty reduction, economic growth while promoting the full utilization of land resources in a sustainable manner. As such, issues that have to do with improving land tenure security, enhancing the efficiency, transparency and improving service delivery and enhancing local government capacity to undertake land management functions must be all brought into contention. I am happy that this project has been designed to tackle many of these areas. We have high expectations that this land management project will provide the required, the relevant, data to inform our planning processes and help us to position strategically our physical infrastructure such as roads, bridges, drains, culverts and other structures in order to avoid disrupting the eco system,” he said.

Further, he noted that the project will allow Government to be able to protect and rehabilitate those areas that have been degraded through irregular and unsustainable mining and logging practices that cause erosion and contaminate waterways, among other negative effects while sound land management will provide information that helps to reduce the level of production risk and protect the natural resources potential by preventing degradation of air, soil and water quality.

Minister Jordan said that the Government looks to the timely and seamless implementation of this transformative project. “We need to take stock of lessons learnt and ensure that slippages identified in the implementation of GRIF projects, those that are associated with time and cost overruns, are not repeated in this project. I want to impress upon the implementing partners of this project that all deliverables are achieved within the specified timeframe and the budget. This of course will require the cooperation of all relevant stakeholders to support the Guyana Land and Surveys Commission in carrying out its mandate to realize the goals of the Sustainable Development Goal and management project,” he said.

Meanwhile, Head of the GLSC, Mr. Trevor Benn said that the Commission is optimistic that this project will significantly change the trajectory of land development and management in Guyana. He noted that it is another key element in the pathway to a ‘green’ economy as part of the project and he expects that the capacity of the GLSC to full execute its legal mandate in a sustainable and effective manner will be significantly strengthened.

“It is important to know that Guyana today has in excess of 34 legislations that has something to do with land and this is causing a number of issues, which this project will address. The project is also intended to address the anomalies generated by these overlapping legislations. A couple of deliverables we expect from the project is the creation of our first ever National Land Policy. Additionally, it is expected that there will be enhanced land governance through regulatory and financial systems, up to date geospatial information and management and enhanced institutional capacity. Importantly, the project will also assist in building the capacity of key stakeholders outside of the Commission,” he said.

Country Representative of the FAO in Guyana, Mr. Reuben Robertson, in brief remarks, said that the organisation is pleased to be a part of the project as it falls under the Sustainable Management of Natural Resources goals of the FAO. He noted that the organisation provided financial support to the tune of US$100,000 to facilitate the recruitment of consultants, host consultations with stakeholders and provide technical experts within the FAO to assist with the conceptualization and formulation of the project document, which was completed in 14 months.

“Today marks the first official step towards the implementation of this project and our collective expectation is to have 100 percent of the results achieved within the four-year project cycle. The project has four main components, which includes addressing sustainable land development and management in policy, legislation, institution, and governance mechanisms to prevent land degradation and restore degraded lands; strengthening institutional capacity to integrate sustainable land development and management; strengthening of local governance in three regions for implementing sustainable land development and management and component four will focus on project management, monitoring, and evaluation,” he said.

Head of the PMO, Mr. Marlon Bristol said that the GRIF has taken keen interest in projects that reduce emissions from degradation and deforestation. It is with this mandate, he said, that the GRIF funds have been allocated to the sustainable land management. “In this context, putting to use degraded lands provides a great opportunity and impetus for the establishment of a ‘green’ state,” he said.

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