Georgetown, Guyana – (July 6, 2018) Minister of State, Mr. Joseph Harmon, today, paid a visit to the Iwokrama Centre for Rain Forest Conservation and Development in Kurupukari, Potaro-Siparuni (Region Eight), where he met with the Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Dane Gobin and other officials, to discuss the management of the Centre and to invite a proposal for the establishment of a world-class International Biodiversity Centre for studies and research.

Addressing members of the management team, Minister Harmon noted that the Biodiversity Centre is a vision of President David Granger and aims at setting up a hub for biodiversity research and studies. Minister Harmon said that the President believes that the Centre can be the means through which greater global awareness is raised regarding the importance of the Guiana Shield and the protection and conservation of Guyana’s rich biodiversity. He, therefore, requested that the Centre provide a proposal at the earliest opportunity, to facilitate perusal and discussions at the Governmental level.

“The Science-based side of Iwokrama is something which the President has a deep interest in… and I have asked the Centre for a proposal in that respect. They have given me the assurance that there’s already a proposal, which might need a little tweaking but in fact there is such a proposal. I’ve asked them to fast track it; I’ve asked them for some other information with respect to the income and the expenditure statements of the entity. I’ve asked them for important information on the composition of the Board for Iwokrama because it is an international Centre and therefore there are international implications for what… we do here. So these are things that we have actually asked for and I am given the assurance that this information will be provided very shortly so as I see it, things will start to move here very quickly,” Minister Harmon said.

In an invited comment at the conclusion of the meeting, the Minister of State said that the engagement also provided an opportunity to examine the issues that are affecting the smooth management of the facility. “There are some issues with respect to the financial arrangements here that is affecting the smooth flow of activities at the Centre. We came here and we got a proper explanation from the Manager and we are satisfied that …Iwokrama is a healthy place. It requires some little bit of injection here and there, but I believe that from what I have seen and from the international commitments, that all of these are important features when we look at the funding, which is required. I think there is not much that is needed to keep this important institution of Guyana afloat… it is the centre of Guyana. It is the heart of Guyana. It is the heart of the Guiana Shield and therefore, we have to keep the heart beating and pumping very smoothly,” he said.

Meanwhile, in his address to residents at a community meeting held at the Fairview Community Centre, Minister Harmon said that the community, which is the only village within the protected area, would become a part of the continuing development, which will begin to take place at Iwokrama. He noted that as the Government looks to advance these developments, with the view of ensuring that more funds are allocated, it is the intention that the residents will also benefit and become empowered.

“To get to Iwokrama, you’ve got to use this airstrip so whatever is happening here is linked to what is taking place in Iwokrama. Now when you have an International Biodiversity Centre there at that , you will definitely have spin-off effects on the communities that are around it because once you are building there, you will have to have building works taking place there in the community. We will have to have increased employment opportunities for our people. We will have to have increased skills and capacity building for our people in these communities so that what is taking place in Iwokrama has to be reflected from the time somebody arrives at this airstrip – they must know that they are in a particular area of this country and so all of the developments that will take place there will have an impact on what is happening here at Fairview,” he said.

The young people of the village, Minister Harmon pointed out, will have to become educated and empowered to take advantage of the opportunities that may come their way. In this regard, he said that the Government will be working in conjunction with Iwokrama to ensure that resources are also invested into the community.

“As a government, we are investing heavily in your education because we want you to surpass your parents. We want you to go on higher and achieve higher things than they did and it is through this level of cooperation that we will be able to bridge that gap between those people who are not properly educated, with those who are well educated. Government is spending a huge sum of money for that purpose. We’re going to be putting some more resources into this school and into the schools in this community and as part of my interactions with Iwokrama, I’m going to [direct] them that they should pay some attention, with whatever resources [that they have], that some of [those resources] must be invested in this community,” he said.

Meanwhile, Vice President and Minister of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs, Mr. Sydney Allicock, echoed these sentiments, noting that being in the vicinity, particularly the gateway to the International Centre, will present great opportunities for the village to become a leading community in Guyana. He therefore urged them to begin to think of ways in which they can take advantage of the opportunities that will become available. “We must be able to take our development into our own hands. We must be the managers. We must be the people owning things; we must be the masters of our own destiny. Guyana is now the gateway to both South America and the Caribbean and we have our young people who must be given the opportunity to be able to help in the process of development. For too long we have been just waiting our turn, this is our turn. With this Government, everything is possible as long as we work together,” he said.

Mr. Gobin, in an invited comment, said that the Centre, which will celebrate 30 years next year, has shared and will continue to share a strong relationship with the Fairview community. “Iwokrama has some of the most complex Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and Benefits Sharing Agreements with Fairview. We have a special relationship with Fairview in that 22,000 hectares of the Iwokrama Forest has been titled to the community but they have chosen not to excise their 22.000 hectares and so they are included in the management plan of Iwokrama. This is our extended family and we have a very close relationship,” he said.

Toshao of the village, Mr. Martin Carter, also said that the community enjoys a great relationship with the Centre and looks forward to capitalising on the approaching opportunities, which will become available when the Biodiversity Centre is realised.

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