Georgetown, Guyana – (August 23, 2019) Minister of State, Mrs. Dawn Hastings- Williams, today, said the management and sustainable utilisation of forestry resources is integral to the Government’s developmental trajectory.

She was at the time addressing participants at the closing ceremony of a capacity building workshop funded under the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Food and Agricultural Organization and European Union Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (EPA-FAO-EU FLEGT) Programme, during which 312 forest operators were trained in the Environmental Authorisation (EA) process.

The programme provided capacity building assistance to Community Forest Organisations (CFOs) and Forest Sector Operators (FSOs) on the EA process in Guyana.

One of the main pillars of the EU-FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) is environmental sustainability. To satisfy this requirement, the EPA worked with the GFC to ensure that FSOs and CFOs were operating within the established parameters of the EPA.

According to Mrs. Karen Small, Senior Environmental Officer with responsibility for the Forestry sector, the programme was geared at educating and building capacity on the Environmental Authorisation. The EA, she explained, is a legal document with terms and conditions to ensure that developmental activities do not cause adverse impacts to the natural environment and human health. In accordance with Section 11 of the EPA Act, a developer of any project (s) which is deemed by the Agency to have potentially significant impacts on the environment, must apply for an EA.

“In 2018, we received funding to a total of US$110,000 to carry out capacity workshops. After the workshops have been concluded and capacity is built, our intention is that they apply for the EA. It is one of the first documents that you are supposed to acquire before you harvest or utilize any forest resource so this project enabled us to meet operators and build capacity so that they can apply for EA. The Project last for 15 months and we were able to reach 312 forest operators and build capacity in all regions except Regions 5 and 8. As an agency, we consider it a success,” Mrs. Small explained.

Minister Hastings-Williams, in her remarks, said the Government of Guyana has made strategic and robust efforts toward environmental conservation and management. She noted that the Government has recognised that this natural patrimony needs to be protected and sustainably utilised and for this reason, the Green State Development Strategy (GSDS) is important to the overall development of the country.

“Environmental protection is enshrined in Guyana’s constitution. Article 25 states: “Every citizen has a duty to improve the environment and protect the health of the nation.” Further, according to Article 36: “the well-being of the nation depends upon preserving clean air, fertile soils, pure water and the rich diversity of plants, animals and ecosystems.” To support our constitutional right, the Government has signed and ratified many international agreements, which amalgamates our national development goals,” the Minister of State said.

She noted that the success of the VPA process in Guyana will depend upon the support of agencies such as the EPA, whose mandate is to protect Guyana’s environment and in so doing, contribute to global environmental protection. In this regard, Minister Hastings-Williams noted the integral part the EA plays in this process.

“This forms a necessary part of the process in ensuring a legality assurance system to verify that timber products are legal and can be issued with FLEGT licences. As we develop our forest resources and the Government [builds] a dynamic and resilient economy, economic diversification is critical. The Government therefore, challenges forestry operators to be innovative and creative in their operations; utilise the lesser value species and minimize waste within their concessions. Guyana has the ability to meet the demands of local and internal markets with diverse, high quality timber sustainably harvested,” the Minister said.

The management of forestry resources is therefore, integral to the Government’s developmental trajectory, which includes the strengthening of sustainable forest management; leveraging of the expertise of GFC to improve forest management; ensuring forest management tools, measures and plans are strengthened; strengthening of community monitoring, reporting and verification; implementations of provisions under the Amerindian Act 2006 to manage forest resources; and systems for continued monitoring, control and reporting on wildlife trade.

“The Government of Guyana is also committed to titling of Amerindian lands to ensure Indigenous practices… are sustained for present and future generations. It is therefore incumbent upon resource users to ensure they get the necessary approval to make their businesses compliant, profitable and competitive, not only locally but also on the global market. In an era of global environmental change, the Government of Guyana continues to model sound and inclusive governance,” she said.

Head of the EPA, Dr. Vincent Adams and Director of the Department of Environment, Mrs. Ndibi Schwiers were also present at the closing ceremony.

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