The Iwokrama International Centre for
Rainforest Conservation and Development
Iwokrama International Centre for
Rainforest Conservation and Development
The Iwokrama International Centre (IIC) was established in 1996 under a joint mandate from the Government of Guyana and the Commonwealth Secretariat to manage the Iwokrama forest, a unique reserve of 371,000 hectares of rainforest, “in a manner that will lead to lasting ecological, economic and social benefits to the people of Guyana and to the world in general”.
The Iwokrama forest and its research centre are unique, providing a dedicated site in which to test the concept of a truly sustainable forest – where conservation, environmental balance, and economic use can be mutually reinforcing. Drawing on its earlier work in sustainable forest management, the IIC is now, in close collaboration with the Government of Guyana, the Commonwealth, and other international partners.
Dedicated as a place for research “to develop, demonstrate, and make available to Guyana and the international community systems, methods and techniques for the sustainable management and utilization of the multiple resources of the Tropical Forest and the conservation of biological diversity”, the Iwokrama rainforest is located in the geographical heart of Guyana. It comprises 371,000 hectares of forest (1.6% of Guyana’s landmass and 2% of Guyana's forests).
The Iwokrama Centre was established in 1996 to manage the forest area, following the signature the year before of an international agreement between the Guyana Government and the Commonwealth Secretariat. Enshrined in an Act of the Guyana Parliament, the agreement gave the Centre the mandate to “promote the conservation and the sustainable and equitable use of tropical rainforests in a manner that will lead to lasting ecological, economic and social benefits to the people of Guyana and to the world in general”. In short, the Centre has the task to test the proposition that conservation, environmental balance, and sustainable economic activity are mutually reinforcing – that it is possible to use a forest without losing it.
The rainforest is equally divided (for experimental purposes) into a wilderness preserve and a sustainable utilization area. There have been for the last 12 years intensive baseline studies of the forest and the development of models for sustainable forest management in close cooperation with the local communities. The first 5 years of the Centre’s closely supervised and scientifically based sustainable timber operation came to an end early in 2012 and the Centre is now exploring a second phase of operation.
Commonwealth organizations, including the Commonwealth Secretariat, the Commonwealth Foundation, and the Commonwealth Forestry Association, continue to be important and much-valued sponsors and partners of Iwokrama. The Commonwealth Secretariat is currently assisting with laying the basis for a new program relating to hydrology and the impacts of climate change on the forest, as well as the expansion and greater availability of the Centre’s archives.
Supervised by the IIC’s CEO and his team under the strategic policy direction of the IIC’s International Board of Trustees, Iwokrama conducts:
Up to date scientific research into the impacts of climate change on the forest;
Groundbreaking steps to measure and evaluate the contribution which Iwokrama’s natural services make to the forest’s overall financial value;
Four core self-supporting businesses – selective timber harvesting, eco-tourism, forest management training, and the forest’s services – putting into practice 20 years of intensive experience in conservation and sustainable forest management since the IIC’s foundation;
Innovative governance models of business development which include the private sector and local community participation through shareholding agreements;
A unique form of devolved governance (enshrined in the Act of Parliament) placed in the hands of international trustees; and most important of all
Close-knit relationships with the local communities, based on equality and mutual trust, which help drive the co-management of Iwokrama and its multi-dimensional resources.