Guyana and its El Dorados : forest resources and the REDD+ initiative from the perspective of Wakokoa and Isseruru
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This thesis explores the likely outcome of implementing REDD+ initiative in two Amerindian villages in Guyana. The dissertation is based on eighteen months fieldwork in Wakokoa and Isseruru villages. The aim is to understand how they conceptualise their landscape amidst global pressure to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. An ethnographic perspective is provided on the villagers’ perception of their land use practices and inter/intra group relationships. Specifically, I highlight the socio-economic transformations of the villages; showing how mining has come to replace traditional farming as their main source of income and the extent to which this contributes to their ‘development’. In Isseruru, I discuss how women’s access to the mines via kinship networks has allowed them to assert their autonomy in both social and economic spheres and this serves as an avenue for a transformation of traditional gender ideals. I suggest that forging ties with spiritual forces in the landscape continues to play a significant role in settling land disputes and regularising land use practices. I argue that rapid changes in Isseruru are somewhat in contrast to the situation in Wakokoa which does not have mines on its titled land but is involved in selective logging. Local perceptions and practice are in a number of ways at odds with international plans to transform forest use towards carbon neutrality and, in their current form, do not fit well under the Guyana/Norway payment for ecosystems service agreement. However, I argue that when this agreement became part of the nation-state development agenda it failed to consider the actual importance of the landscape to forest-dependent communities. By documenting actual forest-use in the villages and its relation to local cultural ideas, the dissertation contributes to anthropological understandings of Guyanese Amerindians and their land use practices vis-à-vis the expectation of REDD+ in Guyana.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Embargo Date: 2020-11-25
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations. Print and electronic copy restricted until 25th November 2020
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