Iwokrama International Centre for Rainforest Conservation and Development, located in Guyana, was established in 1996. It was intended to conserve rainforest in this often overlooked—yet ecologically invaluable—corner of South America, which forms the edge of the Amazon biome. It was also founded to serve as a model of shared governance with Indigenous populations and to function as a test site for sustainable rainforest use. This case summarizes its history and takes us to the period of 2020–2021, when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down tourism and logging. The end of this legal (if controversial) economic activity in the region and the skyrocketing price of gold created the perfect storm for illegal—and much more damaging—exploitation. Specifically, mining and associated harmful human activity expanded into Iwokrama’s territory. In addition to these immediate and acute threats, the leadership of Iwokrama was confronted with an existential question about their path forward. Readers of this case are invited to consider options for the institution, both in terms of process (especially the inclusion of Indigenous preferences), regulation (what activities to permit and promote within the region), and action. Readers of this case can expect to learn about the context of this region and organization and will acquire familiarity with various perspectives and multidimensional dilemmas related to Indigenous shared governance, sustainable natural resource use, and conservation. This will enable readers to better evaluate, articulate, and advocate for positions in comparable contexts elsewhere.
Iwokrama in Guyana, South America, and Indigenous Shared Governance of Rainforest During a Pandemic: Use It or Lose It?
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Adam J. Sulkowski; Iwokrama in Guyana, South America, and Indigenous Shared Governance of Rainforest During a Pandemic: Use It or Lose It?. Case Studies in the Environment 4 January 2022; 6 (1): 1808915. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/cse.2022.1808915
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