Empowering Amerindian Villages: Harnessing Carbon Credits for Sustainable Livelihoods

Amerindians have served as custodians of the forest for generations, deeply connected to its rich biodiversity and vital resources, which sustain their way of life and cultural heritage.

Eighty-six per cent of Guyana’s territory is covered in forest, the second highest cover in the world and an essential element of the comprehensively crafted Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS2030).

Minister of Amerindian Affair, Pauline Sukhai handing over the keys to the $13 million backhoe loader in Maikwak, Region Eight

Work began in 2009 with the original LCDS under Former President, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo, and was further expanded by the current government following national consultations from October 2021 to July 2022.

This expanded strategy was approved and endorsed by the legally recognised representative body for Indigenous peoples, the National Toshaos Council (NTC), in which it was agreed that 15 per cent of total revenues generated under this mechanism, would be directly injected into Amerindian development.

And so, the government moved into a historic US$750 million agreement with global energy giant – Hess Corporation –which will be purchasing 30 per cent of Guyana’s forest carbon within ten years.

The first payment of $US150 million was made in 2023, of which a staggering GYD$4.7 billion (US$22M) was deposited into special bank accounts of 242 hinterlands, riverine and Amerindian villages nationwide.

A $9 million cash-crop farm in Quiko Village, Region Nine

This allows Indigenous villages to chart their development and prosperity as well as achieve self-sufficiency by investing in priority areas such as agriculture, tourism, women and youth and other income-generating initiatives.

At present, over 811 projects are being executed simultaneously ranging from tourism, agriculture, infrastructure, and industrial arts and crafts among others, all aimed at boosting sustainable livelihoods.

What is noteworthy of the programme, is that village leaders are being provided with the tools necessary to ensure sustainability and efficient project management within their villages.

Villages like Moco Moco in Central Rupununi, Region Nine have utilised its resources to advance food security, integrate youths into the industrial arts business and encourage entrepreneurship. The village received $24 million from the first tranche of monies earned from the carbon credit sale.

Toshao Thomas George informed the Department of Public Information (DPI)  that the funds have aided villagers in developing a four-acre cassava farm, while land preparation is ongoing for the cultivation of red beans and corn.

The $12 million meeting hall in Moco Moco

A meeting hall was also constructed to the tune of $12 million, eliminating the need for meetings and activities to be held at the primary school, which inconvenienced learners in the past.

The Quiko village also made significant strides towards achieving food security and financial stability by embarking on large-scale cash crop cultivation with $9 million in carbon credit funding.

Apoteri Village, also in Region Nine, received $15 million in carbon credit resources to undertake projects in priority areas.

Moreover, Maikwak, a remote village in the North Pakaraimas, procured a $13 million backhoe loader, which will aid in the village’s road improvement efforts.

These are just a few examples of transformation projects being rolled out in the various Amerindian villages.

During the reading of the 2024 National Budget, it was announced that a further $2.7 billion will become available to the various Amerindian villages nationwide.

This funding is supplemented by government investments in health, education and social services- and the disbursement of Presidential Grants and capital projects outlined under the Amerindian Development Fund (ADF).

When the remaining 70 per cent of carbon credits are sold, there would be significant additional resources for Amerindian villages and communities across Guyana. While 15 per cent of carbon credit revenues are going directly to Amerindian villages, the remaining 85 per cent will be invested in climate resilience and adaptation efforts.

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