Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Guyana indigenous demand say over land

(Reuters) - Guyana's indigenous people are agitating for more land rights as the World Bank prepares to spend hundreds of millions to help nations benefit from a U.N. program to help slow deforestation.

The World Bank has granted Guyana $200,000 to help refine its proposal to reduce emissions from deforestation. But Amerindian leaders insist the government's proposals do not address its international obligations to indigenous people.

"We have urged governments and international agencies to protect our traditional practices and help resolve outstanding land issues," Tony James, president of the Guyana's Amerindian Peoples Association (APA) said at a World Bank meeting.

Guyana, a former British colony perched next to Venezuela, is about 80 percent covered with forests and has one of the most varied biodiversities in the world. Amerindian communities make up about 10 percent of the population.

Indigenous leaders accuse the government of snatching their traditional lands through poor demarcation, saying in some areas, communities were demarcated without their knowledge.

The Amerindian Act of 2006 gives Amerindian villages legal powers to manage and conserve their lands.

"Some community lands are being sliced by half, some by quarter, some by three-quarters," said John Adries, the leader in the Parima community, inhabited by 600 Arekuna people.

Guyana's government is seeking international partnerships for incentives to keep alive 15 million hectares of untouched forest. Amerindian communities have been told they can opt into the initiative or choose not to be part of it.

Amerindian communities have in the past been sharoly critical Guyana's low carbon strateggy, a forest saving deal with Norway that could give the country US$250 million over the next five years.

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