Eco-Tourism is an important part of Iwokrama’s strategy for financial self sufficiency. The Iwokrama forest and the Rupununi wetlands and savannahs offer visitors exceptional natural and cultural experience set in a learning context.
With rainforests located primarily in some of the world’s poorest countries, it is paramount that these unique global assets are retained in order to generate sustainable income for the communities that live there, not short-lived gains for others.
The blueprint that hitherto underpinned the world economy was based on two underlying assumptions – that the world’s natural resources were infinite and that its natural eco-systems would always be able to accommodate the environmental impact of man’s activities.
The IIC is an international not-for-profit organisation, governed by an International Board of Trustees and managed by a professional team of around seventy permanent staff in Georgetown and at the Iwokrama River Lodge and Research Centre at Kurupukari. The IIC’s Patron is HRH The Prince of Wales.
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 including the UK company Canopy Capital, developing a new approach to enable countries with rainforests to earn significant income from eco-system services and creative conservation practice.
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 utilisation 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 forests).
The Iwokrama Centre was established in 1996 to manage the forest area, following 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 utilisation 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 co-operation 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 operation.
Supervised by the IIC’s CEO and his team under the strategic policy direction of the IIC’s International Board of Trustees, Iwokrama conducts:
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 programme 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.