To protect the forest and its indigenous culture, the Wai Wai community in Konashen has taken bold steps toward creating the largest protected area in Guyana.
The Wai Wai asked the Guyana government for title to its traditional land. After lengthy discussions, in 2004 the government agreed and gave the community ownership of roughly one million acres. The Wai Wai were determined to conserve nature and build strong families and economic opportunities on the land.
"We recognize that we must use our lands in a sustainable manner or our culture will disappear and our children and grandchildren will suffer," said the chief of the Wai Wai. "We want our young generation to see and learn to take care of what we have."
Today, the Wai Wai Community Owned Conservation Area serves as a model for other indigenous communities interested in guiding their lands toward a more sustainable and prosperous future. National governments can also use community managed areas to expand systems of protected areas.
With our technical training and scientific knowledge, the Wai Wai are in the process of finalizing a land management plan. The community is focused on securing a long-term source of funding and preparing to declare its land as a protected area. Together we are identifying income-generating projects and working to include the community owned area into Guyana’s proposed national system of protected areas.
The Wai Wai live in a remote tropical rain forest in southern Guyana that remains largely in tact, but dangers are looming. Wildlife poaching, logging, mining, and outward migration all pose threats to species found nowhere else in the world. Nestled within the Amazonia High-Biodiversity Wilderness Area, this region is home to an abundance of vibrant flora and fauna such as Jaguars (Panthera onca), Dyeing Poison frog (Dendrobates tinctorius), and the brilliantly colored Guianan Cock-of-the-Rock (Rupicola rupicola) bird.