- Less than a year after Suriname created one of the world's largest tropical forest wilderness reserves, the South American country was recognized by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) through the approval of an $18.33 million project to support the nation's long-term development and conservation goals.
"The Suriname project is an outstanding example of the kind of visionary, yet practical, partnership the GEF seeks to support, " said Mohamed T. El-Ashry, CEO and Chairman of the GEF. "It underscores Suriname's initiative and commitment to making conservation part of its economic development strategy, as well as the important role of non-governmental organizations at the community level. We hope it will be a model for the region's development." The project approved last week by GEF's governing Council as part of its $755 million spring work program represents major new funding for the Suriname Conservation Foundation, a trust fund initially endowed by Conservation International (CI) with a private contribution of $1 million. The fund will support the management of the 4 million acre (1.6 million hectare) Central Suriname Nature Reserve and create conservation-based economic opportunities.
CI is working with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and local and international non-governmental organizations (which have also provided cofinancing for the project) to undertake a biological assessment of the forest reserve which will help establish a management and monitoring system. Under this project CI also will continue its work to develop ecotourism as a major conservation enterprise in Suriname.
"By setting aside this large reserve, Suriname has chosen a new development path more appropriate to the 21st century," said CI President Russell A. Mittermeier." They have shown real leadership and set a standard for others to follow."
GEF funding will ensure protection of the reserve for the long term and enable the country to generate income through non-destructive uses of the forest like ecotourism and research. Part of the forest area now protected within the reserve was formerly targeted by international logging companies, which sought concessions in some 11 million acres.
Suriname harbors more rain forest than all of Central America combined. The Central Suriname Nature Reserve is part of the Guayana Shield, one of the world's most undisturbed tropical wilderness areas extending across the southern Guianas, southern Venezuela and adjacent parts of Brazil. These forests have at least 75 percent of their original forest cover and many, like Suriname's, are still in pristine condition, virtually uninhabited and in some places, unexplored. Other tropical wilderness areas are today found mainly in Africa's Congo Basin and on the island of New Guinea.