Posted on 04/11/2011
COBRA, an EU-funded project to examine issues affecting communities and biodiversity in South America has launched in the Department of Geography at Royal Holloway.
Indigenous community representatives from the rainforests, savannas and wetlands of Brazil and Guyana travelled to Royal Holloway to attend the launch and to discuss the key issues facing local communities and biodiversity conservation across the Guiana Shield Region of South America.
Dr Jay Mistry, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Geography and Principal Investigator of the project said, “COBRA is about evaluating, enabling and disseminating grassroots solutions to some of the complex environmental and social problems of the Guiana Shield.”
This region of South America covers five times the size of Spain. It extends from Colombia in the west to the Brazilian state of Amapá in the east, including the Venezuelan states of Delta Amacuro, Bolívar and Amazonas, all of Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana, and continuing into the Brazilian States of Pará, Roraima and Amazonas.
Conservation of the Guiana Shield region is of great importance in the global battle against climate change as it sequesters and stores vast amounts of carbon dioxide. In addition, the region contains 10-15% of the world’s fresh water reserves and an extremely rich diversity of plants and animals, most of which are unique to this region. Most importantly, the region is still largely inhabited by thriving indigenous communities, whose knowledge and skills are indispensable for proper conservation of the region and a great asset to world culture.
“Our project slogan ‘Future Challenges, Local Solutions’ exemplifies our belief that the indigenous communities need to be fully involved in the management of the region,” adds Dr Mistry.
There are many threats to the region, its wildlife, people and their culture ranging from unregulated logging, mining and agriculture to government approved mega-projects such as dams and roads. These threats also have a direct impact on us all as the loss of forests and wetlands would have a devastating impact on the planet’s climate as habitat loss accounts for nearly 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions, more than the entire global transportation sector.
The project will run for three years allowing the partners to develop a comprehensive understanding of the social, economic and environmental challenges facing the region and how communities are currently dealing with them.
Sydney Allicock, representing communities of the North Rupununi, Guyana, said: “This project is vital to allow our people to have the skills, capacity and confidence to engage with national and international governments regarding our future.”