On-going community outreach in the Rupununi
Community engagement continues, as the Darwin Initiative project focused on the Traditional Knowledge and its role in Biodiversity Conservation, seeks to ensure a Free, Prior and Informed Consent process. Project team member Grace Albert shares her experience after completing Kanuku Mountains community visits.
Recently, a team from the Darwin project visited the communities in Central Rupununi, Region 9, thus completing our round of visits to all communities associated with the Kanuku Mountains Protected Area. The team consisted of Ryan Benjamin (Senior Researcher, NRDDB), Grace Albert (COBRA Collective) and Octavius Hendricks (Protected Area Commission Ranger).
Their goal ultimately was to share information about the project which is in line with a process of Free Prior Inform Consent (FPIC). This process allows communities to ask any questions and highlight any concerns or issues they have or that may arise before expressing an interest in working further with the project team. To facilitate this process, the team did a formal presentation at a community meeting and made use of project videos when possible.
Several community members expressed their positive feelings about learning about a project that aims to focus on traditional knowledge. Others voiced concerns they had, such as the need for young people to be taught to speak in Makushi at home or even school, and also to learn to make traditional crafts and medicinal remedies. The project team was able to respond both in English and Makushi which stimulated conversation among even the older community members.
It was extremely stimulating to listen and take note of the comments from the leaders of the villages and persons who were for a fact considerably concerned about the potential loss of traditional knowledge in their communities.
Here is what some community members had to say:
“I am a young person and I would like to say it’s an opportunity to know and learn my traditional language,…. most of us in this community we don’t speak makushi and I think that is where the problem lies. This is good idea that we learn the right way because a lot of us are learning language that are not ours.” ~ Lynette Grimond (Moco-Moco)
“Culture for me is not dead! I would say it is sleeping. There are people who are still practicing their way of life in the village …..we tend to shift our culture practices aside trying to meet the demands of the modern world. We want to own a motor cycle, cars, flat screen TV ,we want all these thing that the modern world is putting up for sale but it is causing us to forget our real way of life that has helped us to survive.
The real basic thing that I see here is language, …. it is our means of communicating with older people…. We should help the language to survive, with that we will create a bridge where we will benefit from, it is a bridge that connect us the to the elderly people – the information that is needed regarding the use of natural medicinal practices and others.”
~ Guy Fredericks-Toshao (Nappi, Parishara and Hiowa)
“Our culture and practices have a lot to do with our livelihood, when we were babies we were brought up by our mothers with breast milk likewise the earth, it has nourished and taken care of us today we have grown from it so we need to try our best to wake up our traditional knowledge and culture to keep our land healthy.” ~ Mathew David
We are excited to have completed our full round of visits to these communities that fall under the umbrella of the Kanuku Mountains Communities Representative Group (KMCRG). FPIC is an important component of this project’s aim to respect and recognize the rights of Indigenous peoples. While most communities have expressed a strong desire to be further engaged by the Darwin Initiative Project, we can only work in-depth with some, but will ensure all are informed and have the opportunity to provide feedback. I for one look forward to working with them closely in the months ahead.