New advances building the Participatory and Intercultural Fire Management in Venezuela (Part 1)

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Kavanayen Pemón Indigenous Community workshop and Assembly

September 1, 2016

New advances and agreements in the Pemón Indigenous community of Kavanayén, Gran Sabana, for the construction of the Intercultural and Participative Fire Management in Canaima National Park, Venezuela.

During year 2016, the research group of the “Building the case for integrating Indigenous and academic knowledge into a participatory and sustainable fire management policy” project, supported by British Academy, UK,  and coordinated by the Royal Holloway University of London and Simon Bolivar University carried out a series of activities to comply with the “next steps” agreements reached during first meeting (2015) of Intercultural and Participatory Fire Management Network in Canaima National Park, Venezuela.

The present report comprehends the activities developed during the visit to Kavanayén between 2 to 12 September by the Simon Bolivar University team comprised by Bibiana Bilbao, Adriana Millán, Elizabeth Rivera and Sofia Marín. Our objective was to discuss with the community the agreements and follow the recommendations established in the declaration of Fire Network with respect to the elaboration of proposals and actions for the participatory and intercultural fire management in Canaima National Park.

We organized several meetings and workshops with members of community: Captain of the community Humberto Chani, elders, teachers of ETAK school, Indigenous research members of APÖK and COBRA projects, and local Indigenous leaders according with the following schedule:


1. Presentation by Dr Bibiana Bilbao summarising previous work an achievemnets for the participatory and intercultural fire management developed by the RISK, APÖK, and British Academy projects, aims of meeting, program of activities, methodology and work dynamic during the workshop.
2. Screening of the Indigenous participatory video and photostory of the First meeting of Participatory and Intercultural Fire Management Network, elaborated by members of COBRA-APOK Indigenous research group.
3. Reading of the agreements reached in the declaration elaborated between the Indigenous communities, public institutions and the scientific community of Venezuela, Brazil and Guyana, for the construction of the Action Plans for participatory and intercultural management of fire in the territories inhabited by Indigenous communities of Guayana Shield.
4. Formation of mixed working groups (comprised by elders, teachers, Indigenous leaders, Indigenous researchers, and others) to answer the following questions:

  • How does the Kavanayén community visualize the advances of participatory and intercultural management of fire?
  • What are the next steps to be taken by the Kavanayén community to implement the participatory and intercultural fire management plan, both within their community and with other communities?
  • Do you have proposal or ideas to strengthen the integration with academics and institutions of the Canaima National Park for the implementation of the participatory and intercultural fire management plan?

Untitled5. Presentation of the results of the working groups and establishment of new agreements:

  • Creation of the commission composed of grandparents and teachers of the ETAK School for the preservation, diffusion and application of the ancestral use of fire in the community of Kavanayén and other communities Pemón Arekuna.
  • Incorporation of the Primary School and ETAK in the dissemination and conclusion of the book about ancestral knowledge and Pemón Arekuna practices (promoted by APÖK project), educational activities with children, youth and adolescents of Kavanayén, using the material of the Book, videos of the COBRA-APOK Kavanayén group, and meetings with the elders of the community.
  • Organize with the support of scientist of BA project, participatory activities with the Forest Fire Brigade (Cuerpo de Bomberos Forestales) of INPARQUES for the training of Indigenous young people from Kavanayén in the fight against wildfires, and teaching the members of the Forest Fire Brigade about the knowledge and practices of the grandparents about the ancestral management Indigenous of the fire.

All these agreements and activities were presented to the Assembly of the community of Kavanayén for their final approval.

Follow Bibiana Bilbao:
Bibiana Bilbao is Professor at the Department of Environmental Studies, Universidad Simón Bolívar, Venezuela. Her research is on tropical savannas, fire ecology, biogeochemical cycles and vegetation change. She has also a long professional experience working on ecological and human dimensions of fire management with Indigenous communities in tropical ecosystems of Venezuela, particularly the Pemón of the Canaima National Park. She is willing to further the development of more effective, socially just and culturally sensitive policies for intercultural and participatory governance of Integrated Fire Management (MIF) in Venezuela, Brazil and other countries of South America such as Bolivia and Argentina.