in Guyana, Norway

News from Guyana by Janette Bulkan: “Guyana has made no changes to either policies or practices to reduce deforestation”

News from Guyana by Janette Bulkan: Guyana has made no changes to either policies or practices to reduce deforestation

In this recent article, Janette Bulkan raises questions about the REDD deal between Norway and Guyana, asking whether it is suitable as part of a global model of REDD, and whether it is likely to reduce deforestation in Guyana.

Bulkan also raises questions about the difficulties of checking the monitoring, reporting and verification process in Guyana, where the forest is cloud-covered for much of the year. Despite the fact that the number of artisanal miners has increased more than six-fold in the past four years, Indufor Pacific, the company that Norway hired to assess forest cover in Guyana, reported that deforestation from mining had decreased in 2010-11.

Bulkan points out that, “Guyana has made no changes to either policies or practices to reduce deforestation”. And as REDD-Monitor noted earlier this year, Norway seems much keener on handing over money to Guyana than checking that its generous support is doing anything to reduce deforestation. Yet processes are being weakened further, rather than strengthened. Meanwhile, the Guyana Forest Commission is encouraging more logging.

Bulkan’s article was published in the March 2013 issue of the Commonwealth Forestry Association Newsletter. It is reproduced here with Janette Bulkan’s permission.

News from Guyana

CFA Newsletter, March 2013

Norway is keen to use its Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Guyana as part of its global model of how REDD+ (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) might work across all countries, with high or low forest cover and high or low rates of deforestation[1]. Guyana, by reason of the extreme natural infertility of its hinterland soils, has high cover and low deforestation. Norway insists on annual estimates of current deforestation during the period of the MoU, November 2009 until 2015. As much of Guyana is cloud-covered for much of the year, and rainfall is tropical bi-modal and heavy, it is difficult to obtain public-domain satellite imagery which is suitable for detecting relatively minute changes in forest cover dispersed across the landscape: there is no large-scale clearing for commercial or peasant agriculture, nor for industrial-scale mining.

Assessment for forest/non-forest cover for 2010-11 was contracted to Indufor Pacific[2]. The selected combination of satellite sensor and frequency band has not been able to detect reliably what is forest and what is non-forest, according to ground checks in some areas by a community-based monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) project coordinated by the Oxford-based Global Canopy Programme[3]. Also, although pilots and regular passengers on internal airlines have reported notable increases in damage from mining – deforestation and river turbidity – and although Government itself has estimated that the number of artisanal miners has increased from 20,000 to 130,000 in four years because of the high price of gold, Indufor estimates that deforestation from mining had decreased in 2010-11[4].

In spite of these contradictions, and in spite of Indufor repeating the error of Poyry New Zealand in 2010 of not using the prime data sources – the maps of logging concessions and logging blocks, and the mining licences and dredge locations – Norway has handed over a further USD 45 million to the World Bank trust fund for Guyana[5]. That transfer, and release of documents, occurred just one day after the last session of the National Assembly in Guyana before the end-of-year break, so impeding parliamentary questions about this curious transfer.

The transfer means that there is now more than USD 100 million in the trust fund, for which Guyana has no prepared project proposals under the Low Carbon Development Strategy. Less than USD 10 million has been disbursed previously from that fund (GRIF), the largest a tranche of USD 3.1 million to the Office of the President just before the elections in November 2011. The Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) has received USD 2.9 million for capacity building in MRV from the GRIF, plus another USD 1.2 million from Norway channelled through Conservation International[6] but has failed to pay for the results from the sample field checks on forest/non-forest by the community-based MRV teams.

Although the Norway-Guyana MoU is set in the overall REDD+ context, Guyana has made no changes to either policies or practices to reduce deforestation or degradation. The third version of the Joint Concept Note (JCN) under the MoU, also issued in December 2012, does not mention ‘logging’ at all. And in spite of the less-than-stringent evaluations by Norway’s consultants, even the mild questioning has so irritated the government agencies in Guyana that ‘verification’ of progress will not be attempted in future. Footnote 3 in the revised JCN says ‘Up until now the enabling activities have been ‘verified’, this has been a challenging exercise since qualitative and subjective views highly influence the understanding and verification of the indicators. The Governments of Guyana and Norway have therefore chosen to change the language from ‘verified’ to ‘independently assessed’ in order to accommodate for the qualitative nature of these indicators’[7]. Most of the indicators are actually quantitative. The indicator for area of Intact Forest Landscapes, whose assessment has twice been queried mildly by Rainforest Foundation Norway, will be abandoned[8], thus facilitating logging and mining in such near-pristine tropical rainforests.

Could one hope that these huge incentives from Norway would lead to more sustainable and less wasteful forestry? Unfortunately this is not happening. Under pressure from Chinese-owned loggers, the GFC has relaxed the restriction on inter-stump distance, so allowing natural clumps of trees to be felled. My observation of the huge numbers of small logs in the sawmill yard operated by the same Chinese company suggest that the relaxation is allowing Sarawak-style ‘re-entry’ into previously logged areas which should now be under protective regeneration.

And the GFC is encouraging more tree felling[9] instead of more addition of value to the forest products, as the national policies demand[10]. Even the 2006 and 2011 election manifestos of the ruling political party encouraged value addition instead of export of unprocessed logs.

It is difficult to reconcile the masses of procedural documents (which are being produced in and for Guyana to improve forest management) with the unverifiable and unsupported claims made by the government agencies and the strenuous opposition of those agencies to even mild external review. The Government of Guyana has applied for a Voluntary Partnership Agreement with the European Union, but that involves a legality verification system (LVS) in place and independent forest monitoring. Guyana’s LVS is inadequate[11] and the IFM needs to be a lot more transparent[12]. It is unclear just now if Guyana has the will at government level to set aside the stifling political philosophy of ‘democratic centralism’, which resists openness and transparency and which encourages, corruption and nepotism.

Janette Bulkan
CFA Governing Council


[1] Jagdeo, Bharrat. ‘Rediscovering ambition on forests: maintaining one of the world’s greatest assets’. Draft for review. Bharrat Jagdeo, Roving Ambassador for the Three Basins Initiative. December 2012.

[2] Guyana Forestry Commission and Indufor. 2012. “Guyana REDD+ Monitoring Reporting & Verification System (MRVS) Interim Measures Report. 01 October to 31 December 2011. Version 1”. Georgetown, Guyana; Guyana Forestry Commission. Pp.285.

[3] Community MRV | The Global Canopy Programme http://bit.ly/14T68hp.

[4] GFC and Indufor, 2012, page 71.

[5] Norway announces new contribution to Guyana for its continued low deforestation – regjeringen.no http://bit.ly/10CeI0f.

[6] Interim Funding for a National System for Monitoring, Reporting and Verification for 2011 | GRIF http://bit.ly/16JtqF3.

[7] Norway-Guyana Joint Concept Note, v. 3, December 2012, page 6. http://bit.ly/10CeI0f.

[8] Norway-Guyana Joint Concept Note, v. 3, December 2012, page 2, note 3. http://bit.ly/10CeI0f.

[9] Kaieteur News news item, Sunday 03 February 2013 – “Harvest more logs – Commissioner Singh” – http://bit.ly/14T7oRJ.

[10] Stabroek News Letter to the Editor, Tuesday 05 February 2013 – “The GFC should not focus on more logging but on helping to secure greater in-Guyana benefits from what is logged now”, http://bit.ly/YHwUGe.

[11] USAID/Guyana Trade & Investment Support. May 2011.
‘Review of Guyana’s Legality Assurance System’. Conducted by Efeca. Pp. 90.

[12] GFA Consulting Group, “Guyana-Independent Forest Monitoring Scoping Report, Guyana Forestry Commission. http://bit.ly/IpPar6.


PHOTO Credit: Ian Mackenzie, Kaietuer Falls, Guyana.

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  1. The EU (/ its Member States) and the USA have for some time sought to constructively engage China in constraining “investment” by Chinese enterprises in illegal logging. In this context, and given both the proposed VPA and prior commendable support (including from the UK) for sound forest management in Guyana, the example of the group which is highlighted in the sixth paragraph of this article (and which is said to have links to a Chinese State-Owned Enterprise) would be particularly apt.

    Will the EU, its member states and their consultants/contractors do so?
    – perhaps in conjunction with the USA. These countries prohibit illegal timber and nevertheless(?) account for a large share of the very large quantity of wood-based products which China exports.

    “Investments” such as this probably account for a large proportion of China’s imports of tropical timber from many countries.

  2. In response to this mention of the Global Canopy Programme and its community-based MRV project in Guyana, we would like to state that GCP does endorse the use of remote-sensing in conjunction with ground-truthing. Satellite-based evaluations are a useful tool, and all good remote-sensing initiatives include checks against data gathered on the ground. This highlights the potential for local people to contribute to national monitoring schemes, by carrying out such ground checks.

    Community participation in monitoring is the key aim of our C-MRV work in Guyana, which is a joint project of GCP, the North Rupununi District Development Board and the Iwokrama International Centre.