Iwokrama - GuyanaThe Iwokrama International Centre for Rainforest Conservation and Development manages the nearly one million acre (371,000 hectares) Iwokrama Forest in central Guyana to show how tropical forests can be conserved and sustainably used to provide ecological, social and economic benefits to local, national and international communities. For many reasons, it is a perfect site to experiment with payment for ecosystem services within the framework of the Guiana Shield Initiative.

The 371,000 hectare Iwokrama Forest and the adjacent North Rupununi Wetlands encompass an ecosystem with a wide range of habitats, including over 200 lakes, braided rivers flowing over volcanic dykes, 1000-metre-high mountains, lowland tropical rain forests, palm forests, and seasonally flooded forests and savannahs. The area has an extraordinary biodiversity, including over 475 species of birds, and the highest number of species of fish (over 400) and bats (over 90) recorded in any area of a comparable size in the world.

The area is also the homeland of the Makushi people who continue to live in the area and use the forest and wetland resources. The Iwokrama International Centre involves the local population in all aspects of its work. These integrating activities are the core activities of the organisation. In turn, these core activities support the businesses of Iwokrama. Integrating human needs and values into business development and conservation strategies, establishes partnerships with local communities. This way, they can assist in forest management and obtain direct benefits through joint business development.

In a context of ecosystem conservation, IIC seeks to develop global models for sustainable, profit-making, rainforest enterprises, integrating the private sector with local communities within a sound, regulatory environment. The Iwokrama Business Plan 2005-2010, describes four areas for business investment: Sustainable Timber Harvesting, Ecotourism, Training, and Intellectual Property and Services.

The Iwokrama Field Station. Photo by Guido van Es, © IUCN NL

Together, these areas cover a broad spectrum of forest-based businesses ranging from the sustainable extraction of timber to the sale of services, such as consultancy and research, based on the Centre's experiences and environmental services associated with carbon sequestration, watershed management and other non-timber forest products.

The selection of Iwokrama as one of the pilot sites for GSI will certainly be useful during the next stages of sustainable commercial development of multiple forest resources.