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Profit without plunder

Reaping revenue from Guyana's tropical forests without destroying them

For the most up-to-date information on this topic, please see Global Forest Watch.

Identifies key steps Guyana can take for sustainable forestry management, providing both concrete proposals for immediate and long-term action and a comprehensive analysis of the country's forestry programs to date.

Executive Summary

Guyana's abundant forest resources, encompassing 85 percent of its land area at the heart of the Guiana Shield, represent the largest remaining intact tropical forest frontier in the world. Small wonder this nation is under enormous pressure to sell logging rights to boost short-term economic growth. But converting that value to profit without destroying the forest resource and maintaining the fragile ecosystem is proving to be a difficult and complex task.

An open invitation to investors to exploit the forest in any way they see fit will not work. Only maximizing a variety of forest values will improve the livelihoods of people in Guyana. Like many timber-rich, but economically troubled countries -- Cambodia, Laos, Cameroon, Congo, Gabon, and Suriname -- Guyana requires stronger government and civil machinery to plan and negotiate foreign investment in logging and to ensure that companies comply with national laws and codes of practice.

Guyana's President, Dr. Cheddi Jagan, has made clear commitments to sustainable development by ratifying the Convention on Biological Diversity and by adopting the International Tropical Timber Organization's objective of achieving sustainable production of timber by the year 2000. Also, landmark domestic laws creating the Iwokrama International Rainforest Program and a new Environmental Protection Agency were passed in early 1996. But even with enlightened policies, Guyana still faces serious challenges, including reforming land allocation and land-use planning, reducing damage and increasing revenues from logging, building sustainable communities, developing non-timber forest enterprises, and making foreign assistance more effective.

In 1995, President Jagan invited WRI to help him identify options for reforming forest policy in Guyana. This new study, Profit Without Plunder: Reaping Revenue from Guyana's Tropical Forests Without Destroying Them, is WRI's response. The study's author, Dr. Nigel Sizer, explores ways to enhance income from the traditional timber industry and from such alternative forest-based development as tourism, genetic resource harvesting, and non-timber forest products. Based upon this extensive research, Dr. Sizer recommends several priority actions and emphasizes the need for international bilateral and multilateral agencies to better coordinate their efforts.

Profit Without Plunder illuminates the complex obstacles to managing forests in ways that are good for the economy, the environment, and society. But it also provides practical alternatives to ill-planned and poorly monitored timber harvesting and puts both the regional debate on forest activities in Latin America and the Caribbean and the international debate on global forestry policies into perspective.

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