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Wai Wai choose conservation economy for traditional Amazon territory
Date:10/4/2007

Konashen District, Guyana (Oct. 2, 2007) Three years after gaining formal title to their traditional territory in the northern Amazon, the Wai Wai people of Guyana have achieved another milestone when the region was declared the nations first Community Owned Conservation Area.

Under regulations passed by the Guyana parliament, the Wai Wai community formally designated their land a protected area and adopted a management plan, developed with the support of Conservation International (CI), for the 625,000-hectare (1.54-million-acre) tract on the northern border of Brazils Par state.

As managers of a Community Owned Conservation Area (COCA), the 204 Wai Wai of Konashen District are building a conservation economy based on the sustainable use of their natural resources. The plan will create jobs from conservation activities, such as newly trained para-biologists working with researchers to assess the territorys flora and fauna, and local rangers patrolling the area. Other economic activities include ecotourism and expanding the traditional Wai Wai craft business.

Declaration of the COCA fulfilled the vision of Elka, who became the first Kayaritomo or chief of the Wai Wai in 1969, of Wai Wai ownership and sustainable management of their lands.

We have always been keepers of the forests that support us, and now it is official, recognized by the government and the world, said Cemci Sose, the current Kayaritomo of the Wai Wai. The immediate challenge we face is creating economic opportunity through the Community Owned Conservation Area to prevent our young people from leaving, which could destroy our community.

The Wai Wai received formal title to their land in 2004, and immediately asked for CIs help in creating the necessary management plan and regulations to become a COCA. Over the next three years, the Wai Wai leadership worked with CI, Guyanas Environmental Protection Agency and the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs to
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Contact: Tom Cohen
tcohen@conservation.org
703-341-2729
Conservation International
Source:Eurekalert

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