Located in the country’s geographical heart, Iwokrama has become a hub for research and development initiatives that engage communities in conservation activities.
Managing forests sustainably
Iwokrama Forest is a 371,000 hectare Guyanese nature reserve that proudly stands as one of the last remaining intact lowland tropical forests on the planet. Revered for its biodiversity, the forest's unique ecological richness stems from its pivotal convergence point between the Amazon and Guiana Shield ecosystems. Within its boundaries there are an estimated 471 bird species, 134 fish species, and over 140 mammals, including keystone creatures like jaguars, pumas, and ocelots.
The Iwokrama Forest functions as a living laboratory for cutting-edge research and conservation initiatives. Of its total area, 50.4% is designated as a Wilderness Preserve (WP). To safeguard this rich natural landscape, the Iwokrama International Centre (IIC) was established in 1996, forged under a shared vision between the Government of Guyana and the Commonwealth Secretariat. Its mission is to manage the forest in a manner that yields lasting ecological, economic, and social benefits not just to Guyanese people but to the world.
The remaining 49.6% of Iwokrama is designated as a Sustainable Use Area (SUA), which is further divided up according to land use activities such as sustainable timber harvesting, sustainable tourism and learning services (research and training). To make sure that the timber harvesting is done sustainably, Iwokrama adopts a polycyclic, silvicultural system to selectively harvest 20 species on a 60-year cutting cycle. In order to further reduce impact on the landscape, the annual harvesting area is confined to 1,800 hectares, accounting for less than 0.5% of the forest's expanse. This strategy ensures only a minimal number of trees (approximately 5-6 per hectare) are removed, preserving the forest canopy's integrity without causing significant gaps.
Iwokrama has proudly obtained international certification from the Forest Stewardship Council™ (FSC™) for its forest management practices and operations. Earning this certification for the second time in October 2016, demonstrates the IIC’s commitment to environmental, social, and economic best practices.
Iwokrama workers mapping trees in the Sustainable Utilization Area.
Supporting local economic development
As highlighted in the 2022 Annual Report, the ICC supports various social initiatives aimed at empowering the indigenous communities within and around the concession. The Centre employs 70 permanent staff members, but works closely with 20 local communities (approximately 7,000 people) who are shareholders and participants in the IIC’s sustainable timber, tourism, research operations and forest management activities, through complex co-management and benefit sharing arrangements. By working closely with these communities, the IIC guarantees their active participation and shares the benefits derived from these programs, contributing to their well-being and socio-economic development.
Forest-positive products for export
Iwokrama Forest, Guyana
The ICC dedicates a great deal of resources towards scientific knowledge through various knowledge gathering programs.The concession's unique position as a juncture between Amazonian and Guiana Shield ecologies makes it an invaluable site for biologists and researchers to study biodiversity and ecological processes. For instance, the IIC collaborates with renowned research institutions and scientists to conduct comprehensive studies on the forest's flora and fauna, aiming to deepen understanding and contribute to global conservation efforts. Additionally, the concession hosts projects focused on climate change, carbon sequestration, and ecosystem dynamics, providing vital insights into tackling environmental challenges.
This map of the Iwokrama concession shows it in relation to its broader geographic context, and highlights the areas designated towards Wildlife Protection and Sustainable Utilization.
Did you know?
Guyana is one of the eight member countries of the Treaty of Amazonian Cooperation (ACTO), thereby contributing to the vast biodiversity of the Amazon region which has the largest area of tropical rainforest in the world.
Learn more about Guyana's forestry
Learn more about the research taking place in Iwokrama by visiting their website.