Guyana is a heavily forested country located on the northern coast of South America. Covering only 215,000 square kilometers, Guyana is South America’s third-smallest independent state. Approximately 85 percent of Guyana’s landmass is forested, and forests are considered a significant asset. In addition to sequestering 19 billion tons of CO2, Guyana’s forests are the source of numerous economic benefits for the population. Consequently, those forests are under increasing pressure from the agricultural, logging and mining sectors as Guyana’s economy develops. In 2014, agriculture, fishing and forestry together accounted for 20 percent of Guyana’s GDP, while mining and quarrying made up another 11 percent.
While Guyana has maintained relatively low rates of deforestation for more than two decades, growing economic pressures are creating concern for the country’s continued trajectory toward sustainable development. Much of Guyana’s forests are suitable for timber extraction, and the existence of large underground mineral deposits are increasingly attractive to the developing mining sector. Additionally, rising agricultural commodity prices are driving land use change, which has the potential to lead to increased deforestation across the region.
To address the growing concerns around Guyana’s development pathway, the Government of Guyana has implemented environmentally friendly policies, such as the 2009 Low Carbon Development Strategy. In the same year, Guyana and Norway entered an agreement for enhancement of the REDD+ program in the country for the purpose of forest preservation. While that agreement will expire in 2015, it has fostered a local interest in continued sustainable development.
Of Guyana’s approximately 18.5 million hectares of forests, nearly 15% have been allocated directly to indigenous people.
In March 2015, the Government of Guyana expressed interest in partnering with CIF to receive FIP funding. This funding would be used for developing FIP projects as a means of offering the private sector alternative forms of industry development that will simultaneously preserve the forests and promote economic development.