The Iwokrama International Centre (IIC) said in a press release on Friday it has received an additional GY$50 million from ExxonMobil Guyana toward the implementation of a five-year science strategy that will also fund key investments to help protect tropical forests in the South American country.
ExxonMobil has been a significant supporter of the Iwokrama Science Programme, providing more than GY$180 million since 2017 which has helped IIC relaunch the programme and forge ahead with its development.
The Centre said the GY$50 million comes at a critical time as it is stretched by challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic and an increase in illegal mining activities prompted by rising gold prices.
To combat illegal gold mining operations in the Iwokrama forest, the Centre plans to invest in a drone to provide aerial maps of the forest cover, allowing enforcement teams to identify gaps.
“COVID-19 has permanently changed the way forest managers manage their forests. Safety protocols have made logistics very expensive and inconvenient,” said Chief Executive Officer, Dane Gobin. “Forest managers need to now adjust to this ‘new normal’ if they are to continue to protect the forest and we hope to use some of this funding to help with that.”
The Iwokrama International Centre is also adding virtual reality platforms that will allow scientists, students and researchers to stay connected remotely while a third project will allow direct sponsorship of the Iwokrama Forest through a fundraising mechanism through which corporations and the general public can be directly involved in conservation activities.
The new additions will complement ongoing work of the centre in the areas of climate and hydrology, biodiversity and community education. Some major outputs from the science programme include the installation of a new Iwokrama Science Committee (ISC), outreach activities, capacity building and awareness programmes for the local communities, the production of Guyana’s “legal field guide for natural resource practitioners” and the development of the country’s first 3D map of community (Fair View village).
ExxonMobil’s first donation to Iwokrama coincided with the celebration of International Science Day back in 2017. Continued support from the company has enabled Iwokrama to launch the second phase of its Science Programme which involves a wide-ranging study of the forest that is expected to raise awareness of its value and importance.
“We’re excited about this partnership,” Deedra Moe, ExxonMobil Senior Director, Public and Government Affairs, has told OilNOW. “To be able to tie it into research and Science, Technology, Engineering, Math type of programmes that will not only help preservation in the long term but also help develop capacity in that space and different opportunities for students to get involved in research; we see that as a great opportunity.”
In 2019, over 200 students who are focused on conservation development from several universities visited the South American country to study Iwokrama’s approach to natural resource management.