Theory, policy and practice perspectives from Royal Holloway

Project COBRA highlighted by European Year for Development

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Paulette Allicock

Paulette Allicock, Makushi farmer, North Rupununi, Guyana. Source: Project COBRA. Creative Commons Non-Commerical No Derivatives Licence.

As world leaders meet in Paris to decide on a worldwide agreement to tackle climate change at the Climate Summit, COP21 (21st Conference Of the Parties) this week, the European Year for Development is reminding stakeholders of the inextricable link between climate action, sustainable development and poverty eradication. The EU initiative emphasises that climate change can’t be stopped without working with people facing against poverty, who are already the most affected by climate change, in developing as well as in developed countries.

In this context, an EU-funded project that is empowering Indigenous communities in South America by supporting and strengthening local solutions to conserve forests in the Guiana Shield, led by Dr Jay Mistry, Reader in Geography at Royal Holloway, has been highlighted as an example of best practice by the European Year for Development.

The project features on the European Year for Development website citing the forest farming example of Paulette Allicock an Indigenous Makushi farmer from the North Rupununi, Guyana, just one of many researched and documented case studies using participatory video by Indigenous researchers across the Guiana Shield.


Seeds Fair, Indigenous Land Raposa Serra do Sul, Surumu Region. Source: Project COBRA. Creative Commons Non-Commercial No Derivatives Licence.

As principal investigator on the COBRA project, Jay works on environmental management and governance, bringing together a deep understanding of environmental and social processes, drawing on her experience accrued over a twenty year period working collaboratively with local communities, NGOs, policy makers, and academics in South America, particularly in Brazil and Guyana, to promote community owned solutions to natural resource management challenges.

A key part of the project was providing training and support to Indigenous communities to share their knowledge and experiences through participatory video and photostories. It resulted in the publication, How to find & share community owned solutions. A Handbook to promote community owned solutions by proposing approaches that respond to current and future challenges to sustainability, natural resources management and biodiversity conservation. The handbook introduces key concepts and techniques which underpin a participatory and systems approach to community engagement.

The project also resulted in a report for governments: Up-Scaling Support for Community Owned Solutions. A Project COBRA Report for Policy Makers, (linked here) which shows how Indigenous community owned solutions can offer practical instruments to address challenges in sustainable development and the management of natural resources.

An earlier version of this post appeared on the RHUL News Page


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