Guyana’s ForestsGuyana’s forests cover over 85% of its territory. Although most of its population lives in the unforested coastal region, the South American country’s extensive landscape hosts a variety of indigenous communities that have lived there for millennia. With a population of around 800,000, Guyana relies on mining and large-scale agriculture operations to support its citizens. With the rising price of gold in recent years, the mining industry is thriving. However, these ventures destroy the lush ecosystem and release chemicals into the water. The mining industry in the area accounts for more than 80% of deforestation efforts in the region. By finding alternatives, Guyana could protect its natural resources.

Impoverished citizens suffer from the impact of deforestation and emissions. Workers relying on the mines for income and communities who cannot move away from the sites face exposure to substances such as mercury. To avoid further destruction in the mining industry, the Guyanese government is working with the United Nations (U.N.) to reduce contamination by 2025.

Protecting Guyana’s Forests

An initiative under the Paris Climate Agreement, Reduce Emissions Caused by Deforestation and Forest Degradation, or REDD+, aims to lessen the emissions caused within developing countries. Certain nations are eligible to receive financial incentives for protecting their trees. This protects their environment and increases funding for essential services they may need.

Under the REDD+ guidelines, a 2009 agreement between Guyana and Norway promised up to $250 million from the European nation. The Guyana REDD+ Investment Fund (GRIF) worked to create employment opportunities that do not rely on the destruction of the country’s landscape. This instead created jobs that helped monitor and catalog the region by working with the forests’ inhabitants.

GRIF allocated nearly $5 million toward small businesses that reduced carbon emissions. It approved 224 loans and 591 grants that helped to create 2,000 new jobs. Additionally, almost 4,500 people acquired free training for different important topics, including management skills, record keeping, agricultural stability and sustainable mining techniques.

Beyond this, it awarded 34 more Green Business Technology Grants to increase the development of sustainable businesses. Furthermore, 684 business owners underwent further training in viable mining and forestry methods. GRIF also financed 165 secondary school students through Guyana’s In-School Entrepreneurship Program, which aims to prepare children for different career paths to boost the nation’s economy further. Students who receive the money complete employment plans while learning about important activities regarding economics, architecture and food production.

Organizations Helping the Economy and Forests in Guyana

In conjunction with the World Wildlife Fund, the Guyanese government works with various indigenous communities to monitor the woodlands. Provided with updated technology, the government assesses the land and shares data with authorities. The technology also allows for several groups to receive aid. The government addresses the inaccessibility of water and food shortages in the southwest Rupununi region. These community monitors assist the economy and forests in Guyana, helping with environmental concerns and citizen issues. Several places are now receiving aid to support local schools and easier access to both food and water. This project also led to additional research grants for the University of Guyana’s Center for the Study of Biological Diversity.

In recent years, the nation has received money from offshore oil rigs run by ExxonMobil, gaining several billion dollars worth of taxes and products. The money generated by this deal between the oil company and Guyana improved the country’s economy significantly, with no adverse effects on its forests. In August 2023, ExxonMobil confirmed another deal with the South American nation, with a project that cost nearly $13 billion.

Looking Ahead

Since 2009, Guyana’s poverty level has decreased from 6% to under 2% of its total population in 2022. This consistent improvement provides economic prosperity to the nation. Although job creation continues to be an issue in Guyana, where the unemployment rate is now 12.4%, other problems, such as poverty and hunger, have decreased. Continuing efforts to protect Guyana’s forests show the potential to also protect the country’s economy.

– Abigail Dudley
Photo: Flickr

economic growth in Guyana
Guyana discovered oil off its coast in 2015 and is on the brink of major economic growth. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the projected economic growth in Guyana for 2020 is 86 percent. The projected growth rate is high for 2020 due to ExxonMobil’s oil find in the Caribbean Sea in 2015, which brought hope for change to poor Guyanese. For 2019, GDP growth was 4.4 percent, almost double from the previous year, and the 86 percent projected growth by the IMF shows an increased interest in the development of Guyana. Oil production in 2020 and in the future could bring economic growth in Guyana and add thousands of jobs.

A Potential Future in Oil

Guyana found an estimated 3.2 billion barrels of oil off its coast, with oil production beginning in late December 2019. More than 1,700 Exxon employees are working on extracting oil from Stabroek Block, the oil reservoir, and transporting oil to the Liza Destiny, a storage and offloading vessel. About 50 percent of the 1,700 workers are Guyanese. Exxon expects to produce 120,000 barrels of oil a day in 2020 and estimates 750,000 barrels a day by 2025. The 2025 estimated production would position the South American country in the top 30 countries for oil production. The 750,000 barrels a day estimate would be more oil than India produced daily in 2018. This is one reason for the IMF’s projection of a high growth rate for Guyana, as oil could transform the economy.

Uses of Future Revenue

Oil production in 2020 is exciting Guyanese about the possibilities of changing the country and its people. President David Granger commented, “Every Guyanese will benefit from petroleum production. No one will be left behind.” Guyana’s GDP per capita is about $8,100, which ranks among the lowest in the world. With oil now in production, there is potential to improve its lagging infrastructure and low income. Guyana only has about 500 miles of paved roads, yet almost 2,000 miles of unpaved roads. The President stated that oil could transform the developing country and improve life for hundreds of thousands of Guyanese.

Guyana’s government expects oil revenue of $300 million in 2020 and $5 billion for 2025. This could further enhance economic growth in Guyana and bring the possibility of distributing the money to lagging sectors. In 2019, the government spent $2 billion in its infrastructure. This included constructing or upgrading roads, bridges, highway lights and drains. The East Coast of Demerara Road Widening Project affects more than 100,000 of Guyana’s 777,000 population. Guyana approved about $500 million for the project that focuses on upgrading roadways along the coast. Most of the population resides near the coast and along the Demerara River. Guyana could not only use oil revenue to further develop Guyana but also to add jobs, as the ExxonMobil operation is already showing.

The Impact of Guyanese Oil Revenue

There is steady economic growth in Guyana, as one can witness from its GDP rising from 2.1 percent in 2018 to 4.4 percent in 2019. The IMF’s projected 86 percent growth rate for Guyana in 2020 expresses big expectations for the South American country. Although Guyana’s potential future wealth is good news, the developing country will need support in transforming its newfound wealth into positive change for its people. Every poor country that strikes oil does not always manage natural resources well, yet with the right tools and guidance, Guyana could reduce its 35 percent poverty rate by adding jobs and transforming into a developed economy.

– Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Wikipedia Commons