A new study of the land tenure situation of Indigenous people in Guyana, conducted by the Amerindian Peoples Association (APA), has identified land rights issues as a major concern for the communities according to the report, which was released on Thursday.Toshaos and other representatives with their copy of the “Our Land, Our Life: A Participatory Assessment of the Land Tenure Situation of Indigenous Peoples in Guyana – Report for Region 8”The report titled “Our Land, Our Life: A Participatory Assessment of the Land Tenure Situation of Indigenous Peoples in Guyana – Report for Region 8” was officially launched at the Regency Hotel, Hadfield Street, Georgetown.It is the second of a series of participative land tenure studies conducted by the APA with funding from the United Kingdom Department for International Development and the Kingdom of Norway International Climate and Forest Initiative, with the field studies supported by the Forest Peoples Programme and Rainforest Foundation US.The study saw researchers visiting 22 settlements in the Potaro-Siparuni (Region Eight) area, and found that most of the villages were dissatisfied with the fragmented land titling approach to their customary lands and were calling for a collective territorial title throughout the region. The villages visited were Chenapou; Itabac; Kaibarupai; Kamana; Kanapang; Karisparu; Kato; Chiung Mouth; Kopinang; Kurukabaru; Maikwak; Monkey Mountain; Paramakatoi; Bamboo Creek; Mountain Foot; Taruka; Waipa; Campbelltown; Princeville; El Paso (Tumatumari); Maicobie and Moruwa.APA Executive Jean La Rose said in 2012 the Association embarked on the first land tenure assessment in Regions One (Barima-Waini) and Two (Pomeroon-Supenaam) in order to educate the residents as it relates to information on their respective communities. The participants were trained in various aspects, and some of them were utilised in the 12-member team that conducted the assessment in Region Eight. The researchers would have spent a long time gathering data and mapping the coordinates of the villages so as to pinpoint the relevant proposed extensions, customary lands, and homestead areas.The report highlighted that of the 18 settlements visited, 15 had land titles while three had no titles at all. Meanwhile, the land titles are limited in some villages by a save and except clause allowing exclusion of third-party private property or land lease interests within the titled area.It was also reported that the process of extensions and applying for new titles was one that was tedious and lengthy. Additionally, 14 of the titled villages were not consulted about the areas granted under the titles, with 12 of them reporting flaws in their title demarcations, with the demarcations not following the title description.“The fragmentation caused by flawed demarcation exercises is causing disputes between several villages with regard to tenure rights and control over resources that were previously shared; titles and demarcation were granted and completed without an official procedure in place to avoid overlaps between title and extension applications of different villages, which can cause disputes,” the report stated.It was identified that Itabac/Kanapang and Chenapou/Karisparu began having disputes after the demarcation process, stemming from errors in the title descriptions, which were not evident until the lines were drawn on the ground. The study found that five of the 15 titled villages have problems with mining activities or the movement of unauthorised miners within their legally-recognised titled land. In some cases, the communities have reported bullying and physical abuse in key mining areas at the hands of those who trespass.The report also made proposals to the Government; the National Toshaos Council (NTC); the Village Councils and the Indigenous People’s Commission (IPC). The report also recommended the reviewing and amending of the 2006 Amerindian Act so that it will align with articles in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and related international human rights treaties to which Guyana is a signatory.According to the report, the Act has made tenure security worse for Amerindian villages as it favours the rights of private leaseholders occupying the land before a title is granted. The legislation’s “save and except” clause places commercial property rights of miners, loggers, and agricultural leaseholders above the tenure rights of Indigenous peoples.The communities called on the NTC to be strong and unified in its representation of the issues facing Amerindian communities while urging them to push for the President to address the outstanding land issues.They also urged the Village Councils to unite with each other to discuss and agree on a strategy to obtain legal recognition for a collective territory while calling on the IPC to investigate Indigenous land issues according to its mandate and make recommendations for improved land security and good governance of tenure for Indigenous peoples in Guyana.Another such report is expected by the end of 2018 focusing on Region Seven (Cuyuni-Mazaruni).