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British NGO-funded UG-affiliated biodiversity research centre isn’t about exporting science- co-founder

Last Updated on Wednesday, 30 August 2023, 9:54 by Denis Chabrol

Co-founder of Sophia Point Rainforest Research Centre David Lammy (centre), University of Guyana Vice Chancellor Professor Paloma Mohamed- Martin, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair (partly hidden) and President Irfaan Ali at the unveiling of the plaque for the centre.

The University of Guyana (UG) on Tuesday formally announced the establishment of a not-for-profit biodiversity research centre in the Essequibo River near the Mazaruni and Cuyuni rivers with an assurance by the British non-governmental organisation that the aim is not to export scientific information from the area.

Co-founder of the Sophia Point Rainforest Research Institute, British parliamentarian David Lammy said the entity was designed in consultation with academics, field practitioners and locals to ensure the space would support the best in the field of research and tuition while “meeting the needs of Guyanese first.”

“From the start, it’s been a priority that Sophia Point is not about Western scientists flying into Guyana and flying out of Guyana, taking the science with them. We want to help to bring an end to destructive parachute science model; to build capacity here at the university at the community at all levels so that the community understands the solutions of the future,” he said.

Witnessing the unveiling of the plaque for the Sophia Point Rainforest Research Institute were several UG students, academics and policymakers as well as President Irfaan Ali, Mr Lammy, British Labour Party member Guyana-born Baroness Valerie Amos and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

In response to a question by the President’s Youth Advisory Committee member, Dr Josh Kanhai about whether immediate steps would be taken to record the medicinal values of  the rainforest, President Ali said the focus would be on integrating local researchers through the establishment of an innovation centre to use research and development for the creation of marketable products. “Our forest has tremendous potential in pharmaceuticals. The Indigenous community has already taught us that they have survived on the pharmaceutical values of the forest in what we term traditional medicine or some people would say ‘bush medicine’,” he said during a conversation on climate change and the environment with Mr Blair.

Mr Lammy said the centre would not only inspire young Guyanese but also “better understand and protect the vitally important rainforest and to equip themselves with the knowledge and skills to champion their environment for generations to come.”

He announced that a solar-powered environmentally conscious centre for teaching, training and research as well as support the local neighbourhood of the Rivers View community.

He said the Sophia Point Research Centre would be working together with the National Protected Areas Commission, Guyana Marine Conservation Society, World Wildlife Fund, Conservation International among others.

Mr Lammy said the centre would make the terrestrial, freshwater and marine environment more accessible, providing a platform for students and academics and researchers to “study this overlooked and under-valued country.” Beyond the biological sciences, he said the research centre would offer opportunities to engage with local communities, music and arts,” said Mr Lammy whose parents are Guyanese.

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August 2023