BENEFITING: RAINFOREST FOUNDATION INC
We are helping the Wounaan and Embera people of Panama secure their rights to one million acres of their ancestral lands.
Partners: Congress of Embera and Wounaan Collective Lands; National Wounaan Congress
Why this project is important:
In 2008, Panama passed a law allowing indigenous groups to claim collective lands, which had long been a demand of the indigenous movement. In 2012, two Wounaan communities gained formal recognition of their lands through this new law. Together with the Wounaan and Embera, we’re now pushing for the remaining 20+ collective lands in the Darien to obtain titles, and for these communities to sustainably manage their lands. We see this as a critical opportunity for advancing indigenous rights, as well as environmental protection in the biologically important Darién region.
Recent data has shown that about one third of Panama is indigenous lands (recognized and claimed) and that 60% of the country’s rainforests are in these areas. These figures are even more remarkable in the Darien, which retains over 70% of forest cover – and this figure goes up to 80% in the region's four semi-autonomous large-scale indigenous areas, or comarcas. After the comarcas were recognized, however, 25 Embera and Wounaan lands in the Darien remained without any form of legal protection. These areas have been increasingly invaded by illegal colonists and cattle ranchers. Without secure title to their ancestral lands, these indigenous communities have had little ability to evict intruders and effectively protect their forests.
What we’re doing:
Over the next few years, RF-US will be working with the Embera and Wounaan to gain recognition of all of the communities which still need title in the Darién. As they gain titles, we’ll also be working with them to establish participatory land management plans, so they can sustainably manage their lands into the future. All of these efforts are underpinned by community and organizational capacity building. As a result, we hope to secure nearly 1 million acres of tropical forest, to be owned and managed by the Embera and Wounaan, who call the area home. This program is supported by the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation, the Rainforest Fund, and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Did you know?