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2020 Recap - Native Stewardship

Updated: Nov 23, 2021

Native Future carries out three mutually supporting stewardship activities with four Wounaan communities, the Wounaan National Congress, and their foundation, the FUNDEPW:

  1. The Wounaan Bird Count, which includes bird conservation, biocultural revitalization, and ecotourism development

  2. Forest restoration, or Jẽb Jua Choog K׳ap׳ ^Wën^rraag, as it is known in Wounaan meu

  3. Forest monitoring of Wounaan territories


Wounaan Bird Count

Bird Conservation: On January 5, 2020, thirty-eight birders, including 11 new Wounaan birders from Rio Hondo and Platanares, counted 1,298 individual birds and 135 species over 15 hours and along 4 routes during Puerto Lara’s second official Christmas Bird Count (CBC). Read about their CBC in Masked Up, Puerto Lara Perseveres.

Biocultural revitalization: With COVID-19, community exchanges and international travel stopped. Project partners turned their focus to the creation of the children’s book, The Adventures of Two Wounaan Children and Many Birds. This work is beautifully illustrated by Frankie Grin and narrated by Wounaan cultural and language experts: Chenier Carpio Opua, Doris Cheucarama Membache, hapk’ʌʌn Rito Ismare Peña, Dorindo Membora Peña, Chindío Peña Ismare, and Dr. Julie Velásquez Runk. It will be available for purchase soon in English, Spanish, and Wounaan meu. (Sign up for our virtual newsletter here to be the first to know when the book is available for purchase)

Ecotourism: In December 2020, the project concept “Digital Transformation of Indigenous-Led Ecotourism and Conservation”, was approved by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Innovation Lab. With an eye to the future, the project is a partnership between Native Future, the Wounaan National Congress and Foundation (FUNDEPW), T’ashi, an ecotourism online marketing business, and micro-finance facilitator, Global Brigades. It will support Puerto Lara, Rio Hondo, and Platanares to meet post-COVID-19 ecotourism demand through COVID-sensitive ecotour development, online marketing, and financial inclusion.


Forest Restoration (Jẽb Jua Choog K׳ap׳ ^Wën^rraag)

  • January - March 2020, 340 Wounaan in 4 communities received training in tree nursery construction and maintenance, seed germination, and seedling transplanting and care.

  • A simple digital guide to Wounaan traditional tree planting practices was developed to remotely assist communities to transplant their seedlings.

  • By July 2020, approximately 12,500 tree seedlings were planted in 4 Wounaan communities to replenish their farms and forests with species important to their culture, ecology, and livelihoods.

  • Using WhatsApp telecommunications, the Wounaan “tele-forester” oriented community-based technicians on tree seedling care and about treatments they can make at home and bitter plants they can cultivate around their trees to fend off insects and disease. An estimated 90 Wounaan men and women received these trainings in their native language.


Forest Monitoring in Wounaan Territories

Native Future GIS and Mapping Technician, Clay Mosolino, worked with Wounaan Territorial Monitoring Coordinator, Donalds Negria, and Wounaan National Congress leadership to develop a territorial alerts map.

The map remotely detects deforestation and fires threatening Wounaan territories by using publicly provided satellite imagery data from the Global Land Analysis and Discovery (GLAD) alerts system from the University of Maryland, and NASA’s Fire Information for Resource Management System (FIRMS). By January 2021, the map was supporting Wounaan community-based technicians to verify forest loss and submit evidence in environmental complaints to Panama’s Ministry of Environment.


Moving Forward: 2021

Late 2019, the Maje Mountains project was launched to bring to bear resources of each of these projects in three of the most threatened Wounaan communities: Rio Hondo, Platanares, and Maje. By April 2020 the pandemic affected Wounaan capacity to safely implement activities on the ground, and forest restoration and bird conservation work was not scaled out to the community of Maje. However, the groundwork was laid for a post-COVID-19 revitalization of Maje Mountain stewardship objectives in 2021, and partnerships were renewed with the International Conservation Fund of Canada and US Forest Service International Programs.

THANK YOU to everyone who contributed to the 2020 year-end Native Stewardship matching funds campaign! You helped us more than meet our match of $6,000 and enter 2021 on solid footing. Stay tuned for 2021 year-end news!


You Can Make a Difference

The loss of traditional lands and culture is a plight that nearly all Indigenous people face. This is one place where you can make a real difference. Your tax-deductible donation will help protect hundreds of thousands of acres of rainforest and the future of Indigenous communities.


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