I am feeling optimistic about 2022. According to Reuter’s COVID-19 tracker, which analyzes University of Oxford’s Our World in Data, Panama is vaccinating 10% of its population every six weeks. By mid-November, approximately 55% of Panamanians have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Our Indigenous partners report their rural communities are getting vaccinated, too, despite some vaccine hesitancy. Hopefully by the end of 2021, at least 75% of Panamanians will have received this life-saving protection from the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Meanwhile, Panama’s masking and quarantine protocols seem to be keeping caseloads low.
We continue to support Indigenous partners virtually and with new technologies. As you will read in our Fall 2021 Newsletter, Wounaan are using satellite data to rapidly respond to deforestation and stop the destruction of their lands. Wounaan bird guides are learning English using Google Meet and WhatsApp, and with the launch of the new project, Digital Transformation of Indigenous-Led Ecotourism and Conservation, we’ll be helping Wounaan ecotourism providers connect online to the global market. And, Wounaan are connecting virtually with tree seedling health experts. This year, another 6,000 seedlings were planted by Wounaan to replenish their forests.
Still, there is a lot to do. Six Wounaan communities remain untitled. Approximately 350,000 acres of their forested territories are at risk of deforestation and Wounaan biocultural resources are at risk of disappearing.
Barring more elusive variants, I am optimistic we’ll be able to safely travel to Panama in 2022 and make even greater progress. Thank you for continuing to support Indigenous communities in Panama.
President, Native Future