From 2017 to 2021, Native Future implemented the “Strengthening Wounaan Forest-based Livelihoods'' project–or JẼB JUA CHOOG K׳AP׳Λ WËNΛRRAAG in Wounaan Meu, the native language of the Wounaan people. This five-year project was funded by the US Forest Service (USFS) International Programs and carried out by Native Future in partnership with the Wounaan National Congress (CNPW) and the Foundation for the Development of the Wounaan People (FUNDEPW). While the project officially wrapped up in January, 2022, Native Future and the USFS IP continue to work together to revitalize these crucial ecosystems and support the Indigenous communities that live within them.
The purpose of this program was to strengthen the capacity of Wounaan communities to protect, restore, and manage the forest resources upon which their livelihoods depend. In each community, 25 families on average participated in tree planting and forest restoration efforts, and received training and technical assistance in tree nursery construction and maintenance, seed collection and germination, transplanting, and seedling care and maintenance. They planted approximately 21,000 trees that are important to their culture, livelihoods and the ecology of their forests.
Over five years, USFS International Programs invested $217,424.90 in tree planting, territorial monitoring and ecotourism development activities in the Wounaan communities of Rio Hondo and Platanares (9,263 ha), Puerto Lara (473 ha) and Aruza (8,054 ha). Native Future raised an additional $307,857 from other funders toward the shared forest protection, restoration and sustainable livelihood objectives.
And the work continues! Native Future and USFS International Programs signed a new cooperative agreement in 2021 that will continue to support Native Stewardship objectives, addressing issues such as fire management and forest fire prevention in their territories.
The project, Wounaan Biocultural Forest Restoration, continues providing families with expert technical assistance in the care and maintenance of their seedlings. It is also scaling up and diversifying community tree planting by developing a seed collection and exchange strategy that can support all Wounaan communities. Many Wounaan territories have been depleted of the diversity of trees, and therefore seeds, they want to plant in their forests and farms. The strategy will be informed by Wounaan traditional knowledge and practice.
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