On the ground, Wounaan community monitors act as the first line of defense, monitoring forest cover change throughout their territories with the assistance of satellite imagery and alerts from Native Future’s territorial monitoring program.
"The technology gives me hope because the way we monitor is more advanced now," says one of the community monitors. Once alerted, they verify the coordinates of the illegal clearings using GIS mapping software on their smartphones. They photograph the sites, documenting the crimes committed against their land. All of this evidence will be presented to the Ministry of the Environment in the form of a denuncia or complaint.
Wounaan communities are making real progress holding land-grabbers accountable, and maintaining the integrity of their territories. But it is an ongoing struggle to defend their land rights. In order for these denuncias to be effective, they must be shepherded through the legal process by our partners at the Wounaan National Congress and the Foundation for the Development of the Wounaan People. Native Future supports and assists the efforts of this Wounaan-led legal team to pressure the Panamanian government to act.
The data are clear. Globally, tropical forests are both a refuge for biodiversity and critical to combating climate change. Indigenous peoples worldwide have proven that they are the best stewards of their precious natural resources, with Indigenous lands showing roughly 20% less deforestation than non-protected lands. Furthermore, Indigenous lands provide shelter for 80% of Earth’s biodiversity and sequester almost 300 trillion tons of carbon, according to Scientific American. According to the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama’s forests have an "unusually high" capacity for carbon sequestration, with Rainforest US estimating that they sequester 160 tons of carbon per hectare. With over 140,000 hectares of untitled Wounaan land in Panama threatened by illegal deforestation, we must act now to defend Indigenous land rights and protect these vital ecosystems.
Indigenous lands, both in Panama and across the globe, are being invaded and cleared for short-term profit. We need to take a stand in communities like Aruza and Majé. Actively supporting Indigenous land rights is not only the right thing to do, it is also a crucial step in mitigating the effects of the climate crisis and loss of biodiversity.
Let's protect these critical ecosystems.
Native Future stands with the Wounaan National Congress, the Foundation for the Development of the Wounaan People (FUNDEPW), and all Wounaan communities in the Darien region and Majé mountains who are fighting for their right to live in peace on their land. Join us in support of Indigenous rights and the protection of Panama's rainforest ecosystems.
We have the power to stop deforestation on Indigenous land. This World Rainforest Day, let’s take action!
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