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Land Rights for the Embera People

Start project:
  • 2015
  • Congreso general de la comarca Embera-Wounaan

The Embera Wounnan General Congress (GCEW) is an indigenous organization from the Embera people of Panama. With a population of approximately 10,000 people, they own 438,000 forest hectares and other natural ecosystems. Despite having a strong legal framework and strong institutional processes, the Embera Nation requires institutional strengthening, involvement of youth in forest governance, and other improvements for better transparency and accountability.

Clearing of forest for cattle ranching, monoculture plantations, unsustainable logging, hydro-electric projects, and mining are the main causes of deforestation and forest destruction in Mesoamerica. These processes are associated with increased forest degradation, pollution, biodiversity loss, water shortages, and damage to local economies and food security, as well as higher carbon emissions. Centralized governmental management models have proved insufficient to stop deforestation and forest degradation.

Indigenous and community land management in Mesoamerica has proved effective for natural resource conservation, climate change mitigation, and poverty alleviation, but communities do not receive adequate support to address the pressures they face. Many still lack secure rights to their land and forest and / or financial and technical support for managing them. The governments and large producers responsible for forest destruction typically disregard the rights of indigenous and forest communities, and often threaten, jail, or assassinate community activists.

In this context, it is necessary to promote sustainable livelihoods and respect for the rights of Indigenous Peoples and forest communities. Most of the remaining forest in Mesoamerica is on land administered collectively by forest communities. These communities have deep historical and cultural connection to their land and can help prevent forest destruction and maintain their forests as carbon sinks.

This project is highly relevant for its beneficiaries, at national, regional and also international level, since it constitutes a clear furthering of territorial land rights, sanitation process and strengthen capacities in Mesoamerica.

The project is a clear example of how raising political awareness has evolved from a general proposal regarding territorial rights to the definition of specific goals based upon the different national scenarios. Among the activites carried out is the participation in the formal processes required to obtain legal recognition for land and forest rights in specific territories and communities; this includes: securing legal assistance, mapping and collecting socio-economic and environmental data, preparing and filing claims, informing community members, building political support, and negotiating specific agreements, among others. It also promotes participation in ongoing policy dialogues and inter-institutional mechanisms to promote policies that favor territorial rights.

By securing their land rights and adequate forest governance, communities achieve sustainable social, economical and political changes. They also contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation.

This project is financed by CLUA with co-financing from ICCO and other partners.

Leadership and capacity development program (MESOLIDER School)

This project supports the first implementation year of MESOLIDER, a leadership school for indigenous leaders, developed by organizations ...

Project started:
  • 2017
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Land Rights for the Guna People

ICCO Cooperation, in partnership with the Mesoamerican Alliance of Peoples and Forests (AMPB), works on strengthening forest land ...

Project started:
  • 2015
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