At the narrowest span of land in the western hemisphere, where a mere 35 miles of terrain keeps the Pacific Ocean from meeting the Atlantic, ilies a thin corridor of primary forest and river valleys rich in biological diversity. CABI has partnered with local non-governmental organization, Earth Train, to conduct topographic surveys of 10,000 acres of land located in the Marmoní Valley, northeast of Panamá City (Figure 1).
Based at Earth Train’s Upland Rainforest station, CABI researchers worked with local Panamanians, government surveyors, and indigenous youth from neighboring Emberá and Kuna communities to map natural resources and territory designated for conservation and restoration. Based on this field data, CABI built a preliminary map of the watershed, to be used in decision making processes for sustainable management of the region.
The Mamoní Valley buffers the region where the primary forest and river lands of the Kuna Yala, the territory of the indigenous Kuna, are most threatened. The Mamoní Valley Preserve was founded in 2001 by Earth Train, an international youth leadership organization, and Rainforest Capital, LLC, a socially positive investment company. The Mamoní Valley Preserve is being developed into a learning and research center for ecological and cultural restoration and renewal. The goals for the Mamoní Valley Preserve include protection and management of remaining intact forests, restoration of lands degraded by cattle ranching or inappropriate agricultural practices, and the development of sustainable livelihoods for the local communities.
To achieve these goals, CABI is working to develop a “Greenprint”, the current and future land use planning map for the area, that is being generated in a participatory fashion and incorporates local knowledge and practices. In 2007 and 2008, we created the first scientifically accurate map of the upper Mamoní Valley (Figure 2). The map is used now in community management of the watershed. With an emphasis on local participation and technical training, we plan to further develop the map to support the many environmental and social programs planned for the watershed of the upper Mamoní valley and Kuna Yala.
The Greenprint, and the teams of people trained in the process of creating it, will help land-use managers, local Panamanians, and indigenous peoples identify their priority areas for both conservation and restoration efforts.
CABI continues to train Earth Train staff and youth interns in GPS technology, surveying techniques, and GIS to further develop the Mamoni watershed greenprint.