Land Conflicts and Indigenous Lands

Photo of Leaders of Arimae point out deforestation in the community's reservationLeaders of Arimae point out deforestation in the community's reservationThe Panamanian newspaper La Prensa recently ran an article about the Embera/Wounaan closing the Pan-American highway in the Darien. The block was a reaction to the Panamananian government’s failure to evict squatters from the reservation of our indigenous partner community Arimae.

Arimae has about 8000 hectares of land designated as communally owned, i.e. the community as a whole owns the land instead of individual land titles. Through a well established internal management plan, Arimae allocates part of the land to its individual members for homesteading/agriculture, and the rest to projects that benefit the entire community.

Squatters mostly nibble away at the fringes of Arimae’s forested reservation, but some have been so bold as to plunge into the heart of this rainforest with chainsaws and matches. They do this with the expectation that the Panamanian government will recognize their “squatter’s rights”, and eventually offer them a clean title. While this encroachment is technically illegal, the squatters understand that demonstrating “productive use” of the land builds their case for eventual ownership. The majority of these squatters already owned land previously, but chose to sell it and take the chance of squatting on another piece of land.

While we don’t directly involve ourselves with these disputes (our trees are planted far from where squatting is a problem) Arimae has used our land lease payments to cover legal expenses related to the land dispute.

We will continue to support Arimae’s struggle to secure its reservation from illegal squatters. Our investors play a crucial role, as well. By owning forest investments that make more sustainable “productive use” of their land, you’re helping Arimae build the case to the Panamanian government to take action.