In Panama, there are seven Indigenous Peoples with a population of over 550,000. They have six constitutionally recognized self-government territories called comarcas, and another five where at least collective ownership is recognized, out of 35 traditional indigenous territories, that encompasses over 70% of the country’s remaining primary forest in one of the most essential biological corridors in the world. A changing climate gravely threatens these Indigenous lands and communities.
Geoversity is a conservation community of individuals and organizations working together to promote biocultural leadership. Out of years of ecological restoration, fighting to protect biodiversity, and supporting numerous scientific research projects, GeoSchools have been created with various natural campuses rich in biological and cultural diversity. Their “Life Changer” team of educators, guides, and explorers helps those whose lives they are touching to unpack the full value of the nature and cultural immersion experiences.
This Geoversity project conserves 13,000 acres in the Mamoní Valley Preserve in Panama. By restoring and protecting watershed areas and building facilities, it serves as both a campus and a buffer protecting the vulnerable southern border of Gunayala, an autonomous territory of the Guna People.
Further funding for this project will provide critical skill and leadership development opportunities to a minimum of 30 Indigenous leaders. Investing in these emerging leaders and their mentors will, in turn, engage and empower many times their number. It also aims to increase by 20 the number of Indigenous interns and instructors at the GeoSchool.
Several important institutions are included in the start-up of this initiative, such as three of Panama’s Indigenous youth congresses, numerous socially and environmentally positive businesses (e.g., Roth-Architects and Azulik in Mexico), and several universities.
The primary beneficiaries of this project are the Guna, Emberá, and Wounaan Peoples of Panama. Secondary beneficiaries include the other four Indigenous Peoples of Panama and the whole country, as there will be greater protection of forests, coastal regions, and riparian zones.
The Chagres watershed, the primary freshwater supply for Panama City, and the local biodiversity will also benefit from more expertise and leaders in land management. This will ultimately aid in sequestering more carbon and mitigate the climate crisis.
Established in 1991, Geoversity (formerly Earth Train Foundation) empowers youth leaders committed to creating a healthy planet. The organization conducts in-depth leadership programs and high visibility events, including youth-calling-youth-to-action train journeys, with hands-on experience for over 16,000 young people worldwide, with messaging reaching millions.
Partners in learning and fieldwork have included Dr. Jane Goodall, the Smithsonian, the Guna and Emberá Congresses, Re:Wild, Forests of the World, Euroclima+, Harvard Biology Department, Environment Ministry, and leaders in GIS-based mapping.
The Panama initiative will achieve the dual mission of promoting natural and environmentally positive design and the empowerment of emerging biocultural leaders through collaboration and a significant scale-up of the GeoSchool.