According to the report of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the isthmus nation was a pioneer in Latin America and the Caribbean in recognizing indigenous peoples’ territorial rights and collective ownership in the 1972 Political Constitution.
It also provides an account of the creation of the first region (Guna Yala) in 1938. A quarter of a century later, Panama recorded five regions with an area of over 1.6 million hectares, which represented 12 percent of the total country.
The document also indicates that indigenous peoples occupy nearly half (48 percent) of Central America’s forests, of which 37 percent have a level of use within protected areas.
In the view of the Food and Agriculture Organization, improving forest tenure reduces biodiversity loss and avoids carbon dioxide emissions, although its protective function is increasingly at risk.
“Indigenous and tribal peoples and forests on their lands play a vital role in global and regional climate action, and in the fight against poverty, hunger and malnutrition,” said the FAO Regional Representative.
He determined that their lands contain about a third of the total carbon stored in the forests of the region and 14 percent of the world.
The text, jointly prepared with the Fund for the Development of Indigenous Peoples in Latin America and the Caribbean, includes more than 300 studies published in the past two decades, which recognize indigenous and tribal peoples as the best custodians of forests.
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