The indigenous Guna of Panama are at the forefront of a new finding about forest conservation and climate change. A 2014 report by the World Resources Institute surveyed deforestation and emissions analyses from the most heavily forested countries around the world. Their conclusions were not surprising: It turns out that land held by local communities and indigenous peoples tends to be significantly less impacted by deforestation than land managed by governments or private entities.
Thanks in part to their exceptional sovereignty and land tenure, the Guna have preserved their primary forests for hundreds of years through their cooperative use of the land and their cultural and spiritual traditions rooted in conservation.
In this multimedia piece, we follow Andrés de León and the Yarsuisuit collective, a group of men who grow and harvest food sustainably in the Guna mainland forest. They also run a store on the island of Ustupu that helps support their families, serving as a model for the wider community.