BARCA and the Embera Wounaan in the Darien Province of Panama

In 2008 BARCA Panama began to support and work with the Embera Wounaan People in the Darien Gap. The Embera and Wounaan people are the third largest indigenous group in the Republic of Panamá, located in the eastern part of the country on the border with Colombia. The Embera Wounaan territory, established as a Comarca under Panama law, has some 430,000 hectares, where more than 95% is pristine rainforest jungle; this is the most valuable asset the Embera and Wounaan possess today.

The Comarca is rich in natural resources, from forest to non-forest products, agriculture products, wildlife, and more. Ne-Drua, ("Land of Richness" in the Embera language), was created in September 2009 as an economic development arm of the Congreso General Embera Wounaan, the traditional governing body of the Embera Wounaan. BARCA supported the creation of Ne-Drua and worked with Ne-Drua to build capacity and develop specific business ideas for mid and long-term investments to support the socio-economic development goals of the Embera Wounaan.

The Congreso General has implemented Sustainable Forest Management Plans where local communities hold the responsibility to manage and care for the forest as they have for centuries. BARCA assisted the communities in the development and implementation of 10 Sustainable Forest Management Plans and FSC® Certification on a total of over 175,000 hectares.

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