Categories Blog, Latin America, Panama

Working with Kuna Yala communities, Panama

First published on 11/11/2011, and last updated on 03/11/2018

By Jorge Andreve (

In November 2011 Jorge held a meeting on ICCAs with the Ustupa Kuna Yala community in Panama. The focus of the meeting was ICCAs in relation to Indigenous territories and how the ICCA concept might help the Kuna Yala people claim territorial rights to their land. He described and explained the mission, plans and purpose of the Consortium, and some issues surrounding the ICCA terminology. The meeting resulted in the community deciding that ICCAs will be one of their main work priorities and asked Jorge to help them prepare a project to protect one of their sacred sites, which is of great significance for their traditional, cultural and spiritual wealth. During the week, Jorge visited the sacred sites and agreed to help facilitate the community, especially with issues relating to endogenous development and community management of the ICCAs. The community is waiting for financial help to start activities.

The project’s objective is to formally establish two ICCAs in areas known locally as Galu of Maniyala and Yandup, with a focus on encouraging the rejuvenation of traditional knowledge within the Kuna Yala territory. The Gula of Maniyala – part of the forest near the mountain of the Cordillera de San Blas, located in the village of Ailigandi – and Yandup – located within a coastal marine community near Usdub – can be understood as both physical and metaphorical/spiritual spaces for the Kuna Yala community. For them, such places must be conserved to ensure the survival, protection and equilibrium of Mother Earth.

The Kuna Yala laws are oral, transmitted from generation to document these laws, restore their respect and ensure that they are never lost.