Exploring the needs of indigenous communities in Bayano, Panama, through surveys and workshops with the Maje Embera

Speed talk
Part of:
10:55, Friday 20 Dec 2019 (5 minutes)
Room EFG
The Bayano region in Panama has faced biodiversity loss and land tenure issues. The development of the Bayano dam, completed in 1976, lead to the flooding of land, resulting in major biodiversity impacts and the relocation of several communities, including indigenous Guna and Embera populations. A community which was greatly affected was the Maje Embera, which is currently fighting to have their land tenure recognized. A survey of 21 Maje Embera community members, along with a focus group/workshop, was performed as part of a McGill University BESS research project (Neotropical concentration). Demographic information, along with the respondents’ perceptions of their surroundings and the needs of the community, were noted. Preliminary results demonstrate the community is keenly aware that the environmental changes are linked to at least one social issue, such as illness and poverty, in the community. This was true regardless of the participant’s age or gender. Furthermore, the most common response to changes in the rainy and dry seasons was that they were now more difficult to “predict,” both for changes in duration and timing. The focus group/workshop also explored what the community felt was necessary for it to thrive, including political influence and access to education. Such results will be helpful in better understanding the community, its needs and to potentially map a path to solving pressing problems.

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