Indigenous Women Propose Inclusive System to Conserve Forests in Costa Rica (Part 2)

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    Since its entry into operation in 1997, the PSA has benefited more than 18,000 families, prioritizing small producers, rural women and indigenous territories. In total, it has mobilized more than US$ 524 million in contracts aimed at the conservation of more than 1.3 million hectares.

    “The PES is a source of income for small forest owners and small forest producers who, through this program, receive resources to survive. In such a painful year for the country due to the covid-19 pandemic, the PES has been an engine for the rural economy and is key to the sustainable economic recovery of Costa Rica”, declares Andrea Meza, Minister of Environment and Energy.

    A Costa Rican forest, whose conservation would improve with more inclusion and participation of indigenous women. Photo: Giancarlo Pucci / UNDP Costa Rica

    Indigenous territories: A State priority

    Since the program was created, one of the great beneficiaries has been the indigenous territories. According to Fonafifo, between 2010 and 2019, 159 contracts were signed with them for a total of 43 million dollars.

    In Costa Rica, the indigenous population amounts to 104,143 people (2.4% of the total). The country has 24 territories legally constituted and protected by Law 6172 of 1977, which recognizes its communal and territorial organization.

    In respect of this governance, PES contracts are signed with the Associations for the Integral Development of the Indigenous Reserve (Adiri). And, internally, these organizations decide how they distribute the economic benefits derived from the program.

    Starting in 2008, Fonafifo began working on the participatory design of the REDD + strategy and convened indigenous leaders, including women.

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    This strategy consists of 6 policies. One of them -the fifth- focuses specifically on indigenous peoples and prioritizes four themes. The first claims that there is an Indigenous PES that respects the worldview that this group has of the forest and, consequently, shares it with the rest of the population. In fact, they want that vision to be included in the National Forest Development Plan.

    How is the land management?

    Another issue is to resolve conflicts arising from land tenure. Although indigenous territories are delimited by law, the reality is that there are non-indigenous people living there, who must be expropriated by the State.

    There are also cases of invasion that have generated violent clashes. Related to the above, there are still cases of land overlap between indigenous territories and protected wild areas that were created later.

    In favor of a solution, the native peoples propose to reach an agreement for the co-management of these overlapping lands, since they share a common interest: the conservation of the forest. For this, a legal reform is required, since Costa Rica does not allow the co-management of national parks, wildlife refuges or reserves.

    The fourth theme is related to ensuring participation and follow-up, as well as its monitoring. In that effort, within the Ministry of Environment and Energy (Minae), a commission was created to address indigenous issues.

    Apart from actively participating in this process, indigenous women went one step further; they advocated including lines of action on gender issues within the fifth policy and permeating the others to make them more inclusive. All they asked in return was an opportunity to show what they are capable of.

    “If they support us, we can do many things for other women”, says Villanueva. “There are direct actions by women in indigenous territories. We can demonstrate fund management experience. Women, if they give us credit, we have no delinquency rate”.

    Indigenous Women Propose Inclusive System to Conserve Forests in Costa Rica (Part 3)
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