Paraguay’s ecological uniqueness is attributed to its location at the confluence of six ecoregions: the Atlantic Forest, the Humid Chaco, the Chaco Woodland or Dry Chaco, the Pantanal, the Southern Grasslands, and the Cerrado. It has two main identified habitats: (i) the warm, temperate, humid forests and (ii) the warm, temperate dry forests. This gives the country a rich biodiversity in a relatively small territory (406,752 km2). However, widespread deforestation from agricultural expansion is the main source of biodiversity loss, even in its Protected Areas which account for about 15% of national territory.
In ICCAs, the intertwined and complimentary relationship between people, nature and their economy lead to biodiversity conservation and sustainable livelihoods. Many of ICCAs also surround Paraguay’s natural reserves that have global and national importance and thus, their traditional knowledge and sustainable practices generate benefits outside the territories. However, while indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs) have legal title and insurance on their settlements, they are still threatened by external industrial agriculture and extensive livestock farming activities as well as conflicts from land invasion.
In this context, this ICCA-GSI project aims to develop a methodology for land demarcation and regularization of Paraguay’s indigenous territories. The methodology combines traditional knowledge and customary practices with modern science and technology. It is based on the experiences from two pilot areas, each covering three communities: the Yshir peoples of Puerto Diana, Puerto Esperanza, and Karcha Balhut located in the Alto Paraguay Department (northern Paraguay) and the Mbyá Guaraní of Pastoreo, Ko'eju and Pykasu'i in the Itapúa Department (southern Paraguay).
The Yshir territories are located in the buffer zone of the 7.5 million-hectare Paraguayan Chaco Biosphere Reserve. The buffer zones constitute a barrier to protect the core areas from the development activities in the transition area. This transition area is established to promote the sustainable use and management of natural resources in harmony with indigenous cultures and needs. In the south, the Mbyá Guaraní territories (Tekoha Guasú) overlaps with the San Rafael Nature Reserve, a 73,000-hectare sanctuary and the last remaining larger sections of the Atlantic Forest. The IPLCs and their authorities are involved in each stage of the project and activities include: (i) development of the land demarcation and regularization methodology and practical manuals based on ICCA territorial governance plans and self-determined development plans (life plans) according to the culture and collective right of each participating town; (ii) knowledge-sharing and exchange between the participating indigenous communities, conservation institutions and public authorities on bio-cultural conservation, specifically on complex production systems; (iii) user-training on the Paraguay’s Indigenous Lands Platform, the Forest Watcher application, and a mobile application designed to use dynamic forest monitoring and warning systems of the Global Forest Watch (GFW) in the field; and (iv) grassroots actions for recovering traditional systems on forest conservation and community water management, combined with scientific knowledge.