Nicaragua is the second-poorest economy in Latin America after Haiti, and has already lost much of its forest cover to agricultural development. About 21 percent of the country’s forests disappeared between 1990 and 2005.
The silver lining is that the government now legally recognizes 49 percent of the remaining forests as community-owned forests, more than other Latin American countries like Honduras, Guatemala, Brazil, and Bolivia. Community forests are important not only for preserving indigenous livelihoods, but for protecting biodiversity and curbing climate change. Recent research from WRI and the Rights and Resources Initiative found that legally recognized and protected community forests have lower rates of deforestation than forests where community rights are insecure. The world’s 513 million hectares of legally recognized community forest store 37 billion tonnes of carbon—29 times the annual carbon footprint of all passenger vehicles.
But Nicaragua’s government was slow to protect communities’ rights to forests. Indeed, it was indigenous communities themselves who stepped up and conserved their forests in the face of government inaction.
The History of Nicaragua’s Forest Communities
Established in 1991, the Bosawas Biosphere Reserve in Nicaragua in north-central Nicaragua, together with the Rio Platano Reserve in Honduras and adjacent protected areas, is one of the largest areas of protected tropical forest in Central America. The core area and buffer zone of Bosawas covers 854,000 hectares, or about 7 percent of Nicaragua.
Large parts of the reserve and remaining tropical forests are inhabited by indigenous groups like the Mayangna (Sumo) and Miskito Indians. These indigenous peoples subsist on the reserve’s natural resources, employing sustainable practices to conserve ecosystems. Farming is based on shifting agriculture, with the land cropped for a year and then allowed to revert to forest. Few families have cattle, although they do keep other animals such as pigs.
For the complete article, please see World Resources Institute.