Title: Documenting Rights, Reducing Risks: Platform for Reviewing Indigenous Claims to Land and Forests
Subtitle: Examination of Lessons Learned in Paraguay
The trends in Paraguay are reflected globally, as agriculture expands its footprint at the expense of Indigenous Peoples and forests. Companies around the world, especially those linked to major drivers of deforestation, face increasing pressure to address environmental and social risks in their supply chains, and many have already made zero deforestation and zero land grabbing commitments.
Building on a review of the current status of land tenure and its relationship to deforestation and the private sector in the Paraguayan Chaco, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) collaborated with FAPI, the Federación por la Autodeterminación de los Pueblos Indígenas, to create an interactive online map of indigenous lands in Paraguay through the USAID-funded Tenure and Global Climate Change program (TGCC). TGCC has carried out pilot activities in five countries to demonstrate how documentation of land and resource rights can support sustainable landscape management. The Paraguay intervention focused on the intersection of land tenure, deforestation, and private sector investments in the Chaco region, where commercial agriculture is expanding into the previously intact Chaco forest ecosystem. This expansion has triggered significant deforestation and land conflicts with the indigenous peoples of the Chaco, who have seen much of the region’s forest turned to cattle ranches since 2000. As the country’s agricultural exports grow, so too does the need for transparency and accessible data on indigenous lands, without which the agricultural sector would be unable to reduce their exposure to these risks.
The resulting Paraguayan website platform, called Tierras Indigenas Paraguay (www.tierrasindigenas.org.py), was launched in November 2017, and it is intended that the data will be integrated into global platforms as well, like LandMark and Global Forest Watch. The increased availability of geospatial data on a public-oriented platform has great potential to boost the visibility of indigenous lands, and the transparency and availability of the data provides much needed inputs for the private sector to carry out due diligence activities to reduce social and environmental risk in their sourcing. While significant data had already been created by both indigenous groups and the government, these had not previously been systematically organized and made public via a mapping platform. This approach to consolidating existing data from disparate sources onto a public platform provides an important method of participatory mapping and rights recognition moving forward. This document provides a brief overview of lessons learned during the site’s development and associated outreach as potential guidelines for the continued development of the platform, and for similar processes in the future.