Indigenous groups in Paraguay launched the first online map of indigenous lands in the country on November 28. The map, which contains data from 13 of Paraguay’s 19 recognized indigenous groups, aims to reduce land conflicts between indigenous peoples and the public and private sectors.
Prior to the creation of this map, indigenous lands were not represented on official maps and not easily accessible to government administrators, which led to many conflicts over land claims between indigenous groups and private companies.
The map provides information on legal land claims, the size and location of indigenous groups, locations of deforestation and forest fires, as well as if the forest in question is part of a protected area. Deforestation is a growing problem in Paraguay as the meat and soybean industries are rapidly expanding in the country and rely upon arable land.
Deforestation poses a major threat to the 120,000 indigenous people living in Paraguay, many of whom are dependent upon the remaining forests to maintain their traditional ways of life. Most of the indigenous peoples live and possess land in the sparsely-populated Northwestern Chaco region where natural resources have become increasingly exploited by Paraguayan agriculture.
The Federation for the Self-Determination of Indigenous Peoples operates the map with support from a number of national and international organizations including the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
By providing this information in a public, visible format, these organizations hope that the classification of indigenous land as abandoned will become less likely and reduce the rate at which indigenous lands are being sold to the agriculture industry.
Indigenous people have historically been excluded from conversations over land use in Paraguay, so by compiling this information, they believe that their rights will become more visible and have an effect in reducing the sale and deforestation of their lands.