Ipetí Win 45 Year Fight for Their Land

After 45 years of struggle, Ipetí—an indigenous Emberá community located in Alto Bayano, Panama—gained legal rights to their lands. Emberá leaders, government officials, and allies from the National Coordinating Body of Indigenous Peoples in Panama (COONAPIP) gathered to celebrate the milestone.

In the 1970s, the Emberá communities of Ipetí and Piriatí were resettled to their current lands after the construction of the Alto Bayano dam flooded their ancestral lands. After 45 years of struggle, and a decision by the Inter-American Court on Human Rights, which recently ruled in their favor, the Emberá of Alto Bayano now have the collective property title to their lands.

Jeremías Cansarí, the Cacique of the General Congress of Alto Bayano, noted that the community of Ipetí had finally seen justice served, marking the culmination of several generations of sacrifice and struggle. “We thank all our traditional leaders and our people for their tireless struggle. Today we received our collective property title, which will greatly benefit our people and our future generations,” said Cansarí.

Meanwhile, Marcelo Guerra, President of COONAPIP, expressed his joy at the titling of Alto Bayano, and congratulated all, noting that they fought tirelessly for this occasion. Guerra used this occasion to announce that COONAPIP hopes to help the communities of Bajo Lepe, Piji Basal, and Maje Emberá Drúa gain their collective titles this year.

“We will continue to fight for land titling, and we hope to continue to enjoy the support both of citizens and the government,” Guerra explained. He noted that that all indigenous peoples want title to their ancestral lands, explaining that all indigenous communities in Panama, including the Naso and Bri Bri, must receive the title to their lands, and called on the government to step up its efforts.

Rainforest Foundation US has worked with Emberá and Wounaan communities in Panama on titling their collective lands for several years, though we haven’t worked directly in Ipetí. We hope the titling of Ipetí will serve as a new precedent, and that other titles will follow soon, responding to the aspirations of the indigenous peoples of Panama.,

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Didier Devers
Chief of Party – USAID Guatemala

Didier has been coordinating the USAID-funded B’atz project since joining Rainforest Foundation US in April 2022. He holds a Master’s in Applied Anthropology and a Bachelor’s in Geography. Before joining the organization, Didier worked for 12 years in Central and South America on issues of transparency, legality, governance, and managing stakeholders’ processes in the environmental sector. Prior to that he worked on similar issues in Central Africa. He speaks French, Spanish, and English, and is based in Guatemala.