Our decision to base Earth Train in Panama was partly in response to an emergency. Guillermo Archibald, a respected Kuna environmental leader, and two young men from Kuna Yala who participated in one of Earth Train's leadership training programs in Puerto Rico, urged us to visit Panama and to consider locating our rural facilities near Kuna Yala. A team of Earth Train staff and Kuna leaders picked the watershed of the upper Rio Mamoní, one of the three largest rivers in the capital province of Panama.
The valley of the upper Mamoní, only two hours from Panama City, was where the Kuna's protected primary forest and river valleys were in greatest danger of invasion. Absentee ranchers were pushing their hired hands to clear more forest for pasture; groups specializing in illegal logging, including two from Colombia, were offering tantalizing "cash down plus a piece of the action" deals to the owners of forested land. Small farmers in the area found a temporary gold mine in the production of "culantro", a broad-leaf variety of cilantro that is popular in Panama. In growing numbers, they were clearing and burning forested land on steep inclines to scratch out the ideal, though short lived, growing conditions for this phosphorous–loving plant.
In 2001, Earth Train started the construction of Centro Mamoní, our rural facility in the valley, right next to the sacred primary forest and river areas of western Kuna Yala. Over a period of four years, Earth Train forged a formal agreement with both the Kuna General and Cultural Congresses to partner on the protection of Kuna territory, the development of educational opportunities for Kuna youth, and the organization of youth-directed ecotourism on the Kuna mainland.
Explore Earth Train
The 10,000-acre Mamoní Valley Preserve: a world campus for education, restoration, training in biocultural restoration and conservation and sustainable development.
Learn about Earth Train, our programs, the Mamoní Valley Preserve and more in our Mamoní Valley Programs Report by Nathan Gray and Líder Sucre.
Check out our press section and articles authored by Earth Train founder Nathan Gray