By Marissa Maguide
CADPI serves as the lead partner of Tebtebba for the project in Nicaragua, in cooperation with local territorial and communal assemblies and directive boards, as well as the regional university (URACCAN). The selected demonstration project site is the Territory of Tasba Pri that is part of the Municipality of Puerto Cabezas or Bilwi under the Regional Autonomo Atlantica Norte (RAAN). The regional autonomous government has achieved legal autonomous political status for the past 15 years. It has developed its legal framework and is working for the demarcation and titling of the whole regional territory that includes the 29 communities of Tasba Pri Territory.
Tasba Pri territory is characterized as an area with multi-ethnic and multi-cultural population, where the indigenous Miskitus live with the mestizo ethnic group. It has its own territorial organization led by the Union of Tasba Pri (UCOTAP) as the territorial assembly. The UCOTAP elects the Territorial Development Directive Board that coordinates activities at the territory and plans the comprehensive development of all the communities. Each of the communities has a Communal Assembly, the highest decision-making authority in these communities, and a Communal Directive Board. However, there is insufficient representation of women in these assemblies. Eight of the 29 communities of Tasba Pri form part of the demonstration area. These communities have a total population of 8,484, majority of whom are the Miskitu indigenous peoples. The minority mestizos, who are migrants from the Pacific area, on the other hand now live in four of the communities.
The visit by Tebtebba’s Climate Team was held from February 12-17, 2010. Upon arrival in Bilwi, the team attended an orientation meeting where the national and the autonomous regions' situations were shared. This gave the team an overview of what to expect in the subsequent days of the visit. The rest of the day consisted of a visit to the RAAN Regional Council, the Executive Authority Office, a fishing community, a local television channel, and finally, to the Hotel Liwa Mairin, another CADPI-managed hotel aside from Julie Kain Casa Museo which serves as CADPI's project for sustainability.
Prior to the trip to the demo community, the team met with Mr. Carlos Jose Aleman, the President of the Regional Council of RAAN. Mr. Aleman shared his insights on their historical struggle for autonomy. He also discussed the current situation facing the autonomous regions, including the council's plans and programs.
This was then followed by a 4-hour drive to Sahsa, the center of Tasba Pri Territory, where the team was met by the President of UTOCAP, Mr. Waldo Muller.
The main activities in the demo area consisted of a visit to Cerra Miramar, several meetings with the participants of the Diploma Course on Indigenous Peoples and REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) and community visits to Kukalaya, one of the eight communities, and the case study area, Kuakuil II community.
The Diploma Course is an integrated strategy to effectively strengthen the capacities of indigenous peoples in the demo areas focusing on the three components of the project – education and information, research and documentation and advocacy. The course was held from January to May 2010, with selected 5-6 participants from each of the eight communities in Tasba Pri. The participants were selected by the communal assemblies with a fair selection for both men and women participants from the community leaders, elders, and youth. One per community was selected as a communicator who leads in the education activities on the community level. The Diploma course was divided into modules which was taught in one week of classes. Trainors provided assignments to be done by participants in the next three weeks. Reports by each group on their assignments were presented for discussion and peer evaluation before tackling the next modules in the next session.
The hike going up to Cerra Miramar, which is the watershed forest of several communities in Tasba Pri territory, was exhausting. However, the watershed served as the window to how traditional forest resource management was being practiced by the Miskitu community. The forest is the reforestation project area of the Tebtebba-CADPI project because this was greatly affected by Hurricane Felix in 2007. It also served as venue for a sharing session related to the customary governance and management of the forests under the general assemblies and directive boards of the Tasba Pri territory and the Sahsa community.
The several meetings with the participants of the diploma course coming from Sahsa, Kukalaya and Altamira communities provided insights on how the diploma course broadened their knowledge and understanding of the issues and concerns in relation to climate change and indigenous peoples’ rights. More importantly, by becoming communicators, educators or researchers in their own communities, the course has, according to them, also enriched their lives.
Finally, the visit to the case study area, the Kuakuil II community, was an opportunity to meet with the community leaders, elders and participants of the diploma course. The meeting became a focus group discussion that centered on the history and the traditional resource management of the community. It included a discussion on the policies that are heavily anchored on the policies crafted by the communal assembly. This then ended with a hike to the foot of the communal forest where the team was able to pass through the community’s designated agricultural areas and tree seedling nursery for reforestation. The community is host to the biggest forest area within the Tasba Pri territory.