Members’ Voices: Alberto Pascual, Fundación CoMunidad


Fundación CoMunidad has been a Mountain Partnership (MP) member since 2012. Our organization has been working since 2007 to promote sustainable mountain development in North and Central America and the Caribbean, but particularly in our home: Panama.

Our organization was founded because managing mountain development in Panama – and the entire Mesoamerica region – is profoundly important. These highlands are sanctuaries of immense biodiversity, where a wide variety of agricultural crops are cultivated. Additionally, these mountains are immense watersheds, providing essential services to downstream citizens. The mission of Fundación CoMunidad is to protect these highlands by contributing to the change of models and patterns of traditional development for an integrated approach based on sustainability.

Being a member of the MP has helped Fundación CoMunidad make strides toward its mission. Our organization has benefited from the MP’s communication strategy, which has provided a global, regional and local platform to highlight our efforts for mountains. In addition, the MP’s wide outreach has allowed us to articulate our mountain-related initiatives and find partners who are working on the same thematic axes of sustainable development.

The MP’s work has allowed our organization to expand our activities and increase our impact. Because of the Mountain Partnership Products (MPP) initiative, Fundación CoMunidad is working with a family farmers’ cooperative that has 327 coffee producing members in the mountains of Panama. These farmers are producers of Ceibal Coffee, which is traditionally grown in the protected Santa Fe park area and its surroundings with traditional practices that preserve the local culture and natural resources. Farmers use traditional practices for planting, harvesting, drying and selecting coffee beans; for example, they follow the phases of the moon to define the exact planting time. The mixture of the warm and humid tropical climate, the fertile volcanic and loam soil, and the high altitude determines the coffee’s unique characteristics. The cultivation of this coffee is one of the main income sources for many of these farmers and offers them a chance to access new markets.

The objective is for the coffee farmers to become part of the Mountain Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) and shift to organic production.

Fundación CoMunidad has also taken part in the MP’s capacity building initiatives, including IPROMO 2011, “Natural Hazards and Disaster Risk Management in Mountain Areas", and the 2018 first annual Summer School: Agrobiodiversity in a Changing Climate. Our organization benefited from the knowledge transfer and exchange of experiences with other participating colleagues during the course. It was also helpful to listen to presentations of guest speakers, who offered new tools and approaches related to agrobiodiversity and climate change.

Projects are important for Fundación CoMunidad’s mission. We implement projects in mountainous areas, which are driven by global agreements such as the Paris Agreement, the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. Currently, our organization is focused on two projects in collaboration with governmental institutions, regional partners, local governments, and organized and involved citizens. We are in the process of publishing a new publication, called “The Outlook of Santa Maria River Watershed”, which should be ready in the coming months. The publication is about the Santa Maria River Watershed in Panama, which provides water to more than 200 000 people. We are also working on a second project that uses satellite imagery to improve efficiency in crop management and improve soil quality in Panama. On 24 July, Fundación CoMunidad presented this project to the Ministerio de Desarrollo Agropecuario de Panamá (MIDA).

Fundación CoMunidad’s outreach is also international. Earlier this year, it paired up with the Parsons School of Design in New York City, USA, and the local mountain community of La Yeguada in Panama to create household products using a blend of non-timber forest resources and waste from pine timber cut-offs. Designed by students at Parsons, the project looked at how design can increase the diversification of agroecosystems by using a wider range of plant-based materials. The initiative was presented at Yale University in New Haven, USA, at the International Society of Tropical Foresters Conference 2019.

For the future, we envision more knowledge sharing, adopting good practices, and working together for sustainable mountain development.

By Fundación CoMunidad

Photo by Alberto Pascual

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