Kuna Indians are using Participatory Video in their struggle to conserve their forests, which are their main source of food and medicine. As their traditional island territories are threatened by rising sea levels, they are using video to ask indigenous youth to reconnect to agriculture and invite industrial countries to cooperate in the conservation of biodiversity.
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In July 2009 Irma Canchumani, a Quechua farmer, travelled from her home in the Peruvian Andes to Panama to train the Kuna communities in Ustupu, Comarca Kunayala, to undertake a Participatory Video project with 15 young people with support from Maja Tillmann (InsightShare Senior Associate).

As part of the Conversations with the Earth (CWE) project, the group focussed their attention on the issue of climate change from a Kuna point of view, creating 3 short videos and 1 compilation, titled ‘Kuna Conversations with Mother Earth’. During the films, elders transmit the Kuna cosmovision by singing their traditional songs, which contain wisdoms on how to nurture nature. These song sessions are performed 2 times a week in the Kuna congress house. The value of filming, translating and sharing these wisdoms is an essential to understanding how climate change is perceived and to identify endogenous strategies for adapting and coping with its effects.

Through the initial PV project Maja and Irma were able to help establish two PV groups (collectively known as the Panama Hub), one in the community of Ustupu and one in Panama City to continue using Participatory Video within the Kuna community. Each group was provided with equipment and ongoing support to continue their work.

"Irma could connect to the Kuna participants and also with the host family and neighbors in a special way. Irma can interpret dreams, so after some days people would tell her their dreams and she would interpret them for them. Also, she was able to show how she does the gourd carving and she made some carvings on Kuna gourds that were prepared for the big ceremony our host family is having in December. Irma gave to the authorities and to our host family some of her gourds as presents. It was very emotional because she is the first in her family to go outside of Peru."
Maja Tillman, Senior Associate at InsightShare

“On Tuesday the 6th of October 2009, there was a march of the indigenous group in Panamá, rejecting mining and hydroelectric projects in the indigenous territories. Our video camera participative was present. I have material”
Jesùs Smith, Panama Hub Facilitator


Action plan 2010

In October 2009, the Panama Hub team (Jesus and Dia) joined their fellow Hub Representatives from our other Peoples Video Hubs at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. During the three weeks they spent in Denmark the representatives peer reviewed one another’s progress and developed and agreed on specific action plans for 2010. Currently, the PV team in Kuna Yala is working on three PV projects inspired by the key objectives for 2010 that were identified by Jesus and Dia.

Waste management: use PV to raise awareness of problems with trash. Work with schools to reduce dependency on plastics. Develop new video on related issues and action plans.

To carry out this first action Dia has brought together a group of students and teachers. A fund from Land is Life made it possible for this action group to travel to the Kuna Congress and present the Congress with their resolution "No to plastic in Kunayala territory". And with great success! The resolution was approved and is now being executed!

Cultural heritages: use video to document the Kuna cosmovision and interview elders to preserve knowledge

To put this plan into practise Jesus has organised a workshop to share his PV skills with his community members and assist them in the creating of a new video that will be finished soon.

Spreading PV: train two other tribes in using video equipment – the Naso people are being displaced by a hydroelectric project and the Embera are facing issues of deforestation connected with REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) projects

For this third action Jesus is working on a proposal to start training the other indigenous groups to enable them to create videos about their cosmovisions. Recently Jesus and his team also started to create a video on the issue of REDD. 


Part of Conversations with the Earth

Through the Conversations with the Earth (CWE) partnership, InsightShare works with Indigenous communities to identify, train, and equip local videographers to enable them to record the impacts of, and responses to, climate change at the local level. Creating and sharing these video stories enables Indigenous peoples to contemplate and present their own perspectives on the effects of climate change to inform the global discourse. This has also created an opportunity to share local adaptation strategies and build donor support for community-based adaptation. Indigenous videographers are training people from other communities, helping to create a regional and a global network of Indigenous communities working on these issues. Communities participating in CWE are creating their own media and linking up through the emerging media hub network.

A CWE media hub is currently a space where video and audio equipment is stored and editing can take place, and is usually based in an Indigenous community or village. It becomes a focal point for communications, empowerment and cultural resilience. If possible, it is connected to the web and has electricity or renewable power source available for charging batteries and laptops etc. Local facilitators, who are paid a small stipend, provide support, resources, and equipment and reach out to include new local groups through developing participatory video projects. In some cases an InsightShare trainer is based here and organizes regional and international trainings and mentoring local indigenous trainers. A hub is envisioned as a catalyst for action in local communities but has a global reach as well. In 2010 the hubs will have the opportunity to broaden their media and communications skills further training by CWE partners and allies.

Latest content from the hub

Kuna Conversations with Mother Earth

'Kuna Conversations with Mother Earth' was created during a Participatory Video during which the Kuna Indians of Panama documented their struggle to conserve the forests, their main source of food and traditional medicine.