Nuevo Paraiso is a Latino community of about 200 people in Panama’s Darien province. Settled about 25 years ago by migrants from other provinces, Nuevo Paraiso is typical of the settler villages found throughout the province. The village lies in the Rio Congo valley, which is part of the watershed of the San Miguel Gulf, the most productive shrimping area in the country. Reducing deforestation in this area is critical in maintaining the Gulf’s watershed.
Smallholders in Nuevo Paraiso and throughout the Darien rely primarily on subsistence agriculture, logging and cattle ranching for a living. While they are enterprising and hardworking, their development practices lack sustainability.
Francisco "Chico" Cruz
Chico migrated from the Herrera province of Panama in the early 1980s, and helped to found the village of Nuevo Paraiso in the untouched Darien. He has raised ten children with his wife, and was looking for a more sustainable way to profit from his land resources. Chico signed a lease contract with Planting Empowerment for its 2007 Friends and Family project.
Juan Cruz owns much of the land in and around Nuevo Paraiso. Also one of the first migrant farmers to the area, Juan knows the environmental destruction of the Darien firsthand. Recognizing the need to think about both his childrens' future and that of the fragile Darien ecosystem, Juan signed on with Planting Empowerment in 2008.
A new approach
Thanks to their pioneering spirit, Chico and Juan are proving that there are more sustainable ways to profit from their natural resources.
Word of the successful partnerships has spread. We’ve received much interest from others to expand operations in the area and are working to make it a reality.