SI-A-PAZ A concept that we have to revisit.
On 5 th June 1985, during the war, the president of Nicaragua proposed the creation of
Nature Reserves for Peace, on the basis of the Border Natural Areas of southeast
Nicaragua and northeast Costa Rica. In 1988 the SI-A-PAZ project began and it was
agreed to support and to consolidate an International System of Protected Areas for
Peace SI-A-PAZ, through interministerial agreements of Nicaragua and Costa Rica.
The goal of SI-A-PAZ was the conservation, by both countries, of the biggest sample of
tropical rainforest in the Central America Slope that was preserving an area with
extraordinary diversity of habitats such as rainforest and riparian forest, rivers, lagoons
and wetlands, as well as rich and diverse wildlife with great potential for ecotourism.
These binational agreements were never carried out; however, Nicaragua established the
creation of Protected Natural Areas of Southeast Nicaragua by the Presidential Decree
527 on 17 th April 1990. This decree created the Solentiname National Monument, Los
Guatuzos Wildlife Refuge, La Inmaculada Fort Historical Site and Indio Maíz
In 1994, under the decree 28/94, the Region of Southeast Nicaragua as a Sustainable
Development Territory was formed and in 1999, with the decree 66/99 (still in force),
the Biosphere Reserve of Southeast Nicaragua was created.
What was once a “Great Reserve” turned into four protected areas.
In 1999, the Presidency of the Republic of Nicaragua, by decree 66/99, declared the
creation of the “Biosphere Reserve of Southeast Nicaragua”. As part of this decree, the
Great Indio-Maíz Biological Reserve was fragmented into four new protected areas: Río
San Juan Wildlife Refuge, Punta Gorda Natural Reserve, Cerro Silva Natural Reserve
and Indio-Maíz Biological Reserve. According to the decree 66/99, this measure was
intended to update and to specify the categories and boundaries of Protected Areas
located in the southeastern territory of Nicaragua.
But it also influenced this decision the problems caused by the location of the municipal
capital of San Juan del Norte in the Great Biological Reserve and conflicts with settlers
in Punta Gorda Area. Thus, since 1999 Indio-Maíz Biological Reserve was constituted
with an area of 2639.8 square kilometres shared by the municipalities of Bluefields, San
Juan de Nicaragua (formerly known as San Juan del Norte) and El Castillo. This
Reserve is considered one of best preserved areas of rainforest throughout Nicaragua
and Central America. Furthermore, it represents the number one core area of the Río
San Juan Biosphere Reserve.
¿What is a Biological Reserve?
The State of Nicaragua, according to the General Law of the Environment and Natural
Resources, recognizes ten categories of protected areas for our country. One of them is
the category of “Biological Reserve” which, according to this law, are extensive areas
that have representative undisturbed ecoregions and therefore ecosystems, geological
features, physiographic features and/or species of great scientific and representative
value, mainly destined for scientific research and/or ecological monitoring.
The objective of these large areas is to preserve ecosystems, habitats, species and
essential ecological processes in the most natural state possible, to maintain resources
and genetic and hydrological processes in a dynamic and evolutionary state and to
safeguard structural features of landscape. In Nicaragua there are only two Biological
Reserves: Cayos Miskitos Biological Reserve and Indio-Maíz Biological Reserve.
According to laws of Nicaragua the permitted activities in Biological Reserve are:
* Environmental education to promote the knowledge on the dynamics of nature and its
interrelationships between flora and fauna, for its conservation.
* Research and monitoring to learn more about the natural potential of forest and
associated wildlife, and to contribute to the definition of conservation actions and
* Protection and control to safeguard the forest and associated wildlife from illegal
logging, hunting, pollution and other threats that endanger the existence of this Reserve.
Environmental benefits of Indio-Maíz Biological Reserve.
To speak of the Indio-Maíz Biological Reserve is to speak of life and welfare for
Mother Earth. There are countless species of insects, reptiles, amphibians, fish, birds
and mammals that inhabit or pass through it. Also, it is uncountable the number of
plants found in their ecosystems.
On the other hand, Indio-Maíz guarantees protection to multiple water sources that are
part of the basins of Punta Gorda River, Maíz River, Indio River and San Juan River. In
the municipality of El Castillo, for example, in the Reserve there are the main springs of
Santa Cruz River, Juana River and Bartola River which are essential for populations
living along its banks.
The oxygen produced by millions of plants in the Reserve is another benefit we can get
from this protected area. In its forests are also stored thousands of tons of carbon
dioxide that contribute to climate stability and if released by burning would increase the
problems of global warming.
Flora and fauna in abundance.
65 species of mammals have been registered, including saínos (Dicotyles and peccary
Tayassu tajacu), tapirs (Tapirus bairdii) and feline species of great importance as
jaguars, cougars, ocelots (Panthera onca, Puma concolor, Leopardus pardalis). There are
also many excellent habitats to maintain a large population of manatees (Trichechus
manatus). Moreover, 55 species of reptiles and 34 of amphibians have been reported. To
date, there are reports of 149 insect species, highlighting those that are indicator of
degree of preservation or alteration of habitat.
In addition, there are 221 species of birds identified, some of them included in the Lists
of Protected Species by the government of Nicaragua, in CITES appendices and in total
and partial closure; these include the harpy eagle (Harpia Harpyja), the great green
macaw (Ara ambiguus), the bellbird (Procnias trucarunculatus) and great curassow
A great tourist attraction.
The Indio-Maíz Biological Reserve is one of the main tourist attractions that has the
department of Río San Juan. Every year thousands of tourists visit the area motivated by
knowing the natural beauty that exists in its ecosystems and surroundings.
This action contributes to generate income to families that organized or individually
have managed to define and to offer alternatives for visitors to have a pleasant
experience on their trip.
At present, there is much potential to increase the number of visitors and the benefit to
the surrounding towns of the Reserve or belonging to Rama-Kriol communities. This
requires that between all of us continue conserving the area and continue fighting to
keep it from being destroyed.
The history of indigenous territories.
Native or indigenous peoples of America existed long before the arrival of Christopher
Columbus to the continent. In Nicaragua’s Atlantic Coast there are four indigenous
peoples (Miskitos, Mayangnas, Ramas and Ulwas) and two tribal peoples (Garifunas,
Creoles or Krioles) that are not native of the region inhabited, although, they share
similar cultural characteristics of the indigenous peoples. These populations live in
communities and territories. One or more communities give life to a territory.
During the presidential term of Jose Santos Zelaya, the union of indigenous territories
of the Caribbean Coast to Nicaragua carried out. However, this union did not mean that
indigenous peoples were giving up their territories. On the contrary, in the Accession
Convention it was stipulated that they were the rightful owners of their territories and
natural resources that were in them.
In 1987, after many years of struggle by the indigenous communities, the revolutionary
government enacted the Law No. 28 that recognized the authority to govern of these
peoples over their territories. That was how the Autonomous Regions of the North
Atlantic and South Atlantic arose. Later, in 2002, as a result of international pressure the
Law No. 445 was enacted, “Law of Communal Property Regime of the Indigenous
Peoples and Ethnic Communities of the Autonomous Regions of the Atlantic Coast of
Nicaragua and the rivers Bocay, Coco, Indio and Maíz “.
According to Law No. 445, the process of restitution of the right of indigenous peoples
has five phases: 1) Application that the indigenous community makes in order to
demarcate and to get legal title to the community land, 2) the resolution of internal
conflicts that may arise among communities which form the territory, 3) measurement
of territory, delimitation and boundary demarcation, 4) property deed and 5) the
indemnification of territories.
At present, pursuant to the Law No. 445, the government of Nicaragua has granted title
deed to 17 of the 23 indigenous territories in the Caribbean Coast. One of them is the
Rama-Kriol territory that extends from Bluefields to San Juan de Nicaragua. This
territory is made up of six Rama communities and three Kriol communities. For the
administration of its territory, the nine communities have formed the Rama-Kriol
Territorial Government (GTR-K), composed by two representatives from each
community. In order to expedite the operation, this government has a Directive Board
which implements the decisions made within the GTR-K.
As a result of the recognition and restitution of the historic rights of the peoples Rama
and Kriol, almost 70% of the Indio-Maíz Biological Reserve is within their property.
This means a new legal regime for the Reserve that the Nicaraguan State must solve.
The Rama-Kriol Territorial Government has defined the Indemnification Guide which
clearly stipulate that the area of the Reserve should continue to be intended for
conservation and that non-Indigenous who have settled in the area after 1987 should
leave their territory.
It is noteworthy that the territory of the Indio-Maíz Biological Reserve which is not part
of the Rama-Kriol territories remains as a Protected Area and likewise it is forbidden
the establishment of human populations in it.