Google Maps for native tribes

Tierras Indigenas
Paraguay (Chaco)

As the world’s population continues to grow, industry has begun to affect even the most remote of places. As well as the forests and wildlife, among those affected are the many indigenous tribes who still inhabit these places.

Many fast-growing South American countries such as Paraguay are being faced with new problems. As their agricultural and cattle farming expands to met the demands of the population, they have begun to encroach on the ancestral lands of the indigenous people who call them home.

According to the World Resources Institute (WRI), beef and soy exports are some of Paraguay’s main causes of deforestation, often coming into conflict with some 120,000 indigenous people. A solution put forward and developed by Paraguay’s Federation for the Self-Determination of Indigenous Peoples (FAPI) was the creation of an online map, Tierras Indigenas, which allows users to see where an indigenous group has legally recognised land, as well as its size and even the number of families living there.

So far 13 of the country’s 19 indigenous peoples have contributed to it. The map has been added to LandMark, which marks the territories of indigenous tribes across the globe. The WRI hopes the map will help resolve and avoid conflicts over land rights, protecting these tribes who largely rely on their lands for water, food, medicine and shelter from the forests to survive. Advanced mapping technology is also protecting forests from the encroachment of cattle ranching and soy farming, which threaten both wildlife and indigenous livelihoods.

“(The map) makes it less likely these lands will be dispossessed and converted into export-oriented commodity agriculture,” Ryan Sarsfield, an expert on supply chain risk in Latin America with WRI, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“The next step is to ensure that these maps are visible and available publicly so they can be used in decision making processes in which indigenous people have often been excluded.”

Written by

Matthew Cooper (06 April 2018)


Student at Bournemouth University and intern/accidental activist with Atlas of the Future, Matthew spends his time promoting the solutions of tomorrow and staying out of his overdraft.

Project leader

Hipólito Acevedo President, FAPI

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