Kuna Yala from the air

The Kuna Yala region is home to Panama’s healthiest forests. Photo by Bear Guerra.

Ruxandra Guidi and Bear Guerra recently returned from a two-week visit to the indigenous communities of Kuna Yala, on Panama’s Caribbean coast. They were exploring the Kuna people’s relationship to their mainland forest, which is among the best preserved in the region.

Their trip was supported by a Mongabay Special Reporting Initiative fellowship on the role of community forest management in efforts to limit climate change.

recent report by the World Resources Institute looked at deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions in the world’s most heavily forested countries. The researchers found that land held by local and indigenous communities tends to be significantly less affected by deforestation–and to produce far fewer emissions–than land managed by governments or private entities.

Rux and Bear will publish their print, radio, and multimedia stories this fall.

Flooded village

Children walk through floodwaters in Ustupu Island village in the Kuna Yala region of Panama. With sea levels rising and storms in the islands getting stronger, indigenous Kuna leaders are planning to relocate entire villages to the mainland. Photo by Bear Guerra.

The environmental website has selected Homelands producer-members Ruxandra Guidi and Bear Guerra for a Special Reporting Initiative award for their multimedia project on climate change and community forestry in Panama.

Climate Change in Kuna Yala

Ustupu Island chief Leodomiro Paredes (pictured with his wife, Imelda) says developed nations responsible for climate change should help pay for his people’s move. Photo by Bear Guerra.

Ruxandra and Bear have reported from the area before, for The Atlantic. With support from Mongabay, they’ll return to do more reporting this spring and summer. They plan to publish their work later this year under a Creative Commons license.

Other winners of Mongabay’s Special Reporting Initiative awards are Robert Eshelman for his look at deforestation in Indonesia and Dominic Bracco II and Erik Vance for an investigation of sustainable fisheries in China.

Radio and print journalist Ruxandra Guidi and photographer Bear Guerra joined Homelands as producers and board members in February. They co-founded the multimedia group Fonografia Collective.

We wanted to catch you up on the “Food for 9 Billion” project, which has been taking most of our attention lately. As loyal readers will know, Ff9B asks what has to happen for the world to be able to feed itself sustainably and equitably over the next three decades. It’s a collaboration among Homelands Productions, the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR), American Public Media’s Marketplace and PBS NewsHour.

So far we’ve produced nine radio features, six video features and three features especially for the web. Our reporting has taken us to Mexico, Egypt, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Brazil, India, Ghana, Japan, Niger and Vietnam. Upcoming stories are from Senegal, China, Lesotho, Zambia, Greece, Brazil and the United States.

“Food for 9 Billion” doesn’t aim to be comprehensive, but we have tried to be more or less systematic in our choice of stories. Topics include the role of science, the politics of famine and food prices, population growth and family planning, climate change, land transfers, rural development, the right to food, water scarcity, soil fertility, aging farmers, desertification and fish farming. Stories in the pipeline will look at waste, the spread of supermarkets, meat consumption, obesity, pesticide use and energy. We’re also working on a full-length television documentary, and on educational materials for high school students.

We’re particularly proud of the web features – an interactive world food map and world food timeline (both produced in partnership with the Transnational Learning group at Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences) and, most recently, an animated video about the impact of excessive beef consumption on the environment and human health. If you like ’em, please share ’em!

You can listen to the radio stories, watch the TV stories, and fiddle around with the web features at the project’s home page on the CIR website. And if that’s not enough links for you, please also check out the “Food for 9 Billion” blog and follow the project on Twitter.

Americans love burgers. They’re filling, tasty and cheap. But what we pay at the counter is only part of the story. Check out this animated video from the “Food for 9 Billion” project, a collaboration between Homelands Productions and the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR). CIR’s Carrie Ching directed and produced; art and animation is by Arthur Jones.

The video launched with the new I Files investigative video channel on YouTube, which is programmed by CIR. You can find a fully annotated version here.

Just a quick heads up about the (In)Visible Project led by photographer and multimedia artist Bear Guerra. The project creates mobile physical exhibits featuring photos and audio of San Diego’s homeless population. It got great reviews when it debuted at the ART SAN DIEGO Contemporary Art Fair at the beginning of September. There’s a short video of the installation here.

Bear and his wife Ruxandra Guidi formed the Fonografia Collective, for which Homelands serves as a fiscal sponsor.

Please check out the fourth and final installment in the multimedia series “Hungry in America” on the AARP website. “A Healthy Difference” was reported by Homelands’ Jonathan Miller with photography and video by Alex Webb of the Magnum photo agency. It was produced by Magnum’s multimedia studio, Magnum in Motion.

The 5-minute piece features an extraordinary woman named Vel Scott, who has been a pillar of Cleveland’s black community for the past 50 years. Vel owned a successful court reporting business and ran popular nightclubs with her husband Don, a professional bowler. Now she’s a community gardener and local food activist who promotes healthy eating among low-income people in the second poorest city in America. What follows is from the article on

When Don developed high blood pressure, Vel realized that the fatty, salty foods he loved were only making matters worse. The same must be true for Vel’s customers. Surely she could create healthier food without sacrificing flavor. All she needed was some recipes.

Don suggested that she go to Africa to learn about their ancestral cuisine, which is based on vegetables, fruit and spices. Vel went and fell in love with the food and the culture.

….Vel visited China and Italy and the Caribbean. Wherever she went, she sat with mothers and grandmothers, hearing their stories and learning their secrets.

Back in Cleveland, she revamped the nightclub’s menu. She also began educating the public about healthy eating, giving workshops and hosting a radio show called Vel’s Global Soul.

Now Vel, 72, spends her days sharing her passion for healthy eating with the people who need it the most — those at hospitals and schools and low-income housing complexes. She takes a special interest in working with older African-Americans who are struggling to eat well on limited budgets.

Homelands senior producer Cecilia Vaisman, Magnum photographer Susan Meiselas and the production team at Magnum in Motion have created a powerful multimedia feature about the struggles of farm workers to meet their basic food needs as they grow older. “A Harvest Out of Reach” is the third part of AARP’s “Hungry in America” series about food insecurity among seniors. A Spanish language version is also available.

The first two stories—”A Little Goes a Long Way” (by Jonathan Miller and Christopher Anderson) and “Hard Choices” (by Sandy Tolan and Larry Towell)—were also collaborative efforts between Homelands producers and Magnum photographers. A fourth and final piece is on its way.

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