Indigenous peoples, key actors in forest conservation in Colombia

November 12, 2020. The role of indigenous peoples is becoming increasingly important in the country, given that, due to their customs and geographical location, they have become protectors of long stretches of forests and territories with high biodiversity.

According to the Dane census in 2018, in Colombia there are 115 indigenous peoples, which is equivalent to 4.4%, of the total population, located mostly in the departments of Arauca, Chocó, Magdalena, Vaupés, Vichada, Guainía, Cundinamarca, Caldas, Santander, Tolima and Nariño.

Likewise, according to the Agustín Codazzi Geographical Institute (IGAC), 32% of rural lands in Colombia are in the custody of indigenous peoples, which represents an opportunity to enhance the protection of ecosystems.

An example of the work carried out by indigenous peoples in Colombia is the action carried out on nearly one million hectares, through projects that seek to Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD +) and that are currently structured by BIOFIX.

This company works with 20 ethnic communities, divided into 14 Indigenous Reservations of the Sikuani, Piapoco, Puinave and Curripaco peoples located in the departments of Vichada, Guainía and Guaviare and 6 Community Councils located in the departments of Chocó, Cauca and Valle del Cauca. The ways of life of these communities contribute to the conservation of natural resources, the sustainable cultivation of food and life in harmony with nature.

How do they perceive their surroundings?

The vision of indigenous peoples regarding their surroundings is key to promoting conservation. Today, the communities that advance in REDD + projects with BIOFIX, seek, through their territorial autonomy, to carry out conservation processes framed in sustainability criteria that have to do with the protection of natural forest areas, rescue and protection of its cultural identity and promotion of productive practices that safeguard the biodiversity and environmental wealth of its territory.

Their perception of nature is the same that has given the name to each of the projects and which emphasizes the importance of preserving their customs, beliefs and vision of the territory.

For example, KALIAWIRI REDD + is the name of a project that protects 358,000 hectares of forest, in Cumaribo, Vichada and Puerto Inírida, Guainía. Its name is given in recognition of the ancestral tree that in the Piapoco and Sikuani languages, means the mythical tree of Kaliawiri, as the one that gave rise to cultivated plants.

Likewise, PALAMEKU KUWEI REDD +, another project located in Cumaribo, Vichada that protects 32,600 hectares of forest and bears this name, because Kuwei in the Sikuani language refers to the Supreme God of the Universe, creator of the world and protector of everything that lives in him, and Palameku comes from the Palameko root that within the Guahiba mythology refers to the “guardian of the tools” and is associated with the appearance of humans on earth and the birth of two fundamental principles of the Sikuani communities: distribution in community of food and collective work.

Likewise, YAAWI IIPANA REDD + refers to the house of the butterfly tiger in the Curripaco language (as the jaguar is known), the largest feline in Central and South America, which within the ancestral worldview of native peoples has a mystical and sacred sense, It is related to the protection of biodiversity, water and forest as a guardian and bioindicator of the quality of these ecosystems.

This is a reflection of the impact that the vision of indigenous peoples has on the protection of territories, places that tell a story, in which they developed their customs, and in which generations have grown up, who, like them, have sought refuge in their environment and thank it for the provision and sustenance.

This contribution of the communities to the conservation processes in the country, not only of forests, but also of tradition and culture, is increasingly significant. All the initiatives led by BIOFIX, which are carried out in the Colombian territory, seek to highlight the worldview of the communities and support them with instruments such as the carbon market, to provide long-term sustainability.

Giving the importance that indigenous communities in Colombia deserve will allow the protection of more areas in danger of deforestation, which have a great cultural wealth, flora and fauna, which will positively impact, not only Colombia and the communities that live there , but to the mitigation of Greenhouse Gases to face climate change.

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