Empowering Rural and Indigenous Communities for Biodiversity Conservation in Colombia's Sierra Nevada
Colombian policies are increasingly focused on preserving the Sierra Nevada mountain range in the Magdalena department, known for its biodiversity and also important for exports to the Netherlands. Indigenous communities in the Magdalena department play a vital role in ecosystem preservation. The Dutch embassy in Colombia aims to improve community land rights, biodiversity conservation, and economic empowerment through collaboration.
Santa Marta, a coastal destination in northern Colombia, holds particular significance and interest for the LNV team in Colombia. It boasts diverse ecosystems, ranging from snow-capped mountains to lush rainforests and rivers flowing into the Caribbean, contributing to the region's remarkable biodiversity. Indigenous communities like the Arhuaco and Kogi communities play a pivotal role in conserving this biodiversity.
The Arhuaco indigenous peoples inhabit the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountain area, of which they consider themselves the guardians.They are actively involved in protecting nature, their ancestral territories, also by purchasing land from neighboring farmers. Their efforts are driven not only by a spiritual connection to the land but also by a desire to contribute to ecosystem conservation through their profound understanding of and connection with nature. These communities have a strategic and political outlook to continue their land acquisition efforts. They take initiatives like sustainable coffee production, serving as a means to generate revenue and expand their territory.
In addition to land rights, biodiversity protection, and economic empowerment, the LNV team explored the role of agrotourism in advancing biodiversity conservation and the bioeconomy. The team visited the ICCO Conexión's program "Anfitriones para la Paz" (Hosts for Peace) in La Lisa and Finca El Oasis, about three hours up the Sierra Nevada. The Kogi Community welcomed us with a ritual, when we entered the park.
LAN Colombia supported the start of this project in the past. Initially focusing on short courses and entrepreneurship support in eco- and indigenous community tourism, the program has evolved to include sustainable production, gastronomy, and linkages to local produce, particularly in the Santa Marta area. Both rural and indigenous young people participated in the program.
Currently, the program developed into a professional-level course ("diplomado") in collaboration with various local and regional entities such as the University of Magdalena. Additionally, the program supports community-level initiatives and small business developments in ecotourism and related experiences. These include both rural and indigenous communities’ experiences related to the environment.
The youth education programs serve as platforms for exchange of ideas, community building, and collaborative conservation initiatives, inspiring future generations to prioritize living in harmony with nature and preserving biodiversity for years to come.
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