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a visit to colombia: local stories

News – 31 May 2023

Our colleagues Marcel Spaas and Linda Lap visited Los Riscales, an area on the Pacific coast of Colombia. Its forests are key for biodiversity and the ecosystem. Our project contributes to forest conservation and economic progress, which have various benefits for the health of the local population. The purpose of the trip was to discuss the current status and next steps of the project with the cooperation partners ICCO Colombia and Fondo Acción. In addition, special attention was paid during the trip to capturing personal stories and experiences of the local community. We would like to share them with you.

First meeting: Abonamas Women
The first encounter was with Abonomas Women, a group engaged in the production of organic fertilizers by collecting organic waste from different households. The woman explained how she makes fertilizers from waste, which are both for personal use and for sale. Thanks to the fertilizers, plants can grow faster, preventing deforestation and stimulating a diverse ecosystem.

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A visit was also made to the people working in waste processing. The community recycling networks work to reduce pollution by making river trips through all communities to collect waste. In the collection center, the waste is processed and sold to a specialized company. In addition, residents organize monthly cleaning days on beaches, seas, and in mangroves. This closely connected system helps reduce pollution and increase biomass.

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To the sea
Linda and Marcel also spoke with local fishermen. Fishing is in fact the most important source of income in the area and it's part of the cultural identity. Artisanal fishing is trying to gain ground from industrial fishing who puts pressure on the ecosystem with harmful fishing gear. That is why hundreds of residents go to work themselves every day. They respect the life cycle of the fish, protect the marine ecosystem, and give new meaning to their work. This good fishing contributes to the preservation of the environment. Indigenous communities also monitor marine biodiversity using skills learned from biologist and forest rangers. The condition of the flora, fauna, and ecosystems indicates the health of the area. That is why it is important to be closely monitored. The health of nature goes hand in hand with the health of the population.

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Additionally, Linda and Marcel spotted whales. Local communities are gaining awareness that tourism must be sustainable and ecological. Tourism is an important source of income and depends on the state of nature. In 2015, the Council of Riscales created La Cumbancha, a community travel agency that promotes responsible tourism.

A visit to the forests
Meetings were also organized with leaders from different communities to discuss the status and progress of the project. During the visit to the mangroves on the edges of the forest area, sustainable management and reforestation were central. Forests and mangroves play an important role in the life of the region. Mangroves are the breeding ground for many animal species, especially fish. In addition, the wood of the mangroves and forests is widely used by the population and sustainable management is therefore very important. In addition, trees help mitigate climate change and promote healthy air and therefore health.

I was so happy to see the impact of the reforestation projects. Especially because these projects can have so many other benefits that the population is very grateful for.

Back to school
Then, Linda and Marcel visited a local school. At various schools in Nuquí, educational and informative campaigns and workshops are taught. These help create environmental awareness and encourage action among students. A teacher and some students were interviewed. They explained that the children are learning about the importance of environmental conservation and ways they can take care of the planet.

Each meeting with different people was valuable. Their stories provide a personal view of the projects. The locals live from nature and therefore want to take good care of it. The colleagues returned home with an appreciation of how beautiful our planet is and a sense to commit to its protection.

Every day was special, but particularly notable was the cheerfulness of the people who belong to the poorest population. And yet they indicate to find happiness in the incredibly beautiful environment where they live.

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