“We must restore the forests and protect the water basins so that the spirit of the water is back with us. Only in this way will the songs of the birds and the sound of the wind through the branches of the trees return to serenade the dawn, and from the lagoons will our spirits emerge to help our doctors heal the earth.”
Hector Jaime Vinasco ex-Governor of the Resguardo and coordinator of the program
Chachafruto, Cedro Negro, Leucaena and Gualanday are only some of the types of trees that have been planted since the beginning of 2016 by the communities of the indigenous reserve Canamomo Lomaprieta in the municipalities of Riosucio and Supia, in Colombia.
The campaign “Plant a tree for the Resguardo” will see 30,000 more trees added to one of the oldest colonial reserves of Colombia. Launched by the Natural Resources Program of the Resguardo, it will both reforest the territory with species of trees lost to the area over time, and inspire community members to take care of the natural resources in the area, and once again use them for their livelihoods. Restoring the original flora of the Resguardo is bringing back memories of traditional practices, and reiterating the importance of their traditional knowledge.
At the time of the Spanish invasion in the 16th century, the ancestral territory of the community, in north west Colombia, exceeded 200,000 hectares. Nowadays, the Resguardo Cañamomo Lomaprieta is just 4,826 hectares in size, for a population of 24,000 people.
High population density has been the main cause of the deforestation in the Resguardo, but the loss of trees has recently resulted in a lack of drinking water, and this is causing serious health problems to the communities. The reforestation program, therefore, is also part of the Resguardo’s attempts to solve the problem.
“In our cosmology there is a natural order," says Carlos Eduardo Gómez Restrepo, ex-Governor of the indigenous reserve Cañamomo Lomaprieta. "Nature shows us where the forest has to be because there is water, where we must respect the sacred sites, where we can plant, where we can build and where we can’t."
The efforts of the communities mean more than 12,786 trees have already been planted and almost 24,000 are in nurseries waiting to be planted.
"Our goal is to establish nurseries in all 32 communities of the reserve in order to produce the necessary forest material," explains Sandra Catagena, a member of the Natural Resources Program. "The different species of trees are decided by the people of the area, some for their properties to protect water springs and others, such as the Chachafruto, because they were traditional species that no longer exist in the territory."
In the nurseries, seedlings of traditional plants are being grown as part of a food sovereignty program. Efren Reyes, ex-Governor of the Resguardo, explains it helps the communities maintain a healthy diet. "Products from the global market have invaded our tables and people no longer consume the traditional products of our land, which are natural and free from chemicals,” he says. “The food sovereignty program and the reforestation campaign can really improve our food and our health."
A fundamental aspect of the campaign is the defence and purification of water springs. The communities have registered 415 springs in the Resguardo and the objective is to conserve them all, planting trees around them to protect them. The communities are establishing protective strips of land around the water sources, marking them with yellow rope, which is done in Colombia to identify protected areas or areas of environmental interest. The trees being planted around the water sources will help protect them from torrential rain and help purify the water.
"It's hard work, it needs a lot of time," says Sandra. "But it is very important that all communities of the reserve are involved. It's a community project."
“Through the reforestation campaign, the Resguardo is also contributing to carbon sequestration and climate change mitigation,” explains Hector Jaime Vinasco, ex-Governor of the Resguardo. “At the same time, the reforestation increases the biodiversity of the area and improves the communities’ food security in the face of climate change.”