More than 450 households from seven cities within the south of Caquetá, Colombia, have remodeled their farms into areas for soil, forest and water conservation whereas pursuing agricultural manufacturing tasks that give them meals sovereignty.Most of the folks residing within the Amazonian foothills of Caquetá had been displaced by the armed battle and colonized the area by way of the in depth livestock tasks promoted by the federal government.Amazonian Farms (Finca Amazónica) was created 17 years in the past to offer sustainable manufacturing alternate options, and most of the program’s trainers are farmers from the area who perceive the significance of residing in concord with the forest.
The city of San José del Fragua is simply over an hour’s drive from Florencia, the capital of the division of Caquetá, in southern Colombia. On one aspect of the highway are the majestic peaks of the japanese Andes and on the opposite aspect, the start of the immense Amazonian plains.
The city of San José del Fragua is small, and residents nonetheless keep in mind when the armed battle arrived of their territory, first with the guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and later with the paramilitaries. For years, touring alongside the crystal-clear waters of the rivers that cross the municipality and its vacationer websites was dangerous. Today, locals try to make the most of the potential for ecotourism in locations just like the imposing Piedra del Indio Apolinar, an immense rock some 92 ft excessive and 130 ft broad that’s thought of sacred by the Inga Indigenous folks. Another attraction is Portales del Fraguita, the place a river by the identical title appears prefer it has cut up a mountain in two to move by way of.
Piedra del Indio Apolinar in San José del Fragua, Caquetá, Colombia. Image by Antonio Paz.
Portales del Fraguita in San José del Fragua, Caquetá, Colombia. Image by Antonio Paz.
Visitors to the agricultural space will discover that cattle ranches dominate the panorama, as soon as coated by Amazonian forests. Caquetá has considered one of Colombia’s highest charges of deforestation. According to official figures from the Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies, the area misplaced 94,847 acres of forest in 2021 — virtually 15,000 acres greater than in 2020, the biggest improve within the nation.
Data from Global Forest Watch point out that the municipality of San José del Fragua alone misplaced 1,433 acres of forest between 2020 and 2021. The areas most affected by deforestation are usually within the Amazonian foothills, the place the agricultural frontier is more and more encroaching the jungle.
As one will get nearer to the Quimbayo Gutiérrez household farm, the panorama begins to vary. There are extra bushes and occasional patches of pure forest. The household is a part of this system often known as “Amazonian Farms” (Finca Amazónica), an initiative began in 2006 by the Catholic Church beneath its Southern Vicariate of the Archdiocese of Florencia.
The targets of the Church in southern Caquetá embody conserving the Amazon, and considered one of its important tasks includes working with peasants who had been displaced by the armed battle and settled within the Amazonian foothills, chopping down the forest of their try to survive in a brand new place. The space encompasses San José del Fragua in addition to the municipalities of Morelia, Albania, Curillo, Valparaíso, Solita and Belén de los Andaquíes.
For virtually 17 years, Amazonian Farms has been remodeling native strategies for the appropriation and use of Amazonian sources, with rural households actively taking part.
“All this was once pasture,” stated Petronila Gutiérrez, who, collectively together with her husband and youngsters, runs the La Miranda farm, a 79-hectare (195-acre) property they’ve reforested and labored with sustainable agriculture and cattle-raising methods.
“The stream had dried up as a result of it had been deforested. There was a whole lot of burning on this space. The very first thing we did after we got here to Amazonian Farms was to let the bushes develop subsequent to the stream. The most necessary factor was to recuperate the water. Family, land, forest, water and the need to work — that has been our dedication, and bear in mind that this isn’t an in a single day course of. All these processes take a very long time, however you see the outcomes,” Gutiérrez stated.
A typical farm within the foothills of the Amazon in southern Caquetá. Image by Antonio Paz.
The Quimbayo Gutiérrez household allowed Amazonian vegetation to develop again on a number of acres of its farm and the creek that when ran by way of their farm returned. Image by Antonio Paz.
Smallholder farms conserving the Amazon
Gutiérrez and her husband, Ovidio Quimbayo, had been among the many first households to hitch the Amazonian Farms undertaking. One of essentially the most engaging points of the undertaking was that they had been in a position to design and plan their very own farm and the way they’d make it suitable with the conservation of the Amazon forest. They decided the timeframe for implementing their sustainable productive tasks and created a piece plan to fulfill these targets.
Gutiérrez stated farms like hers work as a result of they perceive that they want the soil, water and forest in wonderful situation so their properties may also assure their meals sovereignty.
“All these vegetation that you simply see right here on this ecological backyard, within the greenhouse and among the many native bushes — I planted them,” Gutiérrez stated as she walked among the many dense grass, mentioning fruit bushes and fragrant herbs and pulling up the roots of ginger and turmeric vegetation. She is happy with her work as a farmer and remembers that, when meals was scarce and costly throughout the COVID-19 lockdowns, she and her household had meals to spare and bartered with their neighbors on different Amazonian Farms-supported plots.
A plant nursery on the Quimbayo Gutiérrez household farm, La Miranda. Image by Antonio Paz.
It hasn’t all been straightforward, although. Families just like the Quimbayo Gutiérrez clan say that getting their youngest members to decide to the work is without doubt one of the important challenges they face.
One of their sons, Edinson Ovidio Quimbayo, agreed. “It was just a few years in the past that I turned concerned with the vicarage as a result of I at all times had the thought of being a cattle rancher, like lots of those that stay on this area. My concept of a profitable rancher was that of conventional ranching — whoever had essentially the most land. That was not very a lot in step with the concepts of my father, who has at all times been a farmer,” Quimbayo stated.
He modified his thoughts when a extreme drought hit San José del Fragua. Many folks ran out of water, together with cattle ranches within the area. To Quimbayo’s shock, there was nonetheless water out there on his dad and mom’ farm, which he had as soon as considered with suspicion due to its strategies of cultivation that concerned coexisting with native Amazonian bushes and permitting the vegetation to regenerate across the creek. The household farm nonetheless had water and meals throughout the drought and gave the impression to be proof against the ravages of the local weather.
“At that second, I understood that this Amazonian Farm was price it, and I started to do the coaching,” Quimbayo stated. “It was arduous for me, however I understood that it was higher to have intensive [or efficient, rather than extensive] livestock farming, the place what issues most will not be a lot the variety of cows you might have, however fairly a greater and extra worthwhile product.
You can have a whole lot of animals, however that can be a whole lot of expense, and also you don’t understand that, in the long run, you might have little or no cash left. We started to divide up pastures, create agroforestry techniques the place we now have vegetation that gives shade and meals for the animals, and we started to rotate the cows within the 52 tons that we now have at this time.”
Agroforestry techniques on the Amazonian Farms. Image by Antonio Paz.
Agripino Lara, a pacesetter of Amazonian Farms, says in its practically 17 years in operation, this system has supported 710 farming households. “We are at present working with 469 household farms in 73 villages in six municipalities in southern Caquetá,” he stated. “The program has had an influence on about 35,000 acres of land within the Amazonian foothills — think about that the common measurement of every farm is about 30 hectares”.
Lara assured that the farmers can stay within the Amazon. The concept of the undertaking, he defined, was that their farms would stay suitable with the Amazonian soil, which is sort of fragile, and that the households would achieve a way of belonging to the area. “Amazonian Farms seeks to advertise meals sovereignty and look after biodiversity, soil, water and forests. The goal is to suggest built-in human growth and farms as actual choices for conservation and local weather change mitigation and adaptation,” he stated.
One of the rivers that crosses the municipality of San José del Fragua within the division of Caquetá, Colombia. Image by Antonio Paz.
Three a long time of neighborhood effort
Agripino Lara emphasised that one of many strengths of Amazonian Farms is that farmers who take part typically replicate the information they purchase, as a few of them grow to be facilitators of this system. They prepare households in conservation and sustainable manufacturing methods, go to the farms and supply recommendation on the implementation of all actions.
One such farmer and chief, Diego Fabián Gómez, stated: “I started with the Vicariate of the South in 1996 after I was a really younger farmer residing on a farm in a rural space of Florencia. One day, Father Arnulfo Trujillo arrived and I began to become involved with the non secular half, however I additionally began to get within the social half, and I took a course to grow to be a neighborhood promoter.”
Maps of the Quimbayo Gutiérrez household farm, La Miranda, exhibiting 2021 and projections for 2024. This kind of planning is without doubt one of the important participatory actions of the Amazonian Farm undertaking. Small producers design their farms based mostly on the information they’ve acquired. Image by Antonio Paz.
The Quimbayo Gutiérrez household has planted fruit bushes among the many native Amazonian bushes. Image by Antonio Paz.
In 2009, Gómez stated, the vicariate determined to implement the three thematic areas of its mission in all its tasks in southern Caquetá, together with Amazonian Farms. “These thematic areas reside the religion, the Amazon and human rights. All the tasks should embody these three areas. In Amazonia, it’s about caring for the territory; in human rights, every thing that has to do with the protection of the territory and guaranteeing the rights of the peasants; and residing the religion, that’s the non secular half,” he stated.
The curiosity of the Catholic Church of Caquetá in caring for the atmosphere turned much more pronounced after Pope Francis devoted considered one of his encyclicals, “Laudato Sí,” to this problem in 2015. Then, in 2020, he printed the exhortation “Querida Amazonia” (“Dear Amazon”).
Including the Amazon as a core focus of tasks in southern Caquetá turned a precedence, as demonstrated by a e-book concerning the Amazonian Farms program printed by the native vicariate in 2020. The e-book states, “Settlers got here from totally different areas of the nation, inspired by authorities packages in in depth livestock manufacturing as a regional financial different, [and] they tried to protect their social customs and the customs of the area, sustaining their very own social, cultural, spiritual and productive customs in a fragile and biodiverse Amazonian ecosystem that they didn’t perceive, which ended up permeating the connection of man with nature.”
Conserving the Amazon whereas selling sustainable manufacturing alternate options is without doubt one of the phrases repeated by small farmers just like the Quimbayo Gutiérrez household. They are satisfied their function within the countryside is indispensable for Colombian society. Ofelia Sotto Correa, a farmer from Belén de los Andaquíes, requested, “If they find yourself eradicating us from the countryside for lack of alternatives to supply or to safe our livelihood or as a result of the federal government decides that oil is healthier than water, what future will there be for the brand new generations?”
Edinson Ovidio Quimbayo, a small farmer who’s a part of the Amazonian Farms undertaking. Image by Antonio Paz.
One of the Amazonian Farms initiatives that farmers talked about most steadily was the trouble to preserve native seeds. “If we now have seeds, we obtain meals sovereignty for the households,” stated Diego Fabián Gómez. “There is now a community of native and creole seed conservationists among the many farmers, which additionally promotes the change of those seeds amongst everybody.”
Petronila Gutiérrez has been one of the lively contributors within the seed conservation undertaking. “It has been promoted by way of bartering, that’s, exchanges,” she stated. “The neighbors give to us and we give to them, after which we plant to make sure that the species are conserved. Here on the farm, I’ve greater than 80 totally different seeds.”
The households which are a part of Amazonian Farms have additionally been taking part in farmers’ markets for a number of years, a technique that Lara and Gómez think about essential as a result of having a strong revenue is without doubt one of the important considerations within the area.
“The farmer’s market in San José del Fragua is held on the primary Sunday of each month,” stated José Naez Baquiro, from the village of La Palmeras in San José del Fragua. “About 18 of our households at all times present up. We promote every thing, and we determined to promote on the identical costs as the opposite markets as a result of we promote clear crops; there aren’t any chemical compounds and we promote on to the buyer.”
María Petronila Gutiérrez is without doubt one of the small farmers who’ve contributed essentially the most to the conservation of native seeds. Image by Antonio Paz.
Amazonian Farms additionally makes use of environmentally pleasant stoves that insulate warmth and use it extra effectively, scale back air air pollution from CO2 emissions and likewise require much less firewood (so fewer bushes are felled).
In the realm of fundamental sanitation, they’ve applied applied sciences corresponding to single pit latrines, sanitary batteries with a connection to septic techniques, grease and cleaning soap traps, wastewater filters and biodigesters that, along with lowering the potential contaminating potential of human waste, produce fuel that’s used for cooking meals.
A clear range designed with steerage from the Amazonian Farms undertaking. Image by Antonio Paz.
A clear range designed with steerage from the Amazonian Farms undertaking. Image by Antonio Paz.
Several NGOs working in Caquetá spotlight the conservation program of Amazonian Farms and its function in addressing the excessive charges of deforestation within the division.
Diego Cardona, coordinator of forestry and biodiversity at Censat Agua Viva, an environmental NGO that works with communities in Caquetá and different areas of the nation, assured that scientific analysis had already confirmed that neighborhood administration was rather more environment friendly in sustaining the standard of ecosystems and territories. It has additionally led to decrease deforestation charges compared with different measures corresponding to, for instance, the creation of protected areas with robust restrictions corresponding to nationwide parks.
“Amazonian Farms is an efficient measure to cut back and management deforestation in a area just like the Amazon and the division of Caquetá, which is essentially the most affected by forest loss within the nation. It is a totally respectable and obligatory measure that has proven good outcomes,” stated Cardona.
At an occasion referred to as “Dialogues on Deforestation” organized by Censat Agua Viva and Tropenbos Colombia in Florencia, Caquetá, in September, the environmental lawyer Sergio Martínez stated, “Initiatives like this distinction with the dominant discourse that has existed for a while now, particularly for the reason that begin of the [government anti-deforestation initiative] Operation Artemisa, which sees peasants and Indigenous folks as threats and predators of nature. They have been transferring ahead with their dedication to the care and conservation of their territories with out the assist of presidency entities.”
Banner picture: María Petronila Gutiérrez, whose farm La Miranda was one of many first to hitch Amazonian Farms. Image by Antonio Paz.
This story was reported by Mongabay’s Latam group and first printed right here on our Latam web site on Feb. 13, 2023.