Conservation in the Colombian Amazon

Amazon BiodiversityThe Upper Amazon is one of the most beautiful, species-rich, and ecologically complex regions of the planet. It is also vulnerable in the face of a growing human population and human activities that result in biodiversity loss from deforestation, forest degradation, and overhunting.

The Colombian part of this area is still relatively intact, with many national parks and indigenous reserves. Most of Colombia’s Amazonian protected areas overlap indigenous reserves, though, and their mission to maintain biological diversity and prevent extinctions is not necessarily consistent with the economic aspirations and priorities of the inhabitants of these indigenous communities, who have both legal and traditional rights to use natural resources.

The Mocagua Indigenous Reserve, for instance, shares 95% of its territory with Amacayacu National Park. Most of the ~650 people in the community are of the Tikuna ethnic group, with some Cocama, some Yagua, and some “blancos”. Most families are completely or mostly self-sufficient in food and everyone needs money as well, which has typically meant selling natural resources – timber, wild game, or fish. Mocagua is now becoming regionally and nationally known as “the community that protects its fauna”, where it is possible to see wildlife and this has had the effect that ecotourism is a viable and green economic motor for synergistic family businesses. It is clear to everyone that it makes more sense to couple environmental health with socioeconomic health. Maikuchiga has facilitated the transformation of this community system so that active conservation of their natural and cultural heritage is not a sacrifice, but rather the source of economic well-being.