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Collective Empowerment in the Yunguillo Reserve of Colombia’s Inga People

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In memory of the three youth of the Yunguillo reserve murdered in September 2018.

ACT works with the Inga indigenous people of theYunguillo Reserve, located at the confluence of the Andes mountain range and the Amazon river basin in Colombia, a territory of great importance due to the ecological and ecosystemic characteristics of its forests, rich in their diversity of flora and fauna species.

Community mapping their territory with ACT’s assistance

Since 2013, we have worked together to create frameworks on which the community can grow strong and continue to gain control of their destiny. Taking advantage of the talents of the different members of the reserve, an indigenous facilitating team was formed to encourage community work. The team has successfully updated their reserve’s life plan (the collective voice of the community, which expresses in writing the goals for the future of that community) and is in the process of developing a reserve land zoning plan. In both exercises, we promote community governance through participatory planning: the members of the reserve share their vision, expectations and needs to develop a collective vision of territorial management.

Capacity building workshop in Yunguillo

The indigenous facilitating team is intergenerational, which has enriched their training process and interaction with the communities. The elderly, with their experience, have nurtured the discussions. By contrasting their traditional view with that of the youth, of women, of indigenous professionals and of children, a vital connection with the territory is achieved, and the place of the elderly in the community is legitimized as custodians of knowledge accumulated over generations and tested over hundreds of years. These are keys to maintaining the community’s deep relationship with their forests and to responding to the changes and threats that ecosystems suffer today.

Members of the Yunguillo indigenous facilitating team

This process has strengthened individuals on the basis of the places they occupy in their community. Beyond individual leadership, collective empowerment is sought through the diversity of the people who are part of the facilitating team: governors, mothers, traditional leaders, elders, and youth, in addition to new members who have joined the team when initial members have departed.

The power of what has been built allows those who participate to feed the process and later to share with others what has been learned. In this complex, beautiful and long-term process, we have confirmed for ourselves that the best strategy for the protection of tropical forests is the strengthening of the traditional local communities that inhabit them.

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