Indigenous Women Achieve “Mamakunapa” Civil Society Nature Reserve

On December 2, 2020, a species-rich stand of Andes-Amazon rainforest stewarded by indigenous women of ASOMI achieved legal designation as a Civil Society Nature Reserve, “Mamakunapa”. Now part of the Colombian National Park System and National Protected Areas System, it is officially supported in and expressly committed to preserving biodiversity, protecting ecosystem services, and guaranteeing the permanence of the natural environment in order to strengthen traditional culture and the valuation of nature by society at-large. And it showcases a highly successful multi-year effort by indigenous women to better protect both their ancestral forests and their traditional culture.

Maria del Rosario “Charito” Chicunque, a Kamentsa indigenous leader, traditional healer and former president of the ASOMI indigenous women’s collective, speaks about the official recognition of the Mamakunapa Civil Society Nature Reserve.

The new 18-hectare Civil Society Nature Reserve “Mamakunapa” is part of the 52-hectare “Chagra de la Vida” that is privately owned by ASOMI, the Association of Indigenous Women of Traditional Medicine. A scant 20 kilometers from the town of Mocoa, “Mamakunapa” is a haven for biodiversity, water protections, and indigenous culture led by ASOMI in an area pressured by mining exploration, agricultural expansion, and cultural domination.

Since 2004, ASOMI has linked women from five indigenous groups—Inga, Kamentsá, Siona, Kofán, and Koreguaje—in a shared mission to revitalize indigenous knowledge and practices of medicinal plants, traditional garden keeping, artisanship, women’s self-care, and ecological stewardship. These efforts occur both in their home communities across 40 thousand hectares and at the “Chagra de la Vida” headquarters where they meet to share experiences, plan activities, perform ceremonies, and exchange seeds and ethnobotanical knowledge. It also serves as a community learning space, offering bird watching programs and educational trails. A garden and nursery are also established here, where traditional and medicinal plants are cultivated and taught to younger generations.

The official recognition of “Mamakunapa” at “Chagra de la Vida” not only acknowledges the profound cultural value of indigenous practices, in particular of indigenous women, but also practically consolidates the protection of an important area for conservation. It shelters a known 35 bird species and 12 wild-growing flora species, and is one of the only places in the area where monkeys can still be found. Its rich water sources—a waterfall, two streams, and a water spring—provide for ASOMI and local families.

“Mamakunapa” also adds to the natural connectivity of the Andean-Amazonian foothills, supporting a multitude of complex ecological relationships that sustain the richly biodiverse tropical forest ecosystem. ASOMI further disseminates awareness and appreciation for this natural wealth through an educational path called “The Path of the Wise Woman” that guides visitors to simultaneously learn about the ecosystem and the traditional indigenous cultures of the women of ASOMI.

We deeply thank the donors, allies, and friends who have supported ASOMI and their tireless efforts over the past 16 years.

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