Young indigenous voices lead the future: ACT-Colombia’s Youth Advisory Board 

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A youth advisory board member during a conservation workshop

9 indigenous youths from across Colombia

Time and time again, we confirm that the health of forests is tied to the health of the people that inhabit them. In our Colombia program, through over two decades of work in close relationship with indigenous and local communities, we have contributed to the expansion or establishment of over 2.63 million acres of indigenous land, benefiting more than 65,000 indigenous people, and provided support to communities in their well-being and self-governance projects. A consensus view across regions is that all members of our indigenous partner communities must be involved in conservation decisions, including children and youth. 

A youth advisory board sponsored by ACT-Colombia works towards the inclusion of younger voices within our partner communities. It convenes nine members of 10 to 16 years of age from across six geographic regions of Colombia where our programs are present. The members, hailing from the departments of Amazonas, Putumayo, Caquetá, Cauca, Cesar and Magdalena, contribute vital perspectives to our Colombia-wide activities. Their territorial contexts vary greatly, from vibrant humid tropical forests in the lower Caquetá River region to the Sibundoy Valley’s towering mountains that harbor vital Andes-Amazon transitionary ecosystems.

The Sibundoy Valley, Putumayo, Colombia

Sharing their perspectives and guiding the work

The members convene monthly from their territories in a virtual setting and share their opinions, viewpoints, and desires with regard to environmental conservation in their territories, enabling our youth-focused staff to determine what activities are most important to the youth. When assembling, the members share their unique cultural backgrounds and find commonalities. The exchanges help the youth determine shared conservation goals across their diverse ecosystems. 

We are working towards greater integration of the youth advisory board’s perspectives in the planning and implementation of our work in Colombia. In May 2023, almost one year after the board’s foundation, members convened in person at ACT-Colombia’s headquarters in Bogotá. Here, they met with members of our team, including our Northwest Amazon regional director, Carolina Gil, and program coordinators. Members provided their advice and perspectives to our staff during this visit. 

The cross-cultural and on-the-ground perspective that the board offers helps shape our programs and initiatives to be more in tune with the needs of all members of our partner communities. The board’s role within ACT-Colombia continues to grow, as does the experience of the board members, who promote with others the care that they dedicate to the territories they call home. 

A youth advisory board member during a conservation workshop 

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