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Resguardo Indígena de Origen Colonial Cañamomo Lomaprieta, Colombia

Description of the territory

The Indigenous Resguardo of Colonial Origin Cañamomo Lomaprieta is inhabited by the Embera Chamí Indigenous ethnic group. This reserve is located in Colombia, in the northwest of the Department of Caldas, between the municipalities of Riosucio and Supía, with a total area of 4837 hectares. It is organized into 32 communities: 20 in the Municipality of Riosucio with 14,106 registered members, and 12 in the Municipality of Supía with 7,788 registered members.

History of the Resguardo
The existence of the Cañamomo Lomaprieta Territory dates back to events that occurred during the colonial era. Since then, the indigenous people of this region have been systematically subjected to abuses of power in order to acquire their lands. However, their tenacity in fighting and resisting has ensured some stability for the territory and enabled improvement and development of their lives.

The Resguardo provides holistic support to the indigenous people of this region, relating to both spiritual and essential elements that bring harmony:

"The traditional doctors, guides, and spiritual authorities consider the territory as the beginning and end of life that transforms into a constant cycle. The essential elements for life coexist in the territory: water, which represents purity and blood; earth, which is the body, is the mass; air, which is energy, oxygen, and life; and fire, which is the spark of energy, the vibration, the reflection." (Cañamomo, 2009, p. 162).

Taking this into account, it is important to highlight the role of conservation in guaranteeing the defense of the way of life of the members. For this reason, the purpose of this case study is ecological/environmental development based on the community’s own vision.

ICCA in Cañamomo Lomaprieta

Over the years, various expressions of defence and care for Mother Earth have grown in Cañamomo. Some of these are native to indigenous being, and others have developed from articulations with individuals, groups, collectives, institutions, or organizations that share values of protection and conservation of the territory. In this sense, the Natural Heritage Program has been key in uniting efforts towards the common goal of ensuring the development of life based on ancestral and native ways.

The inhabitants of the Reguardo Cañamomo Lomaprieta have decided to self-recognize as a Territory of Life - ICCA, based on their actions of restoration and conservation of forest relics, waterways, and springs, the seed custodians’ program, and the commitment to agroecological reconversion of the entire territory in search of recovery and conservation of agrobiodiversity for food sovereignty as a foundation for autonomy and self-determination.

Conservation in Cañamomo Lomaprieta

For the Resguardo, conservation is fundamental to indigenous being: "The defence of indigenous territory and the conservation of Mother Earth is a fundamental task where the autonomy and spirituality of indigenous communities are strengthened in defense of cultural and ancestral values to seek the well-being and improvement of the quality of life of the population" (Cañamomo, 2009, p. 127).

Conservation is a transversal element throughout the territory and is part of the Life Plan (Plan de Vida). While this is an institutional conservation commitment for the Colombian State, this is intrinsic to their way of feeling and thinking for the Resguardo.

The conservation status of the territory is defined as threatened by the demographic pressure of its 21,894 inhabitants on such a limited area. By decision of these members and their authorities, diagnoses, zoning, and biocultural characterizations have been carried out for the protection and restoration of forest relics. They’ve also created "yellow lines" that indicate the closure of the agricultural frontier around the river basins, streams, and 415 springs. In this way, they have developed a "Water Regulation" that is implemented throughout the Resguardo. This Regulation includes not only the protection of springs but also other necessary rural public services that are not available within the territory, such as decontamination and waste management systems, prohibition of pollutants and other agrochemicals, among others.

Considering that the main activity of Resguardo inhabitants is agriculture, they have committed themselves to agroecological, integral and agrochemical-free reconversion of their plots, incorporating traditional planting practices. The Resguardo has been declared free of transgenics and one of their key conservation initiatives is the seed guardian program, which has around 300 participating families. Each family that guards seeds specializes in the care and reproduction of various native, creole, and foreign seeds for their permanence, exchange, dissemination, conservation, and defense.

Environmental organizational structure

The Resguardo has the Natural Heritage Program that acts as a catalyst for community realities and aspirations, manages projects and facilitates agreements, and provides technical advice. Additionally, it serves as the environmental authority for the strategic planning of its seven main areas: Water, Biodiversity, Solid Waste, Climate Change, Risk Management, Mining, and Environmental Education, as well as organizational documentation. This program is led by 32 environmental committees belonging to the 32 communities. Recently, the Resguardo has committed to strengthening its environmental mandate through the participatory construction and socialization of Environmental Resolution No. 5 of 2018.

Self-Development and Governance

The self-government is composed of the main governor and substitute governor, first and second mayor, first and second representative, first and second sheriff, council members, council of former governors, and indigenous guard. The organizational structure of the reservation is based on principles and values inherited from their ancestors as ethical foundations for community exercise, the defence and practice of collective ancestral rights, and based on the principles of Unity, Territory, Law of Origin (Ley de Origen), Greater Right (Derecho Mayor), and Ancestral Ethics.

This case study was originally published by UNEP-WCMC in April 2023. The content was provided by the custodians of this ICCA. The ICCA has been self-declared and has been through a peer-review process to verify its status. More details on this process can be found here. The contents of this website do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of UN Environment Programme or WCMC.