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Territorio de Vida Atuczara en la Panamazonia de la Reserva Indígena Gran Tescual, Colombia


The Atuczara Territory of Life means "where the heart of the water is". It is an indigenous reservation of the Gran Tescual community, located in the south-west of Colombia, and is an integral part of the Colombian Panamazonia region (Pacific - Andes - Amazonas). In this region there are three large ecosystems that interact energetically, climatically and culturally with each other, and whose natural cycles interrelate and contribute to the rich biodiversity of the coastal and Amazonian foothills, as well as the Andean páramos. The latter is characterised by its colder climate, with special vegetation where important water springs originate that benefit its inhabitants.

800 indigenous families inhabit the Atuczara Territory, which is made up of the ancestral settlements of Chapal, Puerres, Canchala, Tescual and Alpichaque. It is also part of the great territory of the Nudo de Los Pastos. Action is underway around valuing and recreating the concepts of the territory’s historical, cultural, social, economic and organizational ancestor, prior to the conquest and the colony; in such a way that terriorial collective knowledge, values and principles are strengthened.

History and activities

As of December 16, 2020, the indigenous community area is recognised as a Resguardo through the Agencia Nacional de Tierras and the agreement 146 of December 16, 2020, covering 10,174 hectares, 6,500 of which are:Endemic territories of the "Zonquer" (the plant also known as frailejones).

  • Sacred spaces including those of water spirits, such as Cueches and “la hoja de la diosa del monte”, the latter representative of the multiple diversity of plants, including Pumamaque and Kuandera as the fire plant. Other spaces include territories of Waira spirits such as “kinde” and “kuntur” (hummingbird and condor). At the entrance to the Amazon, the world of Rumy and the bones of Mother Earth are evidenced in the basalt and limestone rocks, and the joints represented by quartz.
  • Vital protection given the threats and interests for mineral exploitation within these sacred spaces.

The interaction of cultures in our territory has been present since ancient times, passed on from our ancestors , whowere related to Los Kofanes, Los Quillasingas, alongsidethe cultures of the coastal foothills and with all the Pasto People's reservations. The community focuses on agriculture, supported by their sacred view of the land. This has allowed them to work in harmony with the “shagra”, which has been sustaining the livelihoods of the indigenous family, who produce organic foods such as potatoes, corn, ullucos, peas, beans, Abas, tomato, blackberry, strawberry, and sugar cane, all for family and community consumption.

Management and governance

The Gran Tescual indigenous community has the Runakaypacha Plan (Revitalization of the cultural essence of man in the territory) as its fundamental pillar. This allows the indigenous identity to be part of the ancestral territory and at the same time contains a vision of sustainable development with its own identity. The initiative of the indigenous community settled in the Pan-Amazon, make use of their constitutional rights, its principles, values and ancestral social, economic, natural, cultural and political practices, building on their journey towards “good living”.

The indigenous community declares itself as a Territory of Life because it has a principle of advancing the revitalization of identity, in harmony with the territory, and believes in the strengthening of culture for the benefit of the indigenous populations and other human groups that inhabit this sacred territory. They also fight against the deterioration of the soil, while strengthening the processes of their own economies for the care of mother nature. The ancestral reservation has been rewarded by the spirits with an abundant water supply.

The Community has developed different spaces for “minga de la palabra”. 'Minga' comes from the Quechua language “minka”, which alludes, in this native language of the Peruvian Andes, to an old tradition of community work for the benefit of all society and good living. They do this in order to find a relationship between the community and its territory from the biological, spiritual and cultural pillars. This has allowed the self-recognition of our indigenous reservation as a Territory of Life called "Atuczara". We promote the exchange of knowledge and experiences, to strengthen our close and deep relationship with the territory and the governance that we exercise over it, through the Law of Origin, the Life Plan and the Territorial Mandates with which we have maintained harmony and culture.

Territorial cartography through community work with the location of families in the foothills of the Amazon.

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.