June 2021 Newsletter
28 June 2021
It has taken a long time, but the Trust is now able to report that our long-prepared plan for a land restoration project with the Kogi is able to move ahead. After two years of planning, the project has been enthusiastically endorsed as a pilot by a new UNESCO initiative called BRIDGES, and a joint committee has been established by the Trust and the Kogis’ Organización Gonawindúa Tayrona (OGT) to run it.
BRIDGES has been set up because it is now widely understood that ‘western’ interventions in the environment have generally been extremely destructive and realisation has dawned globally that other forms of knowledge, especially traditional indigenous knowledge, may be all that stands between us and catastrophe. They appealed for pilot projects to show how traditional knowledge can work with academic/technical expertise to produce more sustainable practice, and that is where we come in, bringing together the Kogi with ecologists and other relevant experts.
The project has the working title “Munekan masha: Revitalising water in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta”. The idea is for the Kogi Mamas to oversee the regeneration of a specific site, recovering dried water sources. The work is being organised by the OGT with the active support of the Trust. It is our job to draw in the non-indigenous experts, oversee the reporting and educational output, both local and global. And we have to raise the funds.
The work is particularly relevant given the violent social upheaval and pandemic in Colombia.
We did not want to report much on the project in development until the situation was firmed up. It has been a very slow process, largely because the pandemic has created massive disruption in the Sierra. The OGT’s governor, Cabildo Santo Sauna, died, and the structure of the organisation collapsed. The majority of the Kogi withdrew to virtually inaccessible settlements, making it very difficult even to ensure the delivery of emergency funding. Eventually, we were able to get funds to their intended destination and provide financial assistance for the new Cabildo to organise extensive meetings with the Mamas to reconstruct the OGT, the organisation that represents them to the outside world.
Governor Arregoces Conchacala illustrates project
Only when that was complete could we start to hold meetings with the new Cabildo, Arregoces Conchacala, a man of deep experience who worked with the Trust at the time of its inception and provided crucial guidance on the making of ALUNA. The OGT also made an impressive presentation at BRIDGES’ inaugural General Assembly on 25th May 2021, alongside the Trust’s explanation of the project, which you can see here https://youtu.be/KhUyGYEABcI (10 mins.)
Tungeka meeting: Mamas in discussion
We were much heartened by a message afterwards from Paul Shrivastava of UPenn. He is a member of the Club of Rome and used to run Future Earth. "I am a jaded old timer at these conferences, but your project really got me excited. It gave me hope that scientific inquiry could actually make a difference on the ground. THANK YOU."
The next stage is to identify the land to be bought, and clarify the minutiae details of the budget. We expect to have to raise a seven-figure sum, for the pilot project to run for 3 years. At this stage we urgently need to raise £18,000 (US$25,000) to carry out the preparatory work on the ground. We are aiming to start working immediately … so we are seeking initial funding of £18,000 ($25,000) to cover the travel and accommodation required to source and consider parcels of land.
To hold initial consultations with Kogi authorities
Professional legal support to assess and provide economic valuation of any parcels of land available
A preliminary traditional and scientific evaluation to establish the condition of the land including its environmental markers
The services of a project manager
Mama Lutana and Alan having an informal chat
We are therefore asking our supporters and friends to become our founding partners at this crucial stage. We would be grateful for any donation you can make!
We are fortunate enough to be guided by the Amazon Conservation Team, who are already working in the river valley where we expect the project to be based and who participated in the meeting between OGT, the Trust, and representatives of UNESCO, BRIDGES and the Latin American Council of Social Sciences in the Sierra last year.
We will continue our talks with other organisations and institutions with the aim of generating partnerships to help us to purchase the land in the Kogi ancestral territories; these will be the basis of the project work. We will report further on this campaign as it develops.
Please get in touch if you can help in any way. We are always looking for more helping hands here in the UK too!
With warm summer greetings,
The Trustees of Tairona Heritage Trust