The Biodiversity of the Serranía de San Lucas

The Serranía de San Lucas, spread between Antioquia and Bolivar, has been trapped within the horrors of a never-ending armed conflict. This corner of Colombia has witnessed massacres, displacements and violence for so many years that war scars are etched into the countryside and into the stories and memories living in the people of these forgotten lands.

The farming communities in the region have been victims of territorial disputes between guerrilla and paramilitaries groups who have recognized the immense natural richness of the area and its strategic position. Many of those who have resisted have lost their lives in the struggle for peace.

But walking through the peaceful jungle of Nordeste Anioqueño, it is difficult to imagine the pain that the region has been put through. The fresh air, the rivers of clear water and the sounds of birds, monkeys and frogs transport you to a natural, tropical paradise, far away from the noise of the cities and political controversies.

In a section of virgin forest in the south region of the Serranía, the Farmers Association of the Valle del río Cimitarra – National Agro-ecological Network (ACVC-RAN), together with other social organizations and Natural and National Parks of Colombia (PNN), set up a biological characterisation commission to identify the different plant and animal species present in the jungle, (which at the moment does not benefit from a protective legal figure) who´s main threat nowadays are mining concessions. The aim of the commission was to certify this area as an area with high levels of biodiversity which require conservation and preservation.

PBI accompanied the ACVC-RAN during this important project that focused on the natural richness of the region and its much needed environmental protection.

We had the honor of being guided for the first few days by Don Macías, a historic member of the Corporation for Humanitarian Action for Peace and Communal Living (CAHUCOPANA), who through music has found a refuge to tell the stories of the difficulties that the farming community has lived through in the Nordeste Antioqueño. With his guitar in hand, Don Macías sings in his sincere and moving way, of the stories of injustice and fallen comrades so their memory lives on and the voice of the farming community is never silenced.

“Of the twenty that were killed,
one of them was missing,
he was ambushed,
they awaited his arrival,
When the moment came,
They started shooting,
The farmers went out,
To see what had happened,
they found only a body
well hidden in the brook,
the body of a farmer
who was put through such pain”
 (Extract from “La Masacre de Manila”)
Serranía San Lucas

With part of the group arriving at Cruz, after a physically challenging hike

After a few days of walking with inevitable falls and the backs of the donkeys rubbed raw, we arrived at Ojos Claros in time for the closing of the project. The biologists, experts in primates, reptiles, birds, plant species, felines, insects, amphibians and small, medium and large mammals explained their impressive results detailing the huge biodiversity of the region. They showed photos of jaguars, bats, a bear that no one knew was in the area, to around one hundred people from various communities nearby that came together to support this important initiative. However, sadly some of the species are in grave danger of extinction.

The local guides, who helped the biologists get to know the jungle they grew up in, spoke with pride and emotion of what they had learned from the experts and, in return, what they had been able to teach them.

This initiative that brought together academics, researchers and grass root and environmental organisations working hand in hand with the community, is a moving reminder of the Colombian natural richness that is too often eclipsed by the armed conflict and drug trafficking, themes that for many years have been the protagonists in the media of the international community.

With these sorts of initiatives, the world sees another Colombia and its global importance in terms of biodiversity. The hope is that this project will serve as a peace initiative, something that encourages all actors to work together to conserve the ecological richness and variety.

From 15th July 2015, the territory has been declared a temporal zone of protection and development of natural resources by the Environmental and Sustainable Development Ministry (MMADS) through resolution 1628 of 13th July 2015[1]; meaning that mining activities cannot be developed in this territory in the coming years, “time in which the type of legal environmental protection that these types of areas need has to be defined with the communities”[2].

It is an immense pleasure to accompany these emblematic processes in Colombia and be able to facilitate the important work of the human rights defenders in the ACVC-RAN, an organization committed to taking Colombia to its new phase of peace and social justice for the farming community.

–Hannah Matthews & Delphine Taylor

* Photoblog


[1] Environmental and Sustainable Development Ministry: Resolution 1628, 13th July 2015

[2] Prensa Rural: Looking for ways to protect the virgin jungle in the Serrania de San Lucas, 27th July 2015

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