In El Guamo, in the Curbarado Collective Territory, we celebrated the creation of a new Biodiversity Zone: in “La Esmeralda” farm, which belongs to the Durango family who were victims of the violence in the 1990s. At the time they were forced to flee to save their lives. They returned to their land four years ago, and today are in the process of reclaiming the title to their farm.
During the process of recovering their land, the family decided to do a baseline assessment of their territory in order to recover the woodland, native plants and water sources. The mapping was carried out with the advice of the Inter-Church Justice and Peace Commission (CIJP) and the Durangos are now ready to declare their territory a Biodiversity Zone. For the family, and the neighbouring communities, the issue of the environment is very important: they are family farmers who live off their land and are conscious that they need to look after it so their children can enjoy it in the future. This is why creating a Biodiversity Zone is also a symbolic act to protect and care for the earth.
Colombia is a country known for its biodiversity, with the highest number of ecosystems, 314 to be precise,  and an impressive variety of fauna and flora. The environment has also suffered in the conflict, and at the time of peace building it is also important to reevaluate nature and the environment.
Biodiversity Zones, like Humanitarian Zones, are mechanisms for protecting life and territory. If the Humanitarian Zones are exclusive areas reserved for the civilian population in the armed conflict, Biodiversity Zones are defined areas where the importance of protecting ecosystems, recuperating native seeds and traditional crops are recognised. They are a commitment to looking after the environment and living in harmony with nature. In Curbarado they are also an act of resistance to the extensive plantain monocrops which stretch as far as the eye can see.
On this special day, many people from neighbouring communities came to show their support for the family in this process. The young people organised a football game while CIJP’s Lower Atrato team painted the fence with references to the laws which recognise and support the Biodiversity Zones.
With the painting finished, everyone met for an act of recognition, we, as PBI, just observed. Javier Rodero (CIJP) highlighted the importance of the Durango’s family reclaiming its territory. The speaker expressed that with the Biodiversity Zones “we are claiming the right to life and territory, the importance of conservation, of recovering ecosystems and are areas where there is life and where we are protecting nature”. But above all, they recognised the unity between the communities and the resilience they developed during 20 years of living in a territory mired by conflict.
We all walked to the entrance of the plot and the men put up a sign announcing the Biodiversity Zone. Everyone was moved by the Durango family’s new chapter in life, and they thanked us for our presence. A beautiful moment, full of hope.
We ended the day sharing a meal that the family prepared for us and people told stories of the life in the country and about the territory. The next day, under a spectacular sunrise we left by boat, heading up the Curbarado river to the town of Brisas. These trips on the river in small boats are magical, they fill us with energy and oxygen. Seeing the miles of banana plantations along the river banks made me wonder how the territory looked before the violent past. They told me stories of endless forest and fertile earth where so much grew so quickly, which is precisely what provoked the conflict: the fight to control or possess it. The forest is disappearing little by little, the companies arrived and grabbed the land. And I thought of the communities’ struggle to remain here, to organise themselves and never give up the hope of recovering their farms and the life they once had. And it fills me with hope and energy too.
 Colciencia, Colombia, el segundo país más biodiverso del mundo, 11 September 2016