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Water security in rural communities

A look into water security from the perspectives of campesino and indigenous communities in the Upper Cauca River Basin, in the department of Cauca, Colombia

08 August 2021

The UN International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples is centred around the inclusion and participation of indigenous peoples in society around the world. Indigenous populations across the globe suffer poverty, illness, discrimination, institutional instability, financial insecurity, and other inequalities as a result of marginalisation. While over recent years, various associations and organisations have sought to address these inequalities, more work is still needed.

Our Colombia team’s work is focused on the Upper Cauca River Basin, in the department of Cauca, Colombia. Forming close relationships with local communities in the basin and integrating these voices into the Collaboratory, they are collectively working to strengthen water security in a region experiencing socio-ecological difficulties.

The peaks of Cauca are home to the source of the second most important river in the country, Rio Cauca, which provides potable water, food, and economic security for millions of people. More than 46,000 people inhabit the sub-basins of the rivers Las Piedras and Palacé, which stem from Rio Cauca. Most of them are indigenous peoples, rural farm workers, or campesinos, and hold deep connections with the land and natural resources.

Taita Luis, Director at Misak Educational Institute, Mama Manuela: "Most indigenous peoples are originally from water."

Maria Soraida Golondrino, ASOCAMPO: "Water is for me a concept of life."

Taita Salomón, Professor at Misak Educational Institute, Mama Manuela: "Nature teaches us how to face things, how to look – if we value nature, it guides us."

These communities have been fighting hard to protect their environment and the right to autonomous governance within their territories for a long time.

Indigenous peoples and local communities can be a real force for change, and the knowledge gained from listening to these historically marginalised voices is fundamental in understanding the bigger picture around water values, offering information and interpretations that complement scientific data. Our Colombia Collaboratory is strengthening the bridge between indigenous and local knowledge, academic science, and government policy, to face the global water crisis together.

In this video, members of the communities share their views and feelings on water security, the value of water in their community, and their hopes for the future.

"Our future depends on the conservation of water for everyone... if there is no water, there is no life."

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