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Chagra's Fairs In The Colombian Amazon As An Alternative To Protect Agricultural Biodiversity And Traditional Knowledge: The Case of Tarapaca’s Indigenous Communities


In the Colombian Amazon, indigenous groups, women's organizations, the Sinchi Amazon Institute of Scientific Research, and the Ministry of Environment, implement Chagra’s Fairs (local name given to Agrobiodiversity Fairs) to empower initiatives based on principles of solidarity economy and traditional knowledge as an alternative to extractive economies that have historically operated in the region. Extractive economies of the XX and XXI centuries, that exploited resources such as rubber, fur, coca-paste and gold, have driven indigenous population economies into debt, loss of agrobiodiversity, and disintegration of their traditional ways of life, endangering the transmission of traditional knowledge.
In order to promote economic alternative initiatives in the Colombian Amazon, local organizations and Sinchi Amazon Institute of Scientific Research, work together to implement Chagra's Fairs in Tarapacá. After four years, the first Fairs took place in 2012, 2013 and 2014. This proposal emerges thanks to a previous work with families affiliated to these indigenous and woman organizations: ASOAINTAM Association of Indigenous Traditional Authorities of Tarapaca Amazon; CIMTAR Indigenous Major Council of Tarapaca, ASMUCOTAR , Women Community Association of Tarapaca. And the technical support from the Sinchi Institute , Ministry of Environment, National University and UNDP.

Problem, challenge or context: 

Questions we want to answer are how the organization of Chagra's Fairs has contributed to the process of strengthening traditional knowledge associated with agricultural biodiversity, and how this initiative can be projected toward a strategy of greater participation of indigenous communities in solidarity markets of agricultural and forest products. In addition, I consider important to integrate to the research project, Chagra's Fairs as a local alternative to rain forest conservation and help reduce consequences of deforestation and climate change.
Chagra's Fairs has taken place in Tarapacá since indigenous organizations implemented the project “Protection of Traditional Knowledge associated to agrodiversity in Colombian agroecosystems, NPUD, Sinchi, MADS”. According to the results of the project, for indigenous organizations in Tarapacá, document their traditional knowledge allowed them to value their ancestral knowledge like foundation of their culture and livelihoods, and also contemplate them like a functional mechanism to access other benefits derived from the value of agrobiodiversity, conservation, and sustainable management of ecosystems. In this way, Chagra's Fairs in Tarapaca is a creative strategy to update their traditional knowledge in a wide range of initiatives around solidarity economy.

Specific elements of components: 

In amazon tropical forests, challenges about conservation and economic development have been a constant tension point in different programs agreed by local, public and NGO organizations. We try to find how local alternatives based on traditional knowledge and solidarity economy may be a solution for conservation issues and an opportunity for accessible livelihoods in the indigenous families.
I also consider Chagra’s Fairs as an economic local alternative for indigenous families who are part of the two indigenous reservations (Resguardos): Cothue Putumayo (250.000 hectares) and Uitiboc (95000 hectares); which also intersect and have influence on Río Pure (999.880 hectares) and Amacayacu (293.500 hectares) National Natural Parks. Although Tarapaca’s region is mostly a natural protected area; ecosystems are traded by extractive economies like gold-mines. Mostly young people are pushed to work in gold mines because they don´t find other options to survive.
I consider empowering Chagra’s Fairs as a local economic alternative for indigenous families, it’s possible to reduce the impact of extractive economies by helping indigenous families who practice agricultural biodiversity to find better profits from their traditional activities. Chagra's Fairs can also help to strength cultural common rules by participation of indigenous families in decision-making for natural resources management. Through Chagra's Fairs local organizations can expand the field of sustainable activities keeping conservation forest.

Key lessons learned: 

Fairs are defined as community practices that promote knowledge about crops and identify custodians of biodiversity. Agrobiodiversity Fairs promote on-farm conservation; institutionalize diversity fairs at regular intervals; inspire local groups to establish community seed banks; promote seed exchange and remain the adaptation of local crop genetic resources in the hands of local farming communities.
We feel identified with the Participatory Action Research of Orlando Fals Borda, this perspective views science as socially constructed and therefore subject to re-interpretation, revision and enrichment. Chagra’s Fairs are not the result of a preconceived idea, whereas they are part of the process that local organizations and Sinchi Institute lead in the region to engage local commitment for protection and valuation of agricultural biodiversity, traditional knowledge and conservation forests.

Impacts and outcomes: 

The aim of Chagra’s Fair project is congruent with some perspectives of Climate Economy. Even though conservation practices and agricultural biodiversity have been managed by traditional knowledge, there has been a constant thread on climate change generated by extractive global economies, land use change and deforestation. Valuing standing forests by strengthening agricultural biodiversity can help to avoid some climate change causes, if viable alternative uses of agrobiodiversity are applied. Chagra’s Fairs, have become an economic alternative for local organizations in Tarapaca to value ecosystem services, allow Fair Trades, (consolidating value chains with external markets of azai, camu camu fruit, andiroba and copaiba oils for example) and REDD+. Therefore, Chagra's Fairs can reduce vulnerability of ecosystems, increase agricultural yields, rural incomes and resilience if traditional practices for the management of agricultural biodiversity are maintained.

Contact details: 
Pablo De La Cruz,
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