This very diverse area, both naturally and culturally, in Eastern Colombia is threatened by unsustainable use. The local communities, however, believe that “the day nature becomes an object of men, will mean the end of life”, and therefore they fight for the area’s conservation.
The Matavén area covers about 1.8 million hectare of forest with an immense biological diversity. It has five ecosystems, such as enclaves of savannahs in the north, caatingas (a semi arid eco-region in South America) and the most extensive flooding forest of the Colombian Amazon.
This region is also remarkable because of the way it is governed. The whole Matavén forest lies within one indigenous territory, called resguardo. This territory is auto-governed by the indigenous communities in the area, who have organized themselves in the association ACATISEMA. This association has been set up to assist with the integral development and the cultural and natural preservation of the Matavén Forest.
There are several threatening developments in the region. Firstly, the government of Colombia is interested in the oil within this area. Oil extraction would cause severe problems for the fragile ecosystem. Gold mining is also a real threat, as well as the encroaching coca fields, both of which threaten the existing flora and fauna and the local population itself. Lastly, over fishing the rivers is a severe problem. This is not caused by the local population, but by outsiders who fish in the rivers out of season and disrupt the fish’s mating season.
Currently, ACATISEMA is trying to get permission to become an indigenous reserve or a nature reserve, because they want to protect the heart of the forest against negative influences and developments from outside. Lobbying and investigating in order to fulfil this wish, might be one of the ways to reward ACATISEMA for their conservation work within the GSI.