Regenerative Forestry: Reviving Cultural Heritage and Lands

May 13, 2024

Purple Flower

A Brief History

The arrival of settlers in the 1900s brought a wave of colonization that pushed indigenous communities off their lands in favor of urbanization, cattle farming, and agriculture. While the Colombian government initiated laws to redistribute land to indigenous communities, lands allocated to the Kamëntsá were often again appropriated for GMO monoculture crops and cattle ranching, perpetuating the cycle of exploitation, environmental degradation, and biodiversity loss.

A Path Forward

OIOC encourages the Indigenous community to shift their approach to land usage. Instead of continuing monoculture and cattle farming, families are provided saplings and educated on implementing regenerative forestry on their lands, such as Chagra Forestry–a traditional Andean agroecological farming system mimicking natural forest ecosystems.  Chagra Forestry is a holistic land management practice that integrates agroforestry, carbon sequestration, and cultivation of food and medicinal plants.

What is Regenerative Forestry? 

Regenerative forestry goes beyond “planting trees” along a landscape. It is holistic land stewardship that integrates multiple species with various functions, designed along natural water and resource lines to mature into a self-sustaining forest. Multiple layers of canopy and biodiversity are implemented to passively support water retention, soil regeneration, and nutrient-dense landscapes that nourish the environment and provide resources like food, fiber, timber, medicine, and water. 

Various regenerative forestry, agroforestry, and permaculture models have been developed worldwide. We will revive traditional indigenous practices of Chagra Forestry (growing certain native crops symbiotically) and partner with the International Analog Forestry Network (IAFN) to learn and adapt their researched and trialed techniques of Analog Forestry, developed over 30+ years.

Implementation: IAFN support

A survey conducted with 300+ indigenous community members revealed that 90% of respondents expressed interest in transitioning to organic and ancestral farming practices to cultivate food. The main obstacles preventing this are the lack of information on organic and clean practices, as well as the lack of funding for the transition. Many in the community believe that productivity requires the use of agrochemicals. Additionally, the costs to transition to clean production–like expenses for seeds, land mineralization, and identifying markets for the sale of organic products–pose a significant challenge for those looking to make the change.

IAFN's vision is the reforestation of the planet's life systems, while providing economic opportunities to rural areas. Their Analog Forestry training is a system of ecological restoration that increases biodiversity by imitating natural forest systems to create economically productive and environmentally mature forests. Analog Forestry is used across 40+ projects over 9+ countries, and we’ve personally visited a demonstration site in Costa Rica, observing forest development and the sale of sustainably harvested agroforestry goods like essential oils, fiber for construction, textiles, crafts, and reasonably-priced organic goods.

Through demonstrations and workshops with IAFN, we’ll apply techniques to observe and record the land and microclimates, map flows and reservoirs, reduce external inputs, use ecological processes, and follow ecological succession to mature towards stable tree-dominated ecosystems. 

Impact: Cultural, Environmental, Economic Revival

By weaving IAFN’s forestry techniques with the wisdom of the Kamëntsá people, we rekindle the seeds of regenerative forestry–centuries-old wisdom of the intricate connection between forests, biodiversity, and human well-being. Through regenerative forestry, the Kamëntsá not only restore the ecological integrity of their lands but also cultivate a diverse range of resources to meet their needs and generate income through sustainable means. This shift in land usage represents an economic opportunity for the community, a reaffirmation of their cultural connection to the land, and a commitment to environmental stewardship in the face of historical adversity.