On February 14th, 2023, Colombia’s National Land Agency formalized the expansions of the Huitorá, Coropoyá, and Jericó Consaya Indigenous Reserves in the Colombian department of Caquetá by a total of 279,777 acres (113,222 hectares). The three Indigenous reserve expansions play a crucial role in safeguarding cultural practices and protecting regional biodiversity and will benefit 138 families of the Korebajʉ and Murui Muina Indigenous communities.
Here, we move, we live, and we speak our mother tongue. Without the territory, we are nothing. That is why this great achievement is the dream of every one of our children who is growing up today and will still be able to know life as it is for us. They will continue to watch the dances, to sing, to fish, and to exist in their territory.Duvan Valencia Moreno, a Korebajʉ coordinator of the Jericó Consaya Reserve Association
Halting Deforestation and Protecting Biodiversity
The region of Caquetá faces high levels of deforestation, caused primarily by new pasturelands and agricultural fields. Destruction of habitat has led fauna like jaguars and tapirs from the forests to the north of the three Indigenous reserves to flee, and several have migrated into existing reserve territory in recent years.
The expansions of the Huitorá, Coropoyá, and Jericó Consaya Indigenous Reserves consolidate a bio-cultural conservation corridor, which helps to restore ecosystem continuity and promote the sustainable management of the Amazonian and sub-Andean forests that extend from the lowlands of the Caquetá River into areas neighboring the Serranía de Chiribiquete and La Paya National Parks.
More than three thousand plant and animal species are estimated to live within the three expanded Indigenous reserves.
The Jericó Consaya Indigenous Reserve was expanded by 59,986 acres, almost tripling the reserve’s original area before the expansion. Located in the department of Caquetá, the reserve benefits 84 Korebajʉ families.
The Korebajʉ people’s origin story takes place at the headwaters of the Amazon River. The Korebajʉ state that they, alongside other Indigenous peoples, settled there and assumed the responsibility for caring for the territories of the Colombian Amazon spanning today’s Caquetá and Putumayo departments. The Korebajʉ suffered a violent colonial-era history that displaced them from many areas of their ancestral territory.
Because of the territory, we have life. The territory is our Mother Earth, the one that supplies us with everything: food, our ancestral medicine, each stick, and each tree. Each means a lot to us and is very valuable; that is why we have to provide it with sound management while thinking about the future. We have made requests and we have fought for the expansion for years, and today we are very grateful to the different partnering organizations that have assisted us because they make this dream of our reserve possible.Duvan Valencia Moreno, coordinator of the Jericó Consaya Reserve Association
The Huitorá Indigenous reserve celebrated a 159,016-acre expansion that nearly doubled the original area. The expansion will benefit 36 Murui Muina families.
The Murui Muina people describe themselves as the sons and daughters of the coca, tobacco, and sweet cassava plants, which they cultivate in their traditional food garden, the chagra. The Murui Muina state that their ancestral territory is a space where the spirits of nature, manifesting as flora, fauna, and rivers, offer sustenance.
The expansion is very important because it is in a place where all our medicinal plants are, places where we can go out and look for our food.Huitorá community member, Cristian Muñoz
For my people, the territory represents life. There is everything that is part of us: the food, the air, the oxygen, all the animals, the fish. For us, it is like Mother Earth—it is where the essence of life comes from. That is why the preservation of the territory is very important, for today, and for thousands of years.Julio Garay, Murui Muina elder and resident of the Huitorá Indigenous Reserve
The expansion of the Coropoyá Indigenous reserve by 60,775 acres more than quadrupled the area of the original territory. The expansion benefits 18 Murui Muina families who have faced years of unrest due to Colombia’s longstanding civil conflict.
Today, we must continue to maintain our tradition and our culture, and strengthen our mother tongue, our traditional dances and our artisanship, so that we cannot say that we have lost them. That is why we have to thank the entities such as ACT and the National Land Agency for this accomplishment. The expansion enables us to carry on and continue fighting and caring for the various species of animals that we have in the territory. Also, as a chieftain, I connect with nature and understand that the health of our people and our traditions depends on it.Yuber Alvarez, Murui Muina Chieftain
The expansion area of the Coropoyá Reserve is also a strategic area for the conservation of fauna and flora in the lower Caquetá River region. Within the reserve, there are at least 12 endangered fauna species and many more that are important for regional conservation, among them jaguars, giant anteaters, and three endangered primate species–the Miller’s saki, the white-bellied spider monkey, and the woolly monkey.
These expansions were made possible thanks to the efforts and collaboration of the 3 Indigenous communities, Colombia’s Agencia Nacional de Tierras, and our partners at the Amazon Conservation Team.