November 14, 2023
By Jacqueline Tucci
In the June edition of PWRDF’s Under the Sun, we profiled Voices and Whispers of the Moorlands, an innovative Grupo ComunicArte project to protect the moorlands – supported by PWRDF – as it began a second phase. Eleven citizen reporters – who were trained during the project’s initial phase – have produced hundreds of pieces of environmentally-focused multimedia. Through the second phase of the project, even more multimedia content will be created by a larger number of trained reporters, from more diverse communities, with special programs in place to develop women and youth.
Andres Ramos is a facilitator with Grupo ComunicArte, with whom PWRDF has partnered on climate-focused initiatives in Colombia. Earlier this month, Ramos participated in a gathering of PWRDF Diocesan Representatives in Toronto. He also presented to the PWRDF Board and Youth Council on Grupo ComunicArte’s work and PWRDF-supported projects.
Colombia is home to over 50% of the world’s moorlands, locally called the Páramos. These high plateau moorland ecosystems are essential to Colombia, as they provide 70% of the country’s water and regulate the natural environment and weather. Their protection is integral to both the health of Colombia’s natural environment and to the mitigation of climate change around the world. The Paramos are home to several unique species of plants and animal, many of them native to the land, such as the Frailejón. The Frailejón, which translates to “big monk” and was named for its resemblance to monks passing through the mountains, is a species of high-altitude shrub which can grow to an impressive 10 meters high. These plants are an integral contributor to global water sustainability, capturing moisture from clouds above and filtering it through to the soil beneath. Now, due to destruction of the moorlands and illegal agricultural activity, the Frailejón are endangered.
We sat down with Ramos during the national gathering to discuss his work and the importance of protecting Colombia’s moorlands.
Please note that this interview was conducted in Spanish and English with the help of a translator.
Where are you from in Colombia, and what is life like there?
I live near Bogotá, Colombia, near the moorlands of Chingaza and Sumapaz. One of the things I enjoy most about where I live is the environmental diversity. The weather is very cool and I’m surrounded by nature. You can still find a lot of diversity in nature – in the plants and animals that live in these parts.
What is your role with the Voices and Whispers of the Paramos project?
I am a facilitator with Grupo ComunicArte. I act as a link between the communities [we work in] and the content and learnings that we teach to people living in these communities. Specifically, we work to teach people about communication, giving them strategies and techniques on how to write scripts, create content for radio, and we also teach about the importance of the moorlands in the lives of people living there.
How did you get involved in this work?
I did a similar job of interviewing and working in communications with Indigenous people living in the Amazon. [Grupo ComunicArte] identified that there was a need in the moorlands for protection, so we decided to get involved with that group of people.
What successes have you seen in communities from the work and engagement you are doing?
There has been an increased involvement of women and young people in the project, which has opened the door for more radio projects in different parts of Colombia. The [rural communities] have also gotten to know the places where they live. Before, they didn’t recognize that they were living in moorlands and the importance of moorlands. So now they know this and are empowered and better prepared to protect their territory.
Why do you feel motivated and passionate to do this work?
I believe that it’s very important to protect the moorlands because they provide us with the water we drink. The moorlands and the rivers in the moorlands are the blood of the earth. I’m passionate about it because I believe we need to know the places where we live so we are able to really protect and live in harmony with the environment.
What do you want the international community to know about this project, and also about the moorlands and protecting the area in general?
First, I want the international community to know that this project – Voices and Whispers of the Moorlands – are the voices of Indigenous peoples, peasants, and mostly women who live in these areas. These people are really concerned about the preservation of the moorlands and the health of the ecosystem. It is important not only for Colombia but also the rest of the world, because they help regulate the weather to fight climate change.
There are different threats to this ecosystem. There are companies who want to explore but also to exploit the resources that are in the moorlands; mining companies and fracking companies are using the water. On the other hand, there are people who are concerned with the protection [of the moorlands] and are trying to find ways to preserve this area.
How can people who are not in Colombia help protect the moorlands?
One of the main reasons for climate change and the degradation of ecosystems like the Amazon and the moorlands is the work that multinational corporations are doing in these ecosystems. One of the things people as individuals or as organizations can do to help is to advocate to their governments for laws or legislation to protect these ecosystems, but also to influence how their companies act in other countries. In the case of Canada, one way [to help] would be to [train people] to become advocates or to work for environmental causes in Latin America, so they can advocate against Canadian or other companies from other parts of the world who are doing extractive activities in Colombia and other parts of Latin America.
Why was it important for you to come to Toronto to connect with PWRDF and our Diocesan Representatives this week?
Coming to Canada was important because it strengthened the link that Grupo ComunicArte has made with PWRDF. It’s [a helpful link] because it allows us to reach more isolated areas of Colombia. The landscape in Colombia is very difficult because we have long distances, separated by mountains, so we can’t [reach these places] easily. With the support of PWRDF, we are able to get to those areas.
The work of the Anglican Church and its volunteers is work that is helping people all over the world. Climate change does not only affect Colombia, but the entire planet. The impact that we are having thanks to PWRDF and its volunteers is helping people not only in Colombia, but around the world, to learn about the Páramos and the impact it has on the [global] climate.