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Crisis perspective: the Inga-Aponte community in Colombia

For some of us it feels like the ground is falling under a cloud of economic uncertainty in these difficult times. And so we thought refreshing to look at our situation with perspective and to share with you the current reality for some of our coffee producers in Nariño, Southwest of Colombia, where their ground is literally collapsing.

During the peak of the armed conflict between 1986 and 2004 the Inga people, descendants of the Inca empire decided to fight back and to regain control of their ancestral lands and managed to get rid of the drug plantations they had had to cultivate by force for guerrilla and paramilitary groups. The community was organised using a model of local governance based on a shared vision of justice and collective action to ensure health, education, community services, restoration of ecosystems and sustainable sources of livelihoods including replacing opium and coca cultivation for coffee and other agricultural produce. The Wasikama (guardians of the land) movement created the Tribunal de Pueblos y Autoridades Indígenas del Suroccidente Colombiano (Court of Indigenous Peoples and Authorities of the Colombian Southwest) to help other indigenous peoples to claim their ancestral territories and independence from drug trafficking.

Five years ago their ancestral land collapsed in the centre of their newly established village of Aponte in the municipality of Tablón de Gomez (where we run a program in cooperation with the Unidad de Restitución de Tierras -Unit for Restitution of Land). For five years they have seen their ground falling due to a big geological platform filled with soft sand right underneath Aponte, almost all the houses have been cracked and many totally destroyed.

They have not been offered government Job Retention Schemes or help packages for businesses or for the self-employed and for many coffee growing families the only hope is to sell their harvest at better prices.

The following is an oral narrative linked to all visible and invisible beings on our planet:

Once upon a time when plants and animals shared their knowledge to mankind a Taita Yacha Runa (a wise man) hunter and Kuraka (healer) of the Inga people went out hunting dantas (tapir) with his alkusacha (dog) and armed with blowgun and darts. Without realising he had walked a long distance and was now up in the paramos where shapes and colours blended with the vegetation. Taita Yacha Runa saw two shishajas (sacred plants) and he decided to choose the smallest plant, which helped him to get to know the good spirits. In that high mountain around a lake he saw for the first time where dantas roamed. Then he felt asleep and in his dream he understood the importance of each of the plants he had seen and that the Shashija protected him from bad spirits. In his dream he was in the same lake and saw two ducks one white and one yellow, having to choose he took the white duck.

He woke up from his dream and later on he met an old Kuraka (healer). Taita Yacha Runa thought convenient to tell this old Kuraka his experience and his dream. The old healer told him: Nuka Kane dantakunapa suyumanda yaya (I am the lord of these plants and animals and of everything you see and hear). You did well in choosing what you wanted but you should have taken the yellow duck, which symbolises gold. From now on gold would never be yours….

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