Imagine waking up one morning to find your crops—the food that keeps you alive—completely submerged in water and entirely destroyed. This is exactly what happened along the Sinú River in northern Colombia, a region that has supported a diverse community of indigenous people for generations. The Zenu and Embera people who live by the Sinú banks depend on the river for fish, irrigation and drinking water. But in 2000, the Urrá Dam, built by a consortium of Colombian, Swedish and Russian companies, submerged over 7,400 hectares of land, crops, homes and sacred sites. The dam displaced 2,800 people and continues to threaten the lives of 70,000 by altering vital food supplies. Areas of severe periodic flooding and drought caused by its flow have stymied traditional farming practices. Compounding this reality is the construction of a new dam—many times the size—by the Colombian government, presenting a constant looming threat over this beleaguered rural community.
In response to the radical changes brought about by the dam, a local NGO—Association for Community Development of the Cienaga Grande (ASPROCIG)—is working to restore the ecology and agricultural productivity of the region by helping farmers along the Sinú develop agriculture and aquaculture farms suitable to the changed environment. With AJWS’s support, ASPROCIG-supported farmers are establishing 175 agro-ecological farms in the Lower Sinú region.
Check out the video above from ASPROCIG to learn more about what’s happening on the ground in Colombia.