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The “Elder Brothers”, guardians of the “Heart of the World”: indigenous knowledge as an innovative contribution to the sustainable development of the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta, Colombia

Guillermo Enrique Rodríguez-Navarro

The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, an isolated mountain on the Caribbean Coast north of Colombia, constitutes a unique refuge of biodiversity. The Sierra's indigenous groups share a complex system of beliefs, values, and practices, "the law of the Mother", that governs human relationship with nature -in other words, an ecosophy. The history of the indigenous occupation of the Sierra serves as an example of sustainability, which it is important to share with all human groups in the bioregion: peasants, big plantations, urban populations, and guerrillas. In particular water supply, a commodity needed by all, which depends on forest conservation, can be the basis for a dialogue between the different groups.

The indigenous adaptive model encloses invaluable knowledge for the conservation of biodiversity in the Sierra and elsewhere. For this reason, the Fundación Pro-Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta has involved indigenous people in the definition and execution of the Conservation Strategy for the Sierra.

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