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Foro Global sobre Seguridad Alimentaria y Nutrición • Foro FSN

Re: Abordar la escasez de agua en la agricultura: ¿cómo ayudan las prácticas indígenas o tradicionales?

Mylene Rodríguez Leyton
Mylene Rodríguez LeytonUniversidad Metropolitana de BarranquillaColombia

Water in agriculture: how do indigenous or traditional practices help?

Based on your experience (or knowledge), which of the following indigenous / traditional practices have been successfully applied and replicated (at different times or places) to address water shortages in agriculture? Please provide examples and references.

In Colombia, Article 366 of Chapter 5 of the Political Constitution establishes that the general welfare and improvement of the quality of life of the population are social purposes of the State and defines the fundamental objective of its activity the solution of unmet health needs , education, environmental sanitation and drinking water.

Likewise, various regulatory efforts have been made to guarantee water governance, identifying water management as a complex issue where historical processes and cultural diversity generate particular conditions where it is prudent to promote the dialogue of knowledge that facilitates the interaction of water. scientific, empirical and ancestral or traditional knowledge regarding the use and management of water in harmony with the environment. The complexity of the sustainable management of water in Colombia has to do not only with cultural aspects but also with issues of economic, political and even of armed conflict that for years have influenced agricultural development.

This complexity makes it difficult to identify the role played by peasant communities and ethnic groups in particular on practices for effective water management; as if they are observed in other countries of America specifically the Andean countries.

There is evidence of water management not precisely in the face of scarcity but aimed at coping with floods and adaptation to climate change, this is the case of the Project for the reduction of flood risk and adaptation to climate change in La Mojana. It is a region located on the Colombian Caribbean coast, comprising one of the most complex water deltas in the world as it collects the inflows of three of the most important rivers in Colombia such as the Cauca, San Jorge and Magdalena rivers (Brazo de Loba). This region comprises 11 municipalities that are part of 4 departments.

This is a project of integral intervention for the reduction of flood risk in the region of La Mojana and its objective is to develop actions that lead to a better adaptation of its inhabitants to the environmental and hydro-meteorological conditions, as well as to the social characteristics and economic in the region.

These types of initiatives are aimed at improving the living conditions of the farmers and aim to reduce the poverty conditions in which they live.

• On the other hand, as a second example, related to Soil and Water Management, Colombia is a coffee producing country in different regions. The guild of coffee growers establishes a series of Recommendations for the adequate management of water for Colombian coffee zones, based on the postulate that the proper management of water in crops, drainages and buildings contributes to reduce the risk of occurrence of landslides and erosion, for this reason the following recommendations are given:

• Avoid building and living in areas of high risk, such as those traditionally flooded (IDEAM, 2010)

• Channel the waters coming from the roofs of houses and other constructions, and lead them to a protected natural drainage; check hoses, water pipes, sewers and in case of finding water leaks, changing or repairing them, as well as tanks or water reservoirs; Periodic maintenance of the septic tanks and conduct the overflow waters to a protected site.

• Do not divert or clog sewers or drains, maintain natural drainage or beds of well protected glens with live plant material, always maintain a buffer zone with dense vegetation on the banks of the water sources, be careful with accumulation of rainwater in coffee plantations or in different places, since this can generate mass movements, monitor the flow of rivers, streams and drains, a decrease in the normal flow can mean that a dam is being formed upstream (IDEAM, 2010).

Maintain the soil with coverings, carry out the integrated management of weeds in their crops (Hincapié and Salazar, 2007).

What terminology would be the most appropriate to classify them impartially in the compilation? (for example, indigenous knowledge, traditional knowledge, knowledge of indigenous peoples, knowledge of the community or local knowledge systems ...).

The practices of rural communities in agriculture, including those related to water management to mitigate their scarcity in the drought seasons, in my opinion, are part of popular wisdom, which is the product of intuition, of one's own experience and of The need of human groups to adapt to the environments where they live have developed to survive, in most cases they are effective.

The rural communities of the world being in their various indigenous cases, do not always correspond to this ethnic group, there are also Afro-descendants, mestizos and Rhom or gypsy communities, for that reason I propose that from the semantic point of view they should not associate only with the indigenous communities but that could be called traditional knowledge or local knowledge, since they arise from their own knowledge, from their customs, value systems, beliefs that are called popular, they do not derive from the paradigm of the scientific method.


Mylene Rodríguez Leyton

Professor Investigator Metropolitan University of Barranquilla

Nutrition and Dietetics Program

Group of feeding and human behavior