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Nature and Environment | 18.02.2019

Pulque - The Drink of the Gods

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Protecting the biodiversity of Colombia's unique wetlands

A unique wetland

It might look like a lake from above but it is actually a cienaga, a hillscape with fields and forests that transforms into a wetland when the river bursts over its banks. This area is a unique habitat and home to many diverse species. In Colombia alone there are around 1900 cienaga. The biggest of them, the Zapatosa, is under threat.

Protecting the biodiversity of Colombia's unique wetlands

Palm oil production squeezes natural resources

There are many reasons driving this threat. The forest is being cleared to make space for fields and palm oil production, which guzzles water resources and disturbs the natural balance of the environment. There are increasingly regular droughts, which destroy the trees that provide shade to the river bank.

Protecting the biodiversity of Colombia's unique wetlands

Toxic newcomer: the water hyacinth

More invasive plants, like the water hyacinth, thrive in these conditions. The plant spreads quickly and prevents light reaching plants beneath, resulting in those in the water dying and fish unable to find enough food. The thick green coverage of plants slows down the flow of water, causing silt to gather on the banks.

Protecting the biodiversity of Colombia's unique wetlands

Refined taste

There is a good reason why the horses stand in the water like this. Aside from cows, they are the only animal able to stomach the toxins in the water hyacinth.

Protecting the biodiversity of Colombia's unique wetlands

A local source of life

The people living in this area often fish in the river without interference from any big fishing companies. They’ve introduced special measures in order to maintain the levels of fish: nets are big enough to allow smaller fish to slip away, and protected areas have also been created.

Protecting the biodiversity of Colombia's unique wetlands

Keeping the trees alive

Reforestation is also an important part of protecting the environment here. Seeds have been collected in the region and planted in tree nurseries by locals.

Protecting the biodiversity of Colombia's unique wetlands

Life in the shade

Trees like these offer fish shade and food by the river bank. Animals also benefit from eating the fruit that falls into the water. A steady food source results in lots of offspring, which in turn means a good catch for the fishermen. Through the care of newly planted trees the locals are taking control of their futures.

Protecting the biodiversity of Colombia's unique wetlands

The thriving back garden farms

Locals are also growing food in "family gardens" to prepare themselves to survive the dry periods. Many of the houses already have a little piece of land which previously lay uncultivated. Today they are full of fruit trees, vegetables and herbs.

Protecting the biodiversity of Colombia's unique wetlands

Curious creatures

Some locals also keep animals to provide them with meat and eggs. The neighbors organize among themselves who grows what to ensure a good diversity of food and so they can later trade with each other.

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At Global Ideas, we focus on "best practice" climate and biodiversity protection projects that offer solutions and inspire others to take action. Each week, an international team of television and online reporters produce films and features that offer an insight into how developing and emerging countries are dealing with the impacts of climate change. Global Ideas is supported by the German environment ministry within the framework of its International Climate Initiative. 

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