The tree of life and abundance

The tree of life and abundance

Colombia - 07 April, 2014

Indigenous communities in the Colombian Amazon consider abundance, in terms of livelihood wealth, as an important aspect of their cultural background. The story “the tree of life and abundance” narrated by the indigenous elder and local researcher Abel Rodriguez includes the traditional management of food and the understanding these communities have regarding well-being as presented in their mythology of origin.

According to governmental statistical data, food security in indigenous communities in the Colombian Amazon is a challenge due to the high levels of malnutrition. It is true that many changes have taken place in the food offer and in the paradigms of local nutrition, especially in the frame of extractive booms like mining that imply a change in consumption dynamics. Nevertheless, at a cultural level, there are multiple symbolic references to well-being, to the proper formation of the body, the proper diets, the management of wild and cultivated products and the seasonal offer of food. From a local perspective, food security is understood from a very different logical frame and implies a complex cultural program, which even includes rituals.

For instance, the story of “the tree of life and abundance” reminds us of the origins of abundance, and tells us about the social and ecological relationships required in the tropical forest to secure welfare. Also, as a reminder of the mother of abundance, it calls upon the role of women in the provision of food throughout the year. In this story, Abel Rodríguez also points out the importance of food for healing purposes and its capacity to give life.

As part of the recognition of the relevance of traditional knowledge for the conservation and good management of the tropical forest, TBI Colombia shares this video about the origin of food in the frame of the programme project Food security in the Colombian Amazon rainforest: The forest as a food provider. The goal is to recover the traditional cultural understanding of food security in order to analyze the tradeoffs with current policies in indigenous communities.

The drawing “The tree of life and abundance” will be featuring the exhibition Waterweavers: The River in Contemporary Colombian Visual and Material Culture commissioned by José Roca that will take place in the Bard Graduate Center, New York.