In the Boyacá region of Colombia, the Fundación Montecito is fighting for the protection of Colombia's largest lake, Lake Tota. Their fight starts with environmental education of the local population.
An endangered eco-system
Located at an altitude of more than 3000m in the Boyacá region, Lake Tota has an eco-system rich in exceptional biodiversity. Indeed, there are 94 species of birds, 3 of which are endemic to this lake. By way of comparison, in France, there are 578 species of birds and only one of them is endemic.
This biodiversity can be explained by the high concentration of wetlands around the lake, which provides an abundant place for diversity. But if Lake Tota is so well known in Colombia, it is probably more for its huge onion and trout crops than for its bird species. But today, these intensive crops threaten the wetlands and endanger one of the endemic bird species.
The intensive use of pesticides, the over-consumption of water and the toxic waste from the crops are all reasons why the water of the lake is becoming less and less healthy, which poses a problem not only for its biodiversity but also for the inhabitants of the region themselves who consume this water. It is in this context that the Fundación Montecito is working to change things.
Environmental education, a key weapon
After numerous studies and a good knowledge of the terrain, the Fundación Montecito has discovered several eco-responsible solutions that would allow the farmers to keep the same productivity while preserving the lake's eco-system as it is. Of course, some of these solutions require a certain financial investment at the beginning, but contrary to what one might think, the financial situation of the farmers of Lake Tota is far from being deplorable. Their onions and trout are exported all over Colombia at very good prices and are very famous. So what's the problem?
Because if they could do otherwise, one has to ask what reasons could drive a farmer to poison the water he drinks? It's simple: ignorance.
Indeed, most farmers in the region have received a basic education and are certainly not up to date on the new techniques of eco-responsible agriculture. Moreover, it is difficult to get them to change their farming methods until they see the need. This is where the Fundación Montecito comes in.
The Fundación Montecito's solution
This organisation works to educate the local population about the environment from an early age in primary school. They start by inspiring young future farmers to protect their lake by teaching them all the secrets of the biodiversity it harbours: the names of the birds, the plants, and how to recognise them. Learning to observe and recognise the ecosystem that surrounds them is the first step in environmental education.
In a second step, the Fundaciòn Montecito created the environmental festival "El Muyso" based on an urban legend of a monster that lives in the lake. The aim was to use this legend as a metaphor for the toxic waste dumped in the lake. During this festival, many speakers give lectures and bands of committed and traditional music come to give their voices.
These are just some of the solutions that the Fundación Montecito has found to address a local issue. Of course, the organisation acts on many other levels and tries to alert governmental institutions to carry out larger actions. If you want more information about them, I invite you to visit their website here.
Finally, it is possible to do an international volunteering with them, if you are interested you can contact us for more information.