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  • Writer's pictureLuis A Mazariegos

February 2023 - Resilience and Social Responsibility @ MPNR

The first refers to the capacity to withstand or to recover quickly from difficulties (toughness) and secondly, organizations must act in the best interests of the environment and society as a whole.

A month after o climate event almost wiped out La Mesenia village, people are still waiting for the promised help from the Majors of Andes and Jardin Municipalities, and other governmental agencies with the assigned duty to provide help and funding, which are no more than bureaucratic entities created to mainly employ political peons. This brings to mind the famous line: "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result”, which certainly describes Colombia’s governing system since its 1991 constitution amendment which allowed for incompetent people to be elected to positions of power, with the goal to “shine” rather than to serve.

March 2022, top photo, and February 2023, below, showing the aftermath of the avalanche in front of the field station.

It’s been 16-years since I came for the first time to La Mesenia, looking to photograph an enigmatic hummingbird: The Dusky Starfrontlet. Guided by the late Gustavo Suarez, who became a friend and collaborator, and with whom I started the Mesenia-Paramillo nature reserve. Learning about the hardships the people of the La Mesenia villages had endured for so many years, helped me realize that one should expect very little from local governments. This is why Bioconservancy provided the funds to build the road, bridges and revamp the local school with the strength and hard work of the local community [see Blogs: ]. As if it were a bad joke, one Major decided he would take credit for these, visiting the village and taking photos of himself and his “court” at the various construction sites and publishing them in Facebook with the campaign slogan “The Major that loves people”.

One key passage was damaged significantly and would need to be rebuilt.

Now again comes the time to build again and help the La Mesenia community recover from this climate event that left many affected both mentally and emotionally. We are waiting for a large excavator hired to help protect the exposed river banks and prevent further damage to homes. Also to regain access and connectivity to the neighboring communities. Additionally provide plastic tanks to some families in need of storing clean water and replacing septic tanks lost in the avalanche. The funds to do this will be provided by Bioconservancy. I do want to mention and thank Carolann Sharkey, Tree Institute, who donated USD $3,000 for the recovery efforts. Also, Francisco Cuadros, school friend and classmate 1980, for his kind USD $600 donation to help those in need of food and shelter. Social responsibility is key to our conservation project and part of our DNA. Without it, the sustainability and survivability of MPNR would be in question and the actions we now take and have taken during the course of our history, will determine our future.

When Gustavo Suarez was assassinated in January 2017, he left his wife, Patricia, with three young kids Alejandro 14, Samuel 11 and Geronimo 3. For 6-years Bioconservancy has provided the income to the family to support and educate his sons. The eldest, Alejandro, now works full-time at the reserve and is a certified drone operator and will also assist us with bird inventories with his years of experience following his father’s footsteps. The next of kin, Samuel is graduating as a Vet technician from a University in Medellin. The youngest, Geronimo, will start high school in a couple of years. We are proud of having been able to contribute to their stability and development during this critical stage of their life.

From right to left, Samuel, Alejandro, Geronimo and Patricia.

Currently at the MPNR, we are also contributing to the income of women by helping them set up tree nurseries to grow native species, as part of a long-term project to restore pasturelands. We provide the bags, organic fertilizer, lyme to adjust soil pH, and support to help them choose the correct species. These trees will in turn be bought and planted in areas to be restored at the reserve to help stitch together fragmented forests. We expect them to produce 1-million trees in due time which will provide significant income and well-being to the families at the La Mesenia village for years to come.

One of the fifteen tree nurseries at La Mesenia village.

Furthermore, the honey production project led by Ferney Agudelo has been a great success. The ten colonies saved from being destroyed, have been pollinating the surrounding cloud forests at the reserve. The first commercial production will be collected and packaged this week. This is wonderful news for Ferney's family as they will be able to have additional income as a result of this project supported and funded by Bioconservancy.

Dolce d' Oro or Sweet Gold, is the honey of origin from the MPNR Cloud Forests

I inherited the social responsibility and resiliency from my mother, the first female gynecologist of Colombia, who fought against the establishment and graduated first in her all-male class in 1952. She spent her entire life tending to the needs of over 10,000 female patients during three generations, the orphanage for girls created by her father (my grandfather) and the 140-plus families at the company my father built in 1960. Retired at age 90 to tend for my father and passing away on her 100th birthday year, I will always remember her tenacity and living an exemplary personal and professional life.

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