“Habitat Banks are economically profitable”
Interview: Gladys Tamayo. July, 2021
Gladys Tamayo is part of a family that for more than a century has been dedicated to cattle ranching in the eastern plains of Colombia, but along with these productive activities, they have been convinced of the conservation of ecosystems and the importance of preserving them for the enjoyment of his family and the entire municipality of San Martín, Meta.She and her family were pioneers in linking properties to Habitat Banks projects in Colombiaand in this interview he tells us his reasons for betting on this project.
Why did you decide to conserve biodiversity in the Matarredonda properties?
It's simple, because we are conservation. In my family, my ancestors are conservation. Because I grew up telling my grandfather "you have to take care of the forest". I heard him when he said "don't touch that spring because the water is jealous and if you touch it, it goes away and takes another place". Which we did with my son, Cesar. Once we took water from there, we put a tube in it and “plup”, it was lost. So, we were born into conservation. The fauna has always been taken care of, there was never another perspective.
What has Banco de Habitat brought to The Reserve?
A lot of things. I could say that, perhaps, it is the best thing that has happened to us in the last 15 years. A few years ago we were able to return to the farms because we had abandoned everything. We rebuilt, we started again, to see how everything was. With my son we once did an outing, with the Institute of Culture and Tourism of Meta. We went and stayed, and they scolded us, we didn't say that we were going to stay, because the guerrillas were everywhere, but I don't think we had ever been so happy. On that occasion we planted grass, we made a loan, and Cesar was already in charge of it.
And why were they so happy that day?
(Silence and crying) Go back, mount a horse and feel that one is completely free. That the world is beautiful and belongs to one, and that one can appreciate it and everything is wonderful and splendor. That doesn't compare to anything. Nothing! That fills you up and stays with you for life.
In those days I met the people of the Civil Society Reserve Network and I identified myself. We thought the same, we felt the same, so it was fantastic. We became members of the network and held a national meeting, together with the WWF, with the Instituto Campesino del Valle, with the Javeriana University, with other environmentalists. At that moment, the peasants who had their small reserves came from the lake, and we were able to show them what the plain was.
We also had meetings with the little children who were called the heirs of the planet, something very nice and they did different activities. At that time, a tax discount law for conservationists also came out.
From the 80s to here and all that war that took place in the plains, everything changed and the lands stopped being productive and suddenly 10 years ago the Habitat and Terrasos Bank appeared, and we realized that the forest can be valuable, if there is someone who appreciates the forest, and suddenly the Terrasos thing has been worth it.
My son started working with Mariana (CEO of Terrasos) to gather valuable information in a very intense and exploratory job, and we decided to sign up for this project and today, 4 years later, we have the results. We are very happy. Not only because we continue conserving or because we already have an economic input, but because of all the internal changes that it has generated, a dynamic in people, getting to know native plants. The boys who work there knew some names, but once they met them, going to collect the seeds, participating in that collection and seeing the little plants grow and seeing the process of putting them in the ground, has been a wonderful process. Seeing another activity and possibility on our farm outside of what livestock is, has generated dynamism for everyone.
What can be the impacts of the Habitat Bank beyond the farm?
If there can be an impact beyond. It is important for the municipality to know that it has the first Habitat Bank. Second is a lesson that, if it can be preserved, and third that economically there is a possibility. This is something that will last, that is not done to comply with a rule, here is a reason for conservation. The fact of being certain of the fauna that exists is very important. Forest corridors can continue to be made, interconnections that allow a greater opportunity for all these species that are in extinction. We have a neighboring farm, and we believe that there is a magnificent opportunity for Banco de Habitat to grow.
How do you imagine Banco e Habitat in 30 years?
I believe that in the coming years we have a very important task and that is to tell what we are doing, what is happening here. On the other hand, if we have a minimum awareness of what is happening on this planet, this has to continue to grow. For example, my grandchildren are living inside the Habitat Bank, they are watching the little plants grow, and they have to go sow, they have to go collect the seeds, they have to make this space grow. I want my grandchildren to be able to see all that fauna and that wonder that is generated there and how it is increasing.
How can we do so that all the children who live near this Habitat Bank can experience the same?
We had visits from schools to see the reserve, but as I told you, we need to strengthen the commitment of the teachers so that they convey to the children the importance of conservation processes like this. We need both teachers and students to become aware of the implications of conserving flora and fauna for our lives. I know that reaching people and youth is not easy because I have been a teacher. And it is important that we all think about our environmental origins and approach the field so that we can value it. We also need to work on this aspect with the local authorities, I can collaborate, designing a subject, I don't know, but this is everyone's job.
That is my next question... How can local authorities promote environmental conservation processes?
Very important, boosting the infrastructure, they have to fix the roads so that people can visit. If you don't have a good camper, it's difficult. We need to show the authorities how the process has been, we need them to know that these processes have an impact in the region so that they commit themselves. We need you to know that San Martín is the first municipality in Colombia to have a Habitat Bank.
Why should an owner of properties in strategic ecosystems be linked to a Habitat Bank project?
Look, because economically it is profitable. of one. Livestock farming at this time, I cannot say that it is not profitable, but it is very unprofitable. It is a lot of effort, taxes and inputs are very expensive, and in general it is very difficult. The big herds are over. Everything has changed. They should definitely be linked because there is an economic contribution, there is an economic assessment of what has been done for many years in conserving. Yes, it's worth it!
And on the other hand, why should a company with compensation obligations do so through this mechanism?
That is very clear and from experience I tell you. We have another farm in Puerto Gaitán and do you know how they made compensation? "Here we bring you some trees to plant them", how so? Where do we plant them? What care should we take? What are they for? When do you have to plate them? When do you have to fertilize them? Any. That was lost. And so there were 53 farms. Look at the magnitude of the compensation and effort and it was lost.
The gentlemen of OCENSA, who have made their compensations in the Habitat Bank of Meta, know that their compensations are there, and that we have a commitment so that these compensations last for 30 years. My grandchildren are aware that this land is for conservation. There is an insurance for the money that is being invested.
What has surprised you the most within the Habitat Bank?
The nursery! I remember the day they went to collect the seeds. I said no, I'm going to go over there to sunbathe, to bend over, no…. But when you see the different kinds of plants, trees, and how they start to grow, that was the most wonderful thing for me. And I saw that, if there are possibilities that it can grow, that nature responds, that it is eager to bear its fruits, that it only needs us to believe in it and give it our love.
How does it feel to be the pioneer of a process that is gaining so much strength in Colombia?
That effort and perseverance give results and when efforts are joined, very important things can be done. How nice to be invited to a Habitat Bank and tell what my experience has been. I think we can hold owner meetings, share experiences, boost the effort that we are all making.