Sacred Seeds leader Rafael Ocampo explains the motivations and methods...
Sacred Seeds at Reserva Natural La Pedregoza
The Reserva Natural La Pedregoza was founded for the express purpose of doing conservation and preservation of Orinoco River basin flora and fauna. The natural reserve operates programs dedicated to the seed collection and propagation of endangered native tree species, the rescue of giant river turtles of the Podocnemis family, and the planting of native trees for carbon sequestration and expanded wildlife habitat. The Sacred Seeds Garden is an extension of this work, conserving and preserving traditional Orinoco River basin medicinal plants, food plants and endangered plants.
The Reserva Natural La Pedregoza actively supports education of local school children and college students. The natural reserve is planning the construction of an Interpretive Center in the future to explain the importance of the rainforest, inundation forest, gallery forest and savannah and the biodiversity that depends on those forests and grasslands. The Sacred Seeds Garden is an extension of this education effort. The natural reserve hosts students from around the world and from Colombia doing their internship or practicum in a variety of disciplines (botany, forestry, zoology, entomology, biology etc.). In addition the natural reserve is the base point for scientific investigations by international and domestic universities.
The Reserva Natural La Pedregoza is visited by area residents and school children, by international eco-tourists and adventure tourists, by scientific investigators from various universities and by students doing their internships, practicums or master’s studies. The natural reserve and the Sacred Seeds Garden are open to the public.
Much of the work done at the Reserva Natural La Pedregoza enhances socio-economic development of local communities, by providing better local knowledge, by commercializing endangered plant species, by providing better scientific data to government decision makers, and by involving local people and indigenous (aboriginal) communities in environmental conservation work that in turn enhances eco-tourism possibilities for the region. Spin-off industries include apiculture (honey and bee products), plant material for traditional handicrafts, bird watching tours, sports fishing services and eco-tourism services. The natural reserve is a vocal voice in finding a balance between development and the preservation of the unique Orinoco River basin environment. The Sacred Seeds Garden is an additional step in that direction.
The establishment of the Sacred Seeds Garden at the Reserva Natural La Pedregoza is being done with local indigenous people concerned about the loss of traditional knowledge in areas such as medicinal plants, food plants and plants that provided various products such as dyes, glues, tannins, building products and more. We have already identified the need to do this work in local aboriginal languages, such as Sikuani, Maipure, Piaroa and Cuiba, and not just in scientific Latin, or using Spanish and English common names. Loss of traditional languages is part of the loss of traditional knowledge about plants and their benefits. We are hopeful that our Sacred Seeds Garden will be able to produce significant publications in partnership with others that directly contributes to the preservation of traditional knowledge, lore and languages.
Our approach is two-fold. First we intend to identify and clearly mark pertinent trees and plants in the morichals, inundation and gallery rainforests throughout the Reserva Natural La Pedregoza. Second, we are establishing a dedicated area inside the natural reserve to proactively plant and cultivate pertinent plants and tree species, very much along the lines of a dedicated botanical garden, with the added objective of becoming a seed bank for those species and a repository of local knowledge. All of this will be made accessible through publications like field guides, web site databases and the use of field tags and signage. The garden will rely on financial support from local reforestation companies, and on the use of volunteers such as botanists, foresters, landscapers, indigenous people, students and others. The vision is for this Sacred Seeds Garden to become a valuable resource for Orinoco River basin flora and traditional knowledge.