During a biological expedition led by scientists and ex-combatants in Anori (department of Antioquia), fourteen new wildlife species were discovered for the world to see. This site’s biodiversity —which includes species such as the Iraca palm, orchids, amphibians, and mice, is indisputable, but it is also at risk. In response, Esencias de La Montaña, a project supported by the Rural Alternative School (ERA) of Anori, was created as an environmentally friendly economic alternative. Leveraging on PASO Colombia’s collaborative work, the project now offers new wellness, care, and health products.
Esencias de La Montaña was created by the gender committee of the Territorial Space for Training and Reincorporation (ETCR for its acronym in Spanish) of Anori, a space where women and men work with medicinal plants and preserve local traditional knowledge. They have combined this knowledge with academic research to produce high-quality handicraft products. Thanks to the technical and educational support provided by PASO Colombia, Esencias de la Montaña now produces soaps, ointments, mother tinctures, and oils with different natural ingredients.
Sully Hoyos, a member of both the Gender Committee and Esencias de la Montaña, says that the goal of the project is “… to become a company that generates income and benefits for our communities, and creates jobs for ex-combatants and non-ex-combatants.” To achieve this goal, Esencias de la Montaña seeks to build strategic partnerships with local campesino (rural peasant) or rural women’s organizations to expand the variety of plants or the number of raw materials.
Orchards that bring families together
Currently, the project has collective and home orchards to produce the raw materials used in different recipes. “This process took several months. We went from merely having aloe vera stalk in the orchard to several medicinal plants. Additionally, these workspaces have influenced the way in which people build community by exchanging plants and experiences,” says Daniela Callejas, the rural extensionist at the ERA of Anori.
Steven, Tania, and Sharon are one of the families living in this territorial space. They both attend the classes taught by Daniela and are committed to taking care of their orchard by sowing, learning, replicating, and sharing their knowledge. As Tania Paut says, “My house is not very big, but my husband and I set up a small orchard to plant gardens, and now we mostly have medicinal plants that are very useful for everyday life; we use herbs to cure all illnesses. We also have coriander and onions. We even have things we don't know about. Since they catch our eye, we find what they are good for, so that we can use them.”
Daniela Callejas also says that “in some way or another, we have all been victims of war. Trying to understand each other and come together through products and stories is a process that makes us feel closer. Peace is built among people, with nature, and between cities and the countryside; it is built by all of us.”