The Chocó and its vast rain forests in western Colombia, sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean and the high Andes mountains, are considered one of the most important biological hot spots on Earth. Housing an extraordinary concentration of endemic birds, plants, and amphibians (species found nowhere else in the world), this treasure trove of life is tragically threatened – creating an urgent need to work with local communities to save this precious jewel.
Unique Biodiversity and Ecosystems
Walking through a path of thick vegetation that is crisscrossed with overhanging branches covered in sphagnum moss, one hears the melodic sound of fat water drops hitting leaves as they fall. A group of Orapendulas chatter in the distance. Mist descends from the mountain ridge and saturates the air like a dense cloud, obscuring the visibility of trees just a few feet away.
This is the wettest rain forest on the planet, the Chocó. The region receives, on average, over 33 feet of annual precipitation. In fact, the world’s highest annual rainfall was registered near Guaduas, a town in the Chocó, with over 65 feet of rain in one year – that’s nearly twice as high as a telephone pole!
Such abundant rainfall causes Colombia’s Chocó to teem with lush tropical rain forests that are considered one of the most floristically diverse in the Neotropics, as they host more than 5,000 species of vascular plants. In addition, this area is globally important for bird endemism with 110 bird species found nowhere else, such as the Chocó Vireo that was discovered in the early nineties. In all, the Chocó region is home to nearly 900 species of birds.
Unsustainable deforestation for timber logging, cattle ranching and mining has decimated the Choco’s rain forests, placing this globally important biodiversity hot spot under imminent threat of destruction and pushing many endangered species closer to the brink of extinction. Exacerbating the situation, ongoing pressure from extractive industries has caused a serious loss of natural resources and a consequent degradation of the environment.
By partnering with local communities, Women for Conservation takes a grassroots approach to creating healthier environments and protecting wildlife. To help save the Chocó, we will support social transformation among rural communities – and it all starts by empowering women with educational workshops that raise awareness about the region’s growing environmental concerns. Armed and inspired with this knowledge, our sister groups collectively take positive action to address these problems.
Today, we focus on a small community called Guaduas, nestled in the Citará mountain range. By developing opportunities for ecotourism, guided and organized by women, we offer the community an opportunity to participate in an alternative economy that promotes sound environmental stewardship. Our initiative focuses on training the women of Guaduas to identify bird and wildlife species as well as providing them with basic English classes and ecotourism training. Ultimately, our goal is to offer sustainable livelihoods to the community that replace exploitative practices with more environmentally friendly options.
Donations to Women for Conservation help us to host the workshops and training classes necessary to develop these programs for sustainable development, which directly benefit the well-being of rural women and children in Colombia while supporting on-the-ground conservation in one of the world’s greatest biodiversity hot spots.