Meeting addressed the need to integrate traditional and scientific knowledge for socio-ecological regeneration in times of change

The restoration, regeneration and protection of ecosystems through the crossing of sciences, local knowledge and transdisciplinary approaches were the central issues addressed in the third edition of the colloquium of the Chilean Society of Socioecology and Ethnoecology (SOSOET), entitled Socioecological Regeneration in Times of Change. This meeting held at the Faculty of Forest Sciences of the University of Concepción, had the aim of promoting the exchange of experiences to encourage ecosystem conservation and regeneration in the face of current socio-environmental challenges.

During two days that included the participation of various local actors, representatives of indigenous communities , collectives, researchers, various public institutions, NGOs and Foundations that work to strengthen the human-nature relationship, presentations, conferences, exhibitions and workshops were held to promote dialogues between knowledge. Among the topics analyzed were socio-ecological restoration, the revitalization of ancestral practices and the need to include local biocultural knowledge in conservation strategies and practices.

 In addition to supporting the meeting, Fundación Mar Adentro hosted  the panel discussion  “Community Initiatives to promote socio-ecological restoration of wetlands”. Representatives from  three projects supported by our FMA grant program , from different regions of the country, participated in the event . During the r dialogue, various reflections related to wetland  protection were shared.

The participating projects address community conservation and the local knowledge of orchard women from the Toltén wetlands (managed by Corporación Capital Biodiversidad); data sovereignty regarding hydrology and water quality in the context of the water crisis in the Biobío region  (developed by Fundación Manzana Verde); and the relevance of collective memory in natural disaster prevention in the El Culebrón wetland in Coquimbo (developed by the NGO Surgencia). These initiatives, winners of the 2022 version of the FMA grant program, were selected for promoting an innovative and transdisciplinary approach to the conservation of socioecosystems and their collective and replicable nature in various territories.

Wetlands as a source of life, memory and well-being

During the panel discussion held on August 3rd, each project shared their experiences on the collaborative work they have carried out to promote the role of community conservation of ecosystems, through cooperation with local communities and their territories. Additionally, discussions revolved around new perspectives for understanding nature , highlighting the importance of considering biodiversity for its essential value in ecosystem restoration, beyond its obvious utility for human well-being.

The meeting became a space for exchange between the participants, where experiences and life testimonies of inhabitants of different territories of the country were shared. Gema Vásquez Epuñán, a member of the group Conciencia Ecológica and a participant in the project developed in the El Culebrón wetland, emphasized the importance of such gatherings for generating new learning and promote cooperation networks: “We gather examples to share with others and realize that we are not the only ones working to protect wetlands.” 

On the other hand, Pamela Chávez, President of the Toltén Rural Women’s Committee and a participant in the project developed in the Toltén Wetlands, highlighted the need to involve different groups of people in the preservation of their territories. “It is relevant that local communities raise awareness and incorporate wetland care practices, because they are the ones responsible for conveying the importance of this place as a source of life for biodiversity.” She also reflected on the bonds of trust and empathy that have been developed between local communities and the new generations of researchers, who are creating spaces for mutual support to protect wetlands while preserving local knowledge and incorporating academic expertise.

Meanwhile, Juan Vera, from the Mapuche group Koñintu Lafkenmapu from Penco, appreciated the meeting, because in his words “there is a need for indigenous peoples to be present in various spaces”, since this type of activity contributes to connect multiple actors involved in restoration initiatives, wetland protection and, n his case, water quality monitoring. “In gatherings like these, we realize that we are not alone in caring for nature,” he noted. 

Juan Vera also highlighted the diversity of people present at the colloquium, including academics, local communities, environmental advocates, among others. In this sense, he emphasized the importance of mutual learning, as well as the integration of socioecological concepts into daily life. Finally, he reflected on the role we have as inhabitants of the planet as defenders and caretakers of biodiversity.

This panel discussion  was an opportunity to engage in dialogue and provide multiple perspectives that promote the exchange of knowledge or the sake of wetland conservation and the well-being of local communities. We value being part of events that promote transdisciplinary approaches for the conservation of socio-ecosystems, incorporating and valuing community knowledge and experiences that allow us to restore our relationship with nature.