Mapulahual: Local governance and biodiversity conservation
by Camila Ahumada Cáceres
Fotos: Leo Prieto
In Chile, about 20% of the territory is under some category of conservation (there are 30 of them, including National Park, National Reserve, Natural Monument, etc). Despite that, there are only a few models of local governance and most protected areas are managed by institutions such as Conaf and Bienes Nacionales. What about the autonomy of the people to make decisions about their territory?
ICCAS: LINKS WITH THE LAND AND ITS GOVERNANCE
But what does local governance and conservation mean? This means that the territories are managed by the communities that have historically lived there, whether they are indigenous or not, in order to conserve and protect them to maintain their biodiversity and the natural balance that allows life in them. These territories that have this form of administration are recognized in the world as Indigenous and community conserved area, ICCAS or ACPIC (English and Spanish acronyms respectively).
ICCAS: LINKS WITH THE LAND AND ITS GOVERNANCE – OTHER CHARACTERISTICS OF THESE AREAS?
These are territories that are already very well preserved, because the communities that live there have a relationship of care and respect for the land, they admire it and can feel the balance that exists there and value the importance of relationships between species. The biodiversity present in their territories has forged their culture and their identity, therefore this land is the foundation of their own history.
MAPULAHUAL, PIONEER IN CHILE
One of the first ICCAS in Chile is called Mapulahual, its name refers to the Alerce forests that grow there (Tierra de Alerces), the last great Alerce forests in the world. There are 6 communities living there, connected by a long path and by the sea. There is no road that joins them, however, the connection in favor of conservation is evident.
“The communities that live there have a relationship of care and respect for the land, they admire it and can feel the balance that exists there and value the importance of relationships between species.”
I remember perfectly the first time I was there. After about three hours of mostly dirt road, I arrived directly at Manquemapu, one of the communities in the southern part. Still excited by the crossing of the Coastal Range, my first impression was “the wild” but welcoming landscape: a few houses with their smoking chimneys at the foot of the mountain, a river and a yellow boat ready to be boarded, the Valdivian Forest with its olives, cinnamon trees and melies, the centennial larch trees standing upright on the mountain and the raging waves of the Pacific. It seemed that I was in front of living sackcloth, one of those that a child in the 80s would know, when sackcloths were a way of sustaining memory, of denouncing injustices but also of portraying the identity of the different corners of this country.
With that moving landscape in front of me, I thought about how “isolated” I felt from the rest of the world, at that time there was no phone signal in the area, people communicated through radios and we were almost 3 hours away from the nearest urban center.
After 4 days of nurturing my senses with stories, sounds, flavors, and aromas, I forgot about the isolation and merged into the balance of that land where everything is perfect because everything has a reason to be. I felt like one more element of the sackcloth.