ASONEI, or the Asociación de Productores Agroecológicos Indígenas y Campesinos de la Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta y Serranía del Perijá, was created in 1996 to organize and strengthen eco-agricultural practices while promoting, and preserving, the indigenous and farmer cultures of this northern, ancestrally rich, Colombian region. More than 600 indigenous families of four ethnic groups –the Arhuacos, Koguis, Kankuamos and Wilmas – and farmers from the region make up the organization. They share one vision; to protect their forests, mountains, rivers and animals through sustainable programs and projects that conserve natural resources and improve the community’s standard of living and preservation of their ancestral heritage. The organization claims Ms. Aurora María Izquierda as the founder, committed to the cause since the early 1980’s. At that time, Aurora was one of the first women of her generation to leave her isolated Arhuaca community to attain a higher education. Upon graduating from the university in the capital city, Bogotá, she returned to her community to help create a sustainable agriculture program. ANEI prides itself on rooting its business values and practices in the traditional teachings of the Mamus, the spiritual leaders of the community. They work to maintain a democratic structure that supports their cultural traditions and upholds the rights of community members and social, economic and cultural partners. Despite some challenges, including the presence of armed groups in their territories and the need for more indigenous leadership, they aim to continue contributing to the world by providing healthy, sustainable products that care for both the environment and human beings. ASONEI was the first in the region to become certified organic and remains the standard-bearer for quality in the mountainous area.
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Barrio la Garita