My name is Daniela Arenas. I'm from Colombia, and am a yoga and Vedic astrology practitioner. Now I live in Palomino (La Guajira). I studied literature a few years ago and through it, I had the opportunity to connect with the sensitivity and authenticity of indigenous traditions. My curiosity about poetry and the wisdom of these ancestral communities has led me to SISU.
One day, without really expecting an answer, I decided to send Angela del Sol a message. I had gotten her information through her Instagram account. I told her a little about myself and how I wanted to support the communities in any way possible. Left my cell phone number and my email.
"You should go live in Palomino, travel to the Sierra Nevada, connect with the Arhuacos community, document, investigate and, above all, listen to Yerson." I said yes to everything. I had a contract on hold at the time to start another job, but there was no question that I was going to give up anything to leave. “When do you want me to leave? I could next week if necessary.”
And so it began, this journey that more than a line resembles a child's attempt to color the inside of a figure.
Angela was telling me about the project with a lot of terms and information that I didn't understand. She mentioned the blockchain, the DAO, Web3, crypto, and a decentralization system. And with that, I stayed, a little in the clouds, but with a blind yes, not knowing that eventually, I would have to start educating myself about all that.
We try to experience the crypto payment: open a wallet, receive the tokens, send them to another platform, change the currency and eventually send them to the bank. It sounds simpler than it was. Despite having a guide to learn how to manage the processes in the platform, she didn't know how those procedures are in my country. We had several issues: from the fluctuation and decline of the tokens to the difficulties that the bank in Colombia had to receive dollars. The novelty of the process was that it was the first time that it was necessary to fully understand how that process worked in Colombia.
After a long time of uncertainty, I decided that I had to move. I knew that sooner or later that would be solved, so I used my savings, bought the ticket from Bogotá to Santa Marta, and assumed all the expenses from then on.
After a month and a half of attempts, already being in Palomino, I had to travel to Santa Marta to change banks, return the tokens I had and receive them through another platform. It has been a learning curve for everyone, a slow process in which the importance of communication and the value of education about these new alternatives proposed by Web3 has been assimilated.
We finally were able to receive ETH!
SISU is a community (DAO) that aims to accelerate climate solutions by focusing on environmental restoration and conservation through Web3 funding mechanisms. Currently, we are working on a honey project with the Arhuacos community of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. The heart of the project is a young 11-year-old beekeeper: Yerson is the one who has inspired Angela del Sol's interest in working on the recovery of Meliponiculture as part of the ancestral knowledge of these communities. This activity is a sustainable alternative that not only benefits the families involved but also protects and conserves the sacred ecosystem that this place represents.
When we talk about the Sierra Nevada, we are talking about the home where millenary thoughts live and are being nurtured, it is a space with great cultural and environmental potential that has faced improper uses: from mining extraction to contamination of water and “pagamentos” sites.
For this project, it is of vital importance to work with the realities of the territory and its cosmovisions. This is why honey has become a substantial reason to achieve the objective of generating income and promoting the conservation of water, forests, and biodiversity. With the help of Yerson and his family, we intend to demonstrate that it is possible to generate alternatives where the ancient and the futuristic coexist to create a better system in which society has a more harmonious and healthy relationship with nature.
The territory is shared by four indigenous communities: the Kogui, Wiwa, Kankuamos, and Arhuacos. For the project, we decided to start an experimentation process with one family, one community. It seems essential to us first to closely examine the development of this process on a small scale.
My place here is to document, help communities source materials, do research, create budgets, and write project proposals and plans. The coming and going between Palomino and the Sierra gives me the opportunity to be a bridge: to translate and weave a dialogue between these two worlds, to understand and reflect on the new possibilities that the evolution of time demands of us, as to how the vision of the future can enrich the knowledge about the past.
Two days after arriving in Palomino, I got ready to enter the Sierra for the first time to meet Yerson and his family. The walk is two and a half hours, crossing several mountains, rivers, streams, the Selvatorium (a school), and one or another town. You have to cross the Palomino River: on the edge, change your clothes and cross it with your hands up, carrying your suitcases and/or backpacks.
On that side, you can see all the family houses: Gune, Yerson's grandmother, is usually around with several of her children and grandchildren, and with her mother -the great-grandmother-. Further up, after another bit of small ravines and mountains, Rosalia lives with her 5 children and her husband Leo.
Leo had been living for more than two months in a town 7 hours walking from the house. It was important to talk to him because together we had to organize the project and the list of materials. That same night, the oldest daughter, Jessica, went looking for him to let him know that I had arrived.
Yerson's parents, Leo and Rosalia, share the intention of supporting their son in the work and care of the bees. The first day, Rosalia showed me the space they have available in their house to put the boxes where the bees will be with some native flowers around. It is on the peak of a small mountain less than two minutes from the main house.
Soon after, Yerson arrived: a skinny boy with long hair and big black eyes. Although at first shyness hid him behind walls and trees, he finally decided to meet me. With natural spontaneity, he showed me the two boxes of bees he had, explained how he managed to get the Angelitas (a kind of stingless bee), how he cared for them, which was the queen, and how -in a nutshell- the honey production system worked. To my surprise, Yerson not only speaks Spanish and his native language but also handles Latin scientific terms with great ease.
His intention to take care of bees goes beyond the production and sale of honey, for Yerson bees represent the cornerstone of harmony and natural order since their pollination is essential for the existence of our planet.
The learning process that he has gone through is thanks to the very experience of living in the Sierra and the teachings he has had at the Selvatorium school, with his biology teacher Alexis.
In the project, we have counted on the experience and study of Alexis, the Selvatorium's biology teacher. He wrote in detail a proposal for the project, in which 4 families from the 4 different communities are involved: the idea is that each one is offered the appropriate materials and education so that they can take care of and work with the meliponarios that would be built. in each of their houses.
In his writing, Alexis proposes a series of steps and budgets and also mentions the socio-cultural, technical-scientific, economic, and environmental components. His idea is to achieve not only a collective work where an association of families is created but also aims to build a meliponary focused on scientific research around honey and the different varieties of bees.
In the meeting we had, I was able to understand in depth the approach he was having regarding the project: where his interest came from and what would be for him the function of the work, and the objectives that he is thinking of achieving.
Making this process a symbiosis is something important that I rescue from this conversation. A reciprocal supportive relationship in which the different species (animal, plant, and human) benefit from each other is essential for vital development. This is how it seems interesting to think about the network of people and/or organizations that would be willing to be an integral part of these processes: Alexis has the support of the Iguaraya Foundation, which has promised to provide the seeds of the short-term flowers that are sown for the winter.
Thinking of collective work with several families, each one of them from different indigenous communities, seems to need an even more rigorous and slow work. We must take the time to observe and experiment with little, before doing more. Considering the sacred and traditional character of these worlds, the execution of these collective practices requires hard work to weave agreements together and equitably.
He agreed to send me other documents with more detailed budgets and eventually show me the boxes of bees he has in his house.
The second trip to the Sierra was longer and on it, I had the opportunity to meet Leo, who reiterated the family's desire to be part of the entire process: from the construction of the meliponary to the care of the bees. We talked and with this, we managed to finalize the list of materials that would be needed to start.
"For the fence, for the pool, for the meliponary: we will need wood, nails, wires, rods, cement, tubes, gasoline, oil, sand, mules, time, and about 8 people to start building."
In addition to walking with the mamos of the community, Leo had worked with honey for many years. He explained to me the different varieties of bees with which medicinal honey can be made: “it is used to treat children, infections, for cataracts; others give more honey and with this, you can make preparations with plants; they serve to calm the instabilities of the mind, for the cough; it works as a treatment for blindness, diarrhea, and other intestinal infections.”
After a long conversation, I dared to ask him how the indigenous people felt in general when sharing their wisdom, just as he was doing with me. "As long as ideas are woven and hand in hand to harmonize them, it's fine."
Later, after several hours of sharing words and listening, Yerson told me that he wanted first to talk to Angela, and then show me the bee traps. The next day, we climbed a mountain barefoot for 40 minutes, at whose peak the signal was able to reach my cell phone. I send the message, we share some time and then we go back down to the roof of the house where I had found a nest of angel bees.
"Look, look, do you see them? They are all ready to enter the trap, let's wait until it gets darker so that all the bees can enter and then we put them in the box that I am going to finish making." Yerson is also learning to use wood and tools to build nest boxes himself.
The problems we have had with payments and crypto transactions have made us spend more time connecting with the organization and completing the project. We had several meetings and with them, we decided to work more closely, and thus take action, give things movement. From there, everything started flowing.
That same night, as if it were destined to happen, Leo and Rosalía were in Palomino and stopped by to visit me. We met and I said: “we are going to do the project.” We reviewed the list of materials, and we agreed that they would start cleaning and burning the place, while I would be organizing the finances and operations.
I made the price of the materials and some specificities were missing, which Leo clarified for me that same night. It would also be necessary to travel to the nearest town to obtain other resources that are not available in Palomino.