Martha Galeano: Guardian of the Amazon Rainforest

Martha Galeano is not your average farmer. Tucked away in the verdant landscapes of Guaviare, Colombia, Martha is on a mission. Her days are filled with rescuing lost bees, nurturing indigenous plants, and crafting delectable treats from Amazonian fruits. But her work extends far beyond the confines of her farm; Martha is a guardian of the rainforest, a steward of the land, and a beacon of hope in a region grappling with rampant deforestation.

A Woman on a Mission

Born in Santander, Martha found her calling in the heart of Guaviare two decades ago. Originally drawn to the region as a laborer, Martha’s journey took a transformative turn when she became a guardian of “the gateway to the world’s lungs” – Guaviare. Armed with her expertise in environmental management, Martha embarked on a mission to protect and preserve the delicate ecosystems of the region.

Saving the Bees, One Hive at a Time

On the winding roads of Guaviare, it’s a common sight to see bees perched on the stumps of once-lush trees. Martha Galeano, a peasant woman turned environmental technician, is their savior. She rescues them from potential harm and relocates them to areas abundant with crops and to the nurseries where she nurtures her project of raising stingless melipona bees.

For Martha, bees have become an integral part of her life for the past five years. As she vigilantly guards “the gateway to the world’s lungs,” Martha’s efforts extend to nurturing a nursery of native plants with her community in the El Capricho district. Additionally, she transforms Amazonian fruits into an array of delights, including ice cream, cakes, cookies, and beverages.

A Pact for Conservation

Martha Galeano is part of a larger movement towards conservation in Guaviare. Alongside 107 families from seven neighboring villages near Chiribiquete, Martha signed a conservation agreement with the Foundation for Conservation and Sustainable Development (FCDS). This pact commits them to safeguarding the rainforest in their territories, refraining from burning or logging, and actively enriching water sources and planting trees. In a region plagued by high rates of deforestation, this pact represents a glimmer of hope.

Cultivating Change

Martha Galeano, Marlén Gaitán, and Flor Acevedo collectively oversee the stewardship of 280 hectares of forest. Together, they founded Caprichosas, a forest delicacy ice cream parlor, offering flavors derived from Amazonian fruits such as copoazú or white cocoa, açai, and seje. With the assistance of international cooperation and support from the National Learning Service (Sena), they turned their dream into reality.

Caprichosas stands as a pioneering initiative in Guaviare, monetizing the transformation of Amazonian fruits into products while preventing deforestation. Rodrigo Botero, the director of FCDS, views it as a symbolic case—a tangible model of what can be achieved in Colombia’s countryside through collective action and innovative bioeconomic approaches.

The Journey of Martha Galeano

Martha’s journey to entrepreneurship was not without its challenges. From her humble beginnings as a cleaner, storekeeper, and cook to her laborious work scraping coca leaves, Martha has weathered many storms. Yet, she remains grateful for the opportunity to own her business and protect the rainforest she calls home.

In her spare time, Martha indulges in the natural wonders of the region—hot springs, waterfalls, and unexplored trails near La Tortuga, her village. Her vision extends beyond the confines of Guaviare; she dreams of seeing her ice cream sold in Bogotá and her native plants used for reforestation efforts throughout the department.

Despite the hardships, Martha remains resolute in her commitment to leadership. As she reflects on her journey, she acknowledges the challenges but draws inspiration from the milestones achieved. For Martha Galeano, leading is not easy, but the progress made reaffirms her belief in the power of collective action and the importance of preserving the world’s lungs—one hive, one tree, and one scoop of ice cream at a time.

Martha Galeano: Guardian of the Amazon Rainforest
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