Water & Life in La Sierra, Cesar

For two years, we have been working with La Sierra, an Afro community in the municipality of Chiriguaná (Cesar), part of the Cesar Mining Corridor. There, the Warrior Women of La Sierra have had to resist the socio-territorial impacts of large-scale coal mining, paramilitary, guerrilla and state violence, as well as state neglect and racism from much of society in general. Today, historical indifference and racism put the community of La Sierra and its neighbours in the Mining Corridor in a terrible situation: there is no way to respond to the health and socio-economic emergency generated by COVID-19. However, with the leadership of the Warrior Women of La Sierra, the community is organising to respond, ensuring that no one is left behind. They are asking for our support – solidarity knows no borders.

Together, we identified water filters made in Colombia that are easy to use and repair, and each one can provide for one household. According to water tests we have evaluated, the filters remove heavy metals and microorganisms in the water, thanks to a system based on clay, colloidal silver, and activated carbon, a traditional technology in Colombia. The filters have a guaranteed lifespan of three years – after that period, EKOFIL replaces the clay filter for a cost of 10 euros or 40,000 Colombian pesos.

Due to the poor quality of water in the region and the current global health crisis, it is urgent to provide an alternative as soon as possible. That is why RICO is organizing an international fundraiser to deliver water filters to as many families as possible. Currently there are approximately 350 households in La Sierra. According to the quote we received, each filter costs 130,000 COP (= approx. 30 EUR). Our goal is 10,000 euros/40’000,000 Colombian pesos, and 100% of the money will be used to pay for the production and logistical costs of the project.

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Redes solidarias

RICO has activated its solidarity networks in Colombia and Germany, through direct messages, and various events.

  • On April 14, the virtual fundraiser for the La Sierra community opens on the GoFundMe platform.
  • On May 14, we were present at a panel convened by the Latin America Solidarity Centre, discussing the uneven impacts of the pandemic and presenting our commitment to community empowerment.
  • On May 16, RICO organized a virtual solidarity concert with Ende Gelände to give visibility to the fundraisers. We enjoyed the contributions of high-level artists in Colombia and Germany: Lo Ke Diga El Dedo, Maiguai, and Un Rayo De Sol.
  • On May 18, the community of La Sierra received 1,000 facemasks as a donation from our partners in Tejiendo Paz, former combatants of the FARC in the ETCR of Icononzo, Tolima.
  • On May 20, we made a virtual podcast with Teusaradio, to give visibility to the fundraiser, achieving a wide audience and establishing new contacts in the field.
  • On May 23, we did an interview (in German) with Für Eine Bessere Welt about the effects on human rights and nature caused by coal mining, and about ways to break with the status quo and contribute to a more just world.
  • On May 30, the Warrior Women of La Sierra gave an interview (translated into German) to Lateinamerika Nachrichten, discussing their forms of resistance against the destruction of the territory.
  • On June 17, we participated in a panel by Diskussionen Für Ein Neues Hispanoamerika – Passau on how to rethink volunteerism in the Global South, taking the opportunity to present this project in La Sierra.

Trabajo Comunitario

At the beginning of May, 250 EKOFIL water filters arrived by truck in the community of La Sierra. Amidst the anxiety over the recent femicide of Michel Lara in the community, the Warrior Women took the lead, receiving and inventorizing the filters. During the following week, the Warrior Women received virtual training on their use and cleaning, which they were then able to replicate in all the households that received a filter. Two months later, we learned that one filter broke, and two families resold theirs, to the Warrior Women’s sorrow. However, the overall evaluation they make is eminently positive – the inhabitants report using their filter every day and cleaning it regularly. Epidermal conditions have decreased dramatically, as has the purchase of plastic water bags.

In addition, the Warrior Women coordinated a local fundraiser in their community to donate food and supplies to the most vulnerable families in the village. The 1,000 facemasks donated by the Tejiendo Paz cooperative of ex-combatants in Icononzo, Tolima, were also distributed. And the Warrior Women didn’t stop there! The Women took advantage of the EKOFIL truck to send their own sign of solidarity. They sent dozens of fresh fruits – mangos, mamoncillos, coconuts, etc. – obtained from their own gardens, which were distributed to households in the Estrella de Siloé neighbourhood in Cali. The Warrior Women teach us that solidarity certainly has no borders.