Ilaria Carbellotti

Wageningen University, Netherlands & Fundación ALMA, Colombia

Supervisory team: Bibiana Abadia Duarte, Juan Carlos Gutiérrez Camargo

Ciénaga de Zapatosa is the largest continental marsh in Colombia. It derives from the Magdalena river basin and it’s largely supplied by the Magdalena and Cesar rivers. Located in a depression between two departments, Magdalena and Cesar, it accounts for 5 municipalities (Tamalameque, El Banco, Chiriguaná, Curumaní, and Chimichagua). In Chimichagua is located the two fieldwork sites involved in this research: Sempegua and La Mata. It has an average extension of 40.000 hectares, and it’s populated by fishing communities which amount to 150.000 inhabitants. Artisanal fishing, livestock raising, and game hunting are the main livelihood activities. Farming, instead, is limited to the dry season, when waters recede, and plots of land become available for cultivation.

Especially in the Magdalena catchment, wetlands are highly degraded by human activities, and so are the multitude of ecosystem services they deliver (Mitsch and Gosselink 2000; Ricuarte et a., 2017). Intensive cattle ranching, monocropping, mining, urban development, and construction of dikes led to wetland drainage, deforestation, extreme floods, land loss, drastic reduction of catches, and water contamination (Viloria J., 2008). This, in turn, had direct repercussions on the fishing communities living on the riverbanks of the Zapatosa, affecting their subsistence activities and resources. They suffer from food insecurity, poverty, and diseases due to poor sanitation and polluted water (Fundación ALMA, n.d.).


Fundación ALMA – Por la naturaleza y la vida. (n.d.).

Mitsch W. J. & Gosselink J. G. (2000). The value of wetlands: importance of scale and landscape setting. Ecol Econ 35:25–33

Ricaurte, L. F., Olaya-Rodríguez, M. H., Cepeda-Valencia, J., Lara, D., Arroyave-Suárez, J., Finlayson, C. M., & Palomo, I. (2017). Future impacts of drivers of change on wetland ecosystem services in Colombia. Global Environmental Change, 44, 158-169.

Viloria, J. (2008). Economía extractiva y pobreza en la ciénaga de Zapatosa. ÍA DE LAS CIéNAGAS DEL CARIBE COLOM, 54.

This research aims to investigate several aspects that could improve food security and economic stability in the fishing communities of Sempegua and La mata, in the Ciénaga de Zapatosa area of Colombia. Thereby it intends to contribute to both the need to diversify the diet of the local community and to introduce crops that can be processed and stored for the wet season, when the community relies solely on fishing.  Based on principles of agroecology, and an action research (AR) approach aimed at the co-creation of knowledge with the local community, this research will focus on studying ways to (1) introduce new endemic crops in the vegetable gardens; (2) identify and implement methods to preserve the local harvest; and (3) develop a tool to harvest uva de lata (corozo).