Sara’s fieldwork in Sempegua, Colombia

I am Sara, a Master’s student in Biology and International Land & Water Management at WUR. I am currently writing my master’s thesis in Cienaga de Zapatosa, Colombia. Here, I am studying the impacts of the rhythms of the Cienaga and degradation processes on the village communities of Sempegua and La Mata. Sedimentation is a process that I will study in more detail using satellite imagery.

I am writing this blog from the fisherman’s village of Sempegua, located on a peninsula in Cienaga de Zapatosa, Colombia. As I write, cows, pigs, and chickens walk by. I have been here for a week now and I still can not get used to the slow pace of life. Many children and adults have the afternoon off and are chilling in the streets, while I transcribe an interview I did that morning with a member of the community council. I am here in Sempegua to study the impact of the Cienaga (marsh) on the community, but at the same time, the community has an impact on me.

I live in a house of locals, which is a completely different world from the Netherlands; the doors are made of curtains, and we shower with buckets of water. We wake up at 6 a.m., and shortly after we have a delicious big meal; bocachico (fish) with yucca is my favorite. Then it’s time to do interviews. Today I interviewed a fisherman who is very passionate about his Cienaga. He is part of several community organizations to create more unity in the village.

Since it gets very hot very quickly during the day, physical activity in the afternoon is limited. Lunch here is also much bigger than in the Netherlands. No boring sandwiches, but a huge hot meal. The children always have the afternoon off, so it gets noisy in the village again. There are no afternoon activities planned for them, so they mainly play in the street. It is interesting to see how differently the children are connected to the Cienaga compared to the older people. The elderly used to drink from the Cienaga, play in the Cienaga, and wash their clothes in the water. Now, the water is not clean enough for neither drinking nor washing. And rays restrict swimming in the Cienaga to the deep places that can only be reached by boat.

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