4.s23 Biodiversity and Cities: a Perspective for Colombian Cities Trip

The Environmental Solutions Initiative, in collaboration with the Vice-Minister of the Environment and Sustainable Development of Colombia, Nicolás Galarza Sánchez, and supported by MIT Latin American Office conducted a week-long fieldwork in Bogotá and Quibdó for the class “Biodiversity and Cities: a Perspective for Colombian Cities” co-instructed by Professor John Fernandez, Research Program Director Marcela Angel, Post-Doctoral Fellow Norhan Bayomi, and Doctorate Instructor Alessandra Fabbri.

Engagement with the Environmental Youth Network, Quibdó. Photo by Yujie Wang.

Recognizing the inextricable link between biodiversity and urban planning, the class partook in a series of interviews, site visits and workshops with government officials (MinAmbienteMinViviendaMinCiencias, National Planning Department, the Municipality of Quibdó), research institutions (Humboldt Biological Resources Research InstituteEnvironmental Research Institute of the Pacific IIAP), community-based organizations (the Environmental Youth Network of Codechocó, the Ethnobotanical, Pedagogical and Environmental Center of Quibdó CEPAQ), and representatives of local communities (Tutunendo Afro-descendant Council), among others, to learn about the challenges, capacities, and opportunities of the city of Quibdó to preserve its biodiversity and foster sustainable planning and bioeconomy strategies. Seven students from the MIT School of Architecture and Planning were at the forefront of this inclusive engagement process, conducting meaningful conversations and interviews with local communities and stakeholders. “Meeting in person with a wide range of stakeholders in Quibdo was a valuable and enriching learning experience, and it was fundamental to build trust and to create the foundation for long-term relationships. There is a lot of information and observations that we need to process, but this is only the beginning of an exciting and meaningful collaboration between MIT ESI and Quibdo” said Daniela Castillo MCP’23 and one of the students in the class.

Site visit to La Esmeralda neighborhood, Quibdó. Photo by Yujie Wang.

Yujie Wang, MArch’23 added “The field trip to Quibdo, Colombia deepened my understanding of BiodiverCity and made me realize the importance of recognizing the reality and complexity of biodiversity conservation and urban ecosystem as well as active listening to the communities with humility. Quibdo is one of the greatest biodiversity hotspots in Colombia but it suffers from diverse challenges: poverty; lack of infrastructure due to geographic conditions, urban expansion, and a housing shortage; human resources needs due to talent loss; ethical dilemmas related to indigenous and black communities’ different views of the land; and policy implementation shortcomings due to a lack of coordination between the national and local entities as well as government transitions, just to name a few. Their world is not run by social media, people rely on radio and newspapers as the main ways of communication. Hyper-local solutions with the consideration of complex stakeholder relationships are needed to effectively address Quibdo’s challenges.”

Workshop at the IIAP, Quibdó. Photo by Yujie Wang.

In this regard, Ángel indicated “We aim to support Quibdó to create a collective vision for a BiodiverCity. For this visit, we designed an engagement process to inquire, listen and document diverse perspectives on the opportunities as well as the environmental and cultural assets of Quibdó to support the development of the city’s identity by leveraging and integrating its unique biodiversity into its urban development”. For additional information see press release from the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, and a note on the local newspaper Chocó7días.