A ray of light [and] our contribution to the creation of a world of co-operation and solidarity and our fight to save humanity from the ravages of civilisation
— former President of Colombia, Alfonso Lopez, commenting on the COAMA program, 2001.


COAMA (Consolidation of the Colombian Amazon) was launched in 1989 as a long-term program for the protection of the Amazon’s cultural and biological diversity, involving indigenous organisations, non-government organisations and government entities.  

A small network of Colombian NGOs, sharing the same vision for the future of the Colombian Amazon, worked together under the umbrella of COAMA, joined by other individuals and groups for certain program phases: Gaia Amazonas, Etnollano, Puerto Rastrojo, CECOIN, Ecología-Social, Erigaie, Hylea, FundaMinga, Lograr, and The Gaia Foundation (European counterpart). Each has played an important part in COAMA’s success. 

As indigenous communities gain legal rights over their ancestral territories, the confidence to envision their own future in a rapidly changing world, and the skills to take on new-found responsibilities (such as managing their own health and education services) – they become entrusted as guardians of the rainforest.  

The COAMA approach, which also fostering a genuine process inter-cultural collaboration, involves key stepping-stones towards indigenous governance: 

Establishing indigenous rights (nationally, within the Political Constitution; and internationally through ratification of ILO169, UNDRIP).

The heart of the COAMA approach is to accompany indigenous peoples in the Colombian Amazon, in strengthening their cultural identity and autonomy. 

Securing territorial rights (in the case of Colombia, under the legal figure of resguardos)

Capacity building at the community level and with traditional indigenous authorities, to develop their own path and their own solutions for education, health, environmental management and income-generation;

Decentralisation, and proving financial and administrative capacity to receive state funding (transferencias, for education, health and social programs);

Marketing skills for small-scale income-generating projects that are culturally and ecologically sound.  

International collaboration has come from the European Commission and the Governments of Austria, Denmark, Holland, Spain and Sweden (bi-lateral or channelled through third-parties) and the Global Environment Facility.