Giuseppe Feola PResents at International Sustainability Transitions conference

On 06 October 2021 Giuseppe Feola presented the paper ‘Collective memory and place-framing in urban sustainability transitions‘ at the 12th International Sustainability Transitions conference (held online)

Abstract.

There is growing interest in the contribution of a geographical perspective on sustainability transitions. A new theoretical research agenda has emerged, framed around the conceptualization of scales, places and spaces in which transitions unfold. This paper contributes to this research field by advancing our understanding of how distinct collective memories of place are constructed and mobilized by different social groups to inform and justify competing place frames in urban sustainability transitions.
Sustainability transitions are often seen as inherently future-oriented by both researchers and practitioners. Moreover, it is often claimed that a condition for escaping the environmental crisis is the imagination of radically novel futures. On the other hand, some sustainability transition research and practice uses the past to derive ‘lessons’ for, or otherwise inspire present attempts to transition toward sustainability. However, much of this research is not sensitive to place, and tends to read the past as a singular history, rather than to acknowledge the multiple constructions of the past which coexist and compete in place-framing and sense-making more broadly.
Building on theories of place-framing (Pierce et al., 2011; Murphy, 2015) and collective memory (Halbwachs, 2001; Zerubavel, 2003), this paper examines the ways in which collective memory is constructed in the present -that is, which different pasts are remembered, how they are interpreted, and by whom- to inform and justify competing visions of a sustainable future for the city of Sogamoso, Colombia. In this city, recent changes in the planning regulation have allowed urban expansion in formerly agricultural peri-urban areas, which are also claimed for mining and tourism. The changes have laid bare ongoing land use conflicts, and the contested visions of a desirable future for this city. This study is based on 38 semi-structured interviews with key informants comprising leading members of the civil society (social, cultural and/or environmental non-governmental organizations, journalists), public servants at local authorities and members of the construction, education (universities, social enterprises) and farming sectors (self-provisioning farmers, commercial farmers, leaders of farmer organizations, retailers).
We identify three combinations of future visions, place frames and collective memory, namely: (i) a vision of economic progress, which involves a notion of unproductive, ‘empty’ peri-urban areas in waiting of economic development, and which constructs the past as a linear progress from backward pre-industrial tradition to hopeful modernity; (ii) decline, which involves a notion of peri-urban areas as ‘full’ of social and ecological relations, cultural meaning and emotional connections, and which constructs the past as a linear decline caused by economic development, from a dignified, autonomous, self-sufficient pre-industrial past to a culturally, socially and ecologically impoverished, morally corrupted modernity; (iii) cultural renaissance, which involves a notion of peri-urban areas as ‘full’ of social and ecological relations, cultural meaning and emotional connections, and which constructs the past as a circular process of recovering and reinterpretation of ancient, pre-Columbian socio-technical traditions as a place-specific approach to meaning-making and to building alternatives to capitalist development. These three place frames and collective memories provide three fundamentally distinct positions in relation to capitalist urban development, hence of a desirable future, in Sogamoso. Yet, the first frame, which is shared by urban developers, policy-makers and journalists, has the most purchase in the policy-making process and effectively influences not only the visions, but also concrete planning and urban development policies in this city.
The paper shows that an approach to place that is sensitive to multiple framings of the past, as well as future visions of a place, will equip sustainability transition scholars to recognize the multiple readings of place that social actors re-produce, and support a better understanding of the roots of conflict in sustainability transitions.

Presentation at the VI Meeting of Cultural Heritage in Sogamoso / Socialización de resultados al VI Encuentro de Patrimonio Cultural en Sogamoso

Giuseppe Feola presented the talk Agricultura periurbana en Sogamoso: espacios, visiones, cultura at the VI Meeting of Cultural Heritage in Sogamoso on 9 April 2021. His talk was part of a panel discussion Cultural Heritage and Tourism: a necessary alliance. Giuseppe Feola’s talk focussed on the results of a survey of peri-urban agriculture in Sogamoso, which was also published in two journal articles in English and Spanish.

The event was organized by the Jischana Huitaca Foundation and was streamed live online. More information on the event is available here.

Giuseppe Feola presentó la charla Agricultura periurbanaenSogamoso: espacios, visiones, cultura al VI Encuentro de Patrimonio Cultural en Sogamoso el 9 de abril 2021. La presentación fue parte del foro Patrimonio Cultural y turismo: una alianza necesaria. La charla de Giuseppe Feola se enfocó en los resultados de una encuesta sobre la agricultural peri-urbana en Sogamoso, los cuales se publicaros en dos artículos en inglés y castillano

El evento fue organizado por la fundación Jischana Huitaca y transmitido en vivo online. Más información sobre el evento aquí.

The value of peri-urban agriculture: beyond productivity

This blog post was originally published in Spanish on the web platform LA. NetworkEste artículo fue publicado en castillano en la plataforma LA.Network.

A study in Sogamoso (Colombia) reveals the importance of peri-urban agriculture for local communities’ sense of purpose, social fabric, and resilience.

Peri-urban agriculture can contribute to food security and nutrition, income generation, and environmental management, for example through the reuse of urban organic waste, the creation of green belts, and the provision of ecosystem services.

However, in many cities in Latin America the imperatives of development are highly pressing and urban agriculture is often seen as a barrier to development. When development is defined in terms of technological and infrastructural ‘progress’, productivity, economic growth, and ‘modern’ and global cultural connections, peri-urban agriculture is often represented as a backwards, localized, low-tech and economically poorly performing activity—a legacy of past underdevelopment that should be abandoned in order to make space (land) for the expansion of a more ‘productive’ economy.

It is especially difficult to measure peri-urban agriculture’s less tangible effects on local communities and cultural identities. Thus, both those who oppose and defend urban agriculture often measure its impacts solely in terms of material or economic productivity, and assessments limited to monetary values have clashed with less easily quantifiable contributions such as the symbolic importance of food self-provisioning and its attachment to and reinvention of new peasant heritages and identities. In turn, challenges in measuring urban agriculture have contributed to its invisibility in planning documents and in the policy-making arena, particularly from a social and cultural perspective.

A study that we recently conducted in the Colombian city of Sogamoso reveals the importance of non-monetary contributions of peri-urban agriculture for local communities’ sense of purpose, social fabric, and resilience. In the city of Sogamoso, the contrast between the urban and rural worlds can be observed in all its contradictions in the peri-urban space. In Sogamoso, peri-urban agriculture has been explicitly framed by planners, developers, and local authorities as a barrier to economic progress.

This study finds a diversity of peri-urban agriculture in the city of Sogamoso. Peri-urban households involved in agriculture depended on this activity for their subsistence to different degrees. Alongside farm households that produced mainly for the market, there was a majority of households for which agriculture was neither the primary occupation nor the main source of income. Therefore, peri-urban agriculture in Sogamoso, as in other cities in the region, is by no means a homogeneous phenomenon. Furthermore, many household engaged with peri-urban agriculture as a widespread ‘normal’ practice in local communities, not because peri-urban agriculture was promoted by policy interventions, or development projects.

This study also found that many peri-urban households produce food for self-consumption (self-provisioning) and exchange food with other households outside of the market. Although not all peri-urban farmers engaged in food self-provisioning and exchange to the same extent and in identical forms, such practices were very widespread and involved vegetables, fruit, and herbs more than livestock or animal products. Food exchange was less widespread than self-provisioning; however, it was practiced by approximately a quarter of this study’s participants.

Peri-urban farmers had an overall strongly positive perception of the role of peri-urban agriculture in Sogamoso. Participants noted its positive contribution as a source of income as well as a source of healthy, clean food, which contributed to their food security. In summary, this study indicates the existence of a lively social network of food exchange and an even stronger practice of growing at least part of one own’s food supply in Sogamoso’s peri-urban space.

Why does this study matters for urban planning and the governance of sustainable development?

Firstly, this research provides evidence that contrasts with the dominant urban development discourses in Sogamoso, which have tended to overlook such diversity in their attempt to portray the urban fringe as an ‘empty’ space in waiting for more productive urban use.

Secondly this study also provides novel arguments for the protection and promotion of peri-urban agriculture in Colombia and across Latin America. Although urban agriculture is often measured in terms of productivity both by those who oppose and defend it, this study provides evidence in support of crucial non-economic and less easily quantifiable impacts of peri-urban agriculture on building local communities’ sense of purpose, social fabric, and resilience.

Thirdly and finally, while peri-urban agriculture is an already existing and widespread ‘normal’ practice that requires no set-up, or steering, local authorities and citizens can provide support to protect peri-urban agriculture against those seeking to eradicate such practices to promote other, more monetary forms of development.

The study cited in this article is a collaboration between the Department of Geography and Environmental Science at the University of Reading (United Kingdom), the Copernicus institute of Sustainable Development at Utrecht University (the Netherlands), and the Fundación Jischana Huitaca (Colombia). The study was funded by the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) through the Environment and Sustainability Research Grant 2017/1. The study (in English) can be requested to Dr Giuseppe Feola via email at: g.feola@uu.nl or freely downloaded at this URL: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jrurstud.2020.04.032

Invited post | Post invitado: Red de huertas urbanas en Sogamoso

Por: Karen Liseth Fajardo Becerra y Leidy Johana Fontecha Galindo, estudiantes de la Universidad de Boyacá- sede Sogamoso, Programa Administración de empresas.

Para el año 2018 la Fundación Jischana Huitaca ha venido trabajado sobre huertas urbanas, su importancia para la sostenibilidad y los beneficios de tener un consumo de alimento totalmente orgánico. Es por esa razón que para Julio de este mismo año nosotras Karen Liseth Fajardo Becerra y Leidy Johana Fontecha Galindo, como estudiantes de la Universidad de Boyacá- sede Sogamoso del programa Administración de empresas, con la colaboración de los Docente del área de Proyección Social propusimos hacer una investigación titulada “Fortalecimiento Empresarial para el Desarrollo de la Comunidad Agrícola de la Fundación Jischana Huitaca de las Huertas Urbanas de Sogamoso”. Esta red está conformada por personas adultas, que demuestran un gran interés por parte de los integrantes de la fundación en vincularse en el proyecto, el cual se desarrolló en 3 fases que se describen a continuación.


En la primer fase, se realizó la visita a cada una de las huertas de los integrantes donde se observaron los productos que cada uno de ellos tenían cultivados, el abono que realizaban y se identificaron diferentes problemáticas que tenía cada uno de los integrantes en sus huertas. De mismo modo se realizó una encuesta a 20 de los integrantes, donde se puede identificar que (i) el 54% son personas de estrato 2 si ninguna discapacidad, (ii) la razón principal para implementar la huerta, con un 41% del muestreo, es para el autoconsumo. Con estos resultados se demuestra la necesidad que tiene cada integrante de la fundación y lo que esperan con este proyecto y demuestran un gran interés a realizar una asociación y vincularse al proyecto. Por otra parte se realizó una socialización del proyecto en zonas periurbanas donde participaron activamente personas externas e internas de la fundación con el fin de discutir y resolver las problemáticas presentadas. Finalmente, en esta fase se realizaron diferentes reuniones para aclarar las problemáticas presentadas de acuerdo con los resultados de las encuestas en la Fundación, llevando a cabo el diagnostico de las encuestas aplicadas, proponiendo un cronograma de actividades con los líderes de la Fundación para realizar los diferentes talleres y capacitaciones que se llevaran a cabo durante la última fase.

En la segunda fase se desarrolló una serie de talleres sobre fortalecimiento empresarial por las estudiantes Karen Liseth Fajardo Becerra, Leidy Johana Fontecha Galindo y los integrantes de la Fundación.  En los talleres, que se llevaron a cabo en la Casa de la Cultura de la Ciudad de Sogamoso, participaron activamente 10 personas. Por otra parte se realizaron unas encuesta a consumidores y comercializadores, donde seleccionamos 40 personas (15 consumidores y 25 comercializadores y vendedores informales). Se identificó que todos los comercializadores entrevistados estan interesados en adquirir y distribuir los productos de las huertas urbanas con un valor agregado y los consumidores están dispuestos a adquir estos productos orgánicos si el precio es igual a los productos no orgánicos. Se realizó una reunión junto a los líderes de la Fundación Jischana Huitaca, donde se planeó realizar un mercado en la Iglesia del Rosario invitando a los integrantes de la Fundación para llevar sus productos orgánicos y poderlos vender. En este punto de mercado participaron 10 personas llevando sus productos a la iglesia para venderlos y también dándolos a conocer a los consumidores.

En la tercera y última fase se desarrolló los temas para las capacitaciones. Se llevaron a cabo los talleres teóricos y prácticos en temas de producto, precio, plaza, promoción, anuncio publicitario. Se logró la realización de un logo el cual fue escogido para poder distribuir sus productos con un valor agregado. Durante este proceso también se realizó el abono orgánico que se utilizaría en la producción. Por último se realizó con mucho éxito un mercado popular campesino en la Iglesia del Rosario de la Ciudad de Sogamoso.

En suma, hemos realizado un estudio de mercadeo que ha permitido obtener conocimiento de la aceptación de la agricultura orgánica, el precio asequible para la comunidad, la cantidad adquirida y la presentación, además de las preferencias de hierbas aromáticas, hortalizas, frutales, tubérculos, en la población Sogamoseña. Hemos tenido un contacto cercano con las personas las cuales tienen una mentalidad de emprendimiento y por lo tanto este proyecto nos ha permitido valorar y apreciar nuestra cultura agrícola. Ha sido un trabajo único y que ha aportado grandes valores y conocimientos, no solo en el aspecto intelectual sino afectivo y humano, dejando una huella intachable en el corazón y en la vida tanto de nosotras como de cada una de las personas que han venido trabajando este proyecto para lograr comercializar sus productos y así lograr el propósito de la red de huertas que es comer sin químicos y tener una vida sana.

New publication/Nueva publicación: Sustainability Assessment of Urban Agriculture

 

Feola, G., Sahakian, M. Binder, C. R. 2020. Sustainability Assessment of Urban Agriculture. In: Binder, C.R., Wyss, R., and Massaro, E. (Eds.) Sustainability Assessment of Urban Systems. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 417-437.

The pre-print version of this book chapter is freely available here.

Abstract. This chapter engages with the existing literature on urban agriculture and with concrete case studies to examine current challenges and ways forward for the sustainability assessment of urban agriculture. The chapter identifies current conceptualizations of urban agriculture, and sustainability assessment methods, and discusses them in the light of normative, systemic, and procedural dimensions of sustainability assessment. The chapter addresses the following questions:

  • How can urban agriculture be conceptualized? In particular, are there important conceptual differences between urban agriculture in the Global North and South, or between distinct forms of urban agriculture?
  • How can the sustainability of urban agriculture be assessed? What methodological differences, if any, should be taken into consideration in assessing different forms of urban agriculture in distinct urban contexts?
  • What are the current challenges and what are the opportunities for improving the sustainability assessment of urban agriculture?

The study finds that there is a paucity of assessment methods that have been developed specifically for urban agriculture and are flexible enough to be immediately applicable for different forms of urban agriculture in different contexts. This chapter suggests some opportunities to move the practice of sustainability assessment of urban agriculture forward. These include the adoption of inter- and transdisciplinary research strategies, and a critical approach to urban agriculture practices, power relations, social norms, and institutional conditions that have developed over time in specific contexts. A reflexive research approach and “dedicated investigation strategies” may also go a long way in supporting the sustainability assessment of urban agriculture.

Presentation at the Royal Geographical Society Annual International Conference

On August 28, 2019 Giuseppe Feola presented the paper Ordinary land grabbing in peri-urban spaces: land conflicts and governance in a small Colombian city at the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) Annual International Conference in London. | El 28 de Agosto 2019 Giuseppe Feola presentó el artículo Ordinary land grabbing in peri-urban spaces: land conflicts and governance in a small Colombian city en el congreso de la Real Sociedad Geográfica de Reino Unido en Londres.

Peri-urban land grabbing in Colombia

Blog post published on the Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development’s website (available here) on our publication: Feola, G., Suzunaga, J., Soler, J., Goodman M.K. (In press). Ordinary land grabbing in peri-urban spaces: land conflicts and governance in a small Colombian cityGeoforum, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.geoforum.2019.05.018

 

Land grabbing in peri-urban spaces in Colombia

This blog post was originally published in Spanish on the web platform LA. Network/ Este artículo fue publicado en castillano en la plataforma LA.Network.

 

A study reveals the subtle and ‘ordinary’ mechanisms of urban land grabbing in peri-urban spaces of small Colombian cities, and argues that policy incoherence and governance problematics drive land grabbing in peri-urban spaces.

 

We are not used to thinking of Colombian and Latin American cities as sites of land grabbing. We commonly associate the term land grabbing to the dispossession of locally owned or locally controlled land in rural spaces, at the advantage of large actors such as multinational companies and governments, which might appropriate land through the use of violence. Moreover, when we think about land grabbing in Colombia and Latin America, we usually associate it to large infrastructures, the extraction of natural resources, cash crop plantations, environmental conservation, and armed conflict. Land grabbing has generated environmental injustices, exacerbated social vulnerability and conflict, and generally disrupted the social fabric of local communities in Colombia and regionally.

Yet, land grabbing also occurs in urban areas, and especially at the urban border (peri-urban space), where urban expansion, agriculture and other land uses often clash in the name of diverging visions of development. Land grabbing in urban contexts is often more hidden, subtle and difficult to detect. Land grabbing in the city usually involved the appropriation of smaller areas of land at any one time, does not involve large, visible actors such as multinational companies, or national governments, nor does it necessarily occur under the use of armed force. For this reasons urban land grabbing has largely remained overlooked in Latin American cities.

A recent study conducted in the Colombian city of Sogamoso has brought some of those subtle and so far mostly hidden processes to light. In this city, urban expansionism, agriculture, mining and ecosystem conservation compete for the same, relatively small peri-urban space. Many peri-urban farmers have seen their land become unsuitable for farming as a result of mining practices that have damaged soil and water resources. Others face environmental conservation laws that essentially forbid most farming practices in ecologically valuable high-mountain páramo ecosystems that surround the city. Similarly, peri-urban farmers and residents have seen their land and property become too expensive or unsuitable for farming as a result of urban speculation and changing land use designation. In these cases farmers and residents have ended up unwillingly selling their land, which in many cases had depreciated, and/or have lost their livelihood. While land appropriation in peri-urban spaces is often of small scale, it is very impactful on the livelihoods of the citizens involved, who tend to be the already less powerful and politically unrepresented.

The study shows that the combination of incoherent policies and governance problematics is at the root of land use conflicts and land grabbing in the city’s peri-urban space. In Sogamoso, for instance, national mining and conservation legislation clashes with local planning (land classification). Local policies within or across sectors (for example: housing, agriculture, tourism) also often pursue incompatible goals (e.g. climate change mitigation and support for the extractive industries), or employ contradictory instruments (for example, regulations and incentives). This policy incoherence creates uncertainty about which piece of legislation, institutional actor, or interest group, will prevail and, consequently, it reinforces a generalized sense of injustice and distrust of the authorities. This situation generates social tensions which individuals and groups tend to resolve in ways that lie outside the democratic, transparent, deliberative governance system. The situation is compounded by the existence of various governance problematics: lack of reliable and up-to-date information (e.g. databases) on the state of the city, lack of technical capacity in the local governments, political short-termism, clientelism, and a poor civic participatory culture. This often results in more powerful, better organized or informed individuals and interest groups to acquire advantages, also in the form of land appropriation.

The case of Sogamoso may be unusual for the simultaneous convergence not only of urban expansion and agriculture, but of four distinct and to an extent incompatible land uses: urban expansionism, agriculture, ecosystem conservation and mining. But this case is not at all exceptional for what concerns the ‘ordinary’, subtle character of land appropriation, and the role of policy incoherence and governance problematics as factors of urban land grabbing in the region. In fact, it is rather illustrative of the pitfalls of territorial governance and policy incoherence which have been observed (albeit with some notable exceptions) in much of Colombia and Latin America.

Therefore, urban land grabbing should be on the agenda of policy-makers and civil society organizations alike as a serious issue to be tackled to support urban agriculture, and to reduce social conflict, injustice and vulnerability in the city.

 

The study cited in this article is a collaboration between the Department of Geography and Environmental Science at the University of Reading (United Kingdom), the Copernicus institute of Sustainable Development at Utrecht University (the Netherlands), and the Fundación Jischana Huitaca (Colombia). The study was funded by the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) through the Environment and Sustainability Research Grant 2017/1. The study (in English) can requested via email at: g.feola@uu.nl or downloaded at this URL: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0016718519301654

New article/Nuevo artículo: Ordinary land grabbing in peri-urban spaces: land conflicts and governance in a small Colombian city

Feola, G., Suzunaga, J., Soler, J., Goodman M.K. (In press). Ordinary land grabbing in peri-urban spaces: land conflicts and governance in a small Colombian cityGeoforum, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.geoforum.2019.05.018

Abstract

Emerging scholarship on urban land grabbing has urged researchers to take more nuanced perspectives on land appropriation. There is the need to understand the actions of and interactions amongst a multiplicity of local actors—beyond large-scale investors and global cities—when considering land grabs in the spaces of urban development. Therefore, this paper analyses what we conceptualise as the more ‘gradual’ and ‘ordinary’ dynamics of land dispossession in the peri-urban spaces of the small-scale city of Sogamoso, Colombia. Based on 38 semi-structured key-informant interviews, we explore everyday actions, actors and power relations involved in urban expansionism, mining, farming and ecosystems conservation as these activities seek to coexist and compete for the same, relatively sparse amount of peri-urban space. We find that land appropriation is facilitated by multi-level policy incoherence and the failures of municipal governance. Policy incoherence results in normative uncertainty and weak environmental governance, while a lack of coordinated municipal governance in peri-urban spaces leads to further small scale, ‘ordinary’ and therefore ‘invisible’ conflicts, to the detriment of citizens’ livelihoods. This paper contributes to understanding spatially differentiated urban land appropriation, and its articulation with local, gradual, subtle and more hidden land use conflicts, governance regimes and power relations at the scales of the everyday. Our findings suggest the need to theorize urban land grab also as a result of ordinary, place-based, quotidian dynamics that emerge from governance problematics, including policy incoherence, and land use conflicts, and from the intersection of a more diverse set of drivers, mechanisms and actors than discussed in the extant literature with focus on large urban centres.

Invited post | Post invitado: Salvando a Cuchavira

El humedal de Cuchavira se encuentra en la franja periurbana de Sogamoso y se ve amenazado por la expansión urbana y la falta de apropriado manejo ambiental, según Samuel Pérez y otros ciudadanos y grupos sociales de este sector.

Por Samuel Pérez, Ing. Agrónomo Universidad Nacional, Presidente Junta de Acción Comunal Barrio El Oriente, Sogamoso. 

Cuchavira, vocablo Muisca que significa Arcoíris, es el nombre ancestral de uno de los humedales más importantes y hoy amenazados del área urbana de la ciudad de Sogamoso, conocido popularmente como humedal del cortes, pozo encantado o pozo bravo, está ubicado en los límites del Barrio El Oriente y el Barrio El Cortez y ha sido por siglos un ecosistema acuático que acompaña el territorio en su conformación hídrica, haciendo parte de la cuenca del rio Monquirá principal cuerpo de agua de Sogamoso y que a su vez hace parte de la cuenca del gran rio Chicamocha.

Con preocupación en los últimos años doy una mirada a este patrimonio ambiental y cultural de los Sogamoseños, ya que siendo habitante del sector que ocupa el mismo, durante toda mi vida he presenciado en carne propia su importancia en diferentes aspectos tales como el suministro de agua para riego, agua para consumo humano y animal, y hasta zona de lavandería de ropa; Además de su asocio con la tradición oral por medio de diversos mitos e historias que hilando más afondo se inscriben a la ritualidad del extinto asentamiento de la comunidad Muisca de Suamox y su templo del Sol que se halló desde su origen en el vecindario. Finalmente y luego de pasar por la academia y documentarme más a fondo, hoy puedo entender que su mayor importancia es la ecosistémica o ambiental, que desde una mirada científica básicamente nos indica que el humedal hace parte de una cuenca hidrográfica y sirve como soporte natural que regula el sistema hídrico que compone el territorio Sogamoseño, específicamente su sector urbano sur oriental.
Los humedales son ecosistemas estratégicos que revisten de vital importancia por sus servicios ambientales y juegan un rol crucial en el ciclo del agua para el mantenimiento de la calidad y regulación hídrica de las cuencas, desarrollan entre otras funciones la auto recuperación del ambiente por los impactos ocasionados en los periodos intensos de lluvias dando soporte a los acuíferos, los cuerpos de agua circundantes y en este caso en específico, dando regulación a las aguas que allí emergen y las aguas de escorrentía que por la topografía propia del lugar en temporadas de lluvias se depositan en sus suelos, disminuyendo su velocidad por acumulación y liberando controladamente en dirección al rio Monquirá, evitando así problemas de saturación de los sistemas de drenaje y alcantarillado e inundación de los barrios El Oriente, El Sol, El Cortez, Monquirá y la Florida.
Según la convención de Ramsar hay una gran cantidad de estudios que demuestran que la superficie y la calidad de los humedales siguen disminuyendo en la mayoría de regiones del mundo y en consecuencia, los servicios de los ecosistemas que los humedales proporcionan a las personas se encuentran en peligro. El municipio de Sogamoso no es la excepción a esta problemática debido a su comportamiento desordenado en cuanto a la expansión urbana, situación que viene alterando sistémicamente la estructura, composición y función de los humedales que se encuentran en esta área, se ha desencadenado en la modificación de la dinámica hídrica, la desaparición de hábitats por pérdida de biodiversidad y la disminución de importantes servicios ecosistémicos, además de los impactos y riesgos que las temporadas de invierno generan sobre las comunidades aledañas por el mal manejo de estos espacios.
En la actualidad y desde la última modificación del Plan de ordenamiento territorial (POT) de Sogamoso, surge una alarma en general para los humedales urbanos de la ciudad que se suma a los impactos ya generados por la adjudicación descontrolada de licencias de construcción a sus alrededores, esta es la delimitación sin soporte científico de las áreas reconocidas como de interés ambiental circundantes a cada uno de ellos, situación que afecta a los humedales urbanos de Cuchavira o Cortez, Manitas, Jorge Eliecer Gaitán y Piedra de Bolívar o el Recreo, este último humedal ni siquiera conto con ese reconocimiento. Citando a la política nacional de humedales creada en el año 2001, allí se contempla la expedición de un marco regulatorio que contemple estrategias de manejo y uso racional de los humedales soportada en la formulación de sus correspondientes planes de manejo ambiental, estos son instrumentos que sí podrían determinar los limites reales para su protección y por lo tanto es urgente el llamado de atención a las autoridades ambientales que para este caso serían CORPOBOYACA y la administración Municipal de Sogamoso, la cual incluso contempla el tema dentro de su plan de desarrollo en la Dimensión ambiental con el programa: “ecoeficiencia y sostenibilidad ambiental incluyente” proponiendo la caracterización de los humedales del municipio y la formulación del plan maestro de acueducto y alcantarillado, instrumentos que si se sacan adelante serían de suma importancia para articular las dinámicas hídricas naturales del territorio con el urbanismo de la ciudad.

Finalmente y de acuerdo al panorama presentado, es importante resaltar que partiendo de la iniciativa de las Juntas de acción comunal del barrio el Oriente y el barrio el Cortez, para el caso específico del humedal Cuchavira, se creó un frente de trabajo que ha venido siendo apoyado por diferentes movimientos sociales, tales como el colectivo “amigos del humedal Cuchavira”, la red de jóvenes de ambiente y la conformación de la veeduría ciudadana para la protección de los humedales de Sogamoso, espacio donde se fomenta la discusión y se plantean y ejecutan labores de recuperación y protección del humedal, además de venir haciendo frente a proyectos de expansión urbana que afectarían irreversiblemente el ecosistema como la posible construcción de la sede de la institución educativa Sugamuxi, en predios del humedal contemplada en el POT o la actual propuesta de la administración municipal que solicita modificar la destinación a la construcción del hogar del adulto mayor. Es claro que con estos proyectos de inversión sin el debido acompañamiento de un plan de manejo ambiental, no solo se afectaría el humedal sino además se podría poner en riesgo el futuro de estas estructuras y sus moradores, como ya lo vienen sufriendo en época de lluvias los proyectos de vivienda aledaños que no respetaron la naturaleza de estos predios y no le dieron la importancia que se merece el humedal, nuestro humedal Cuchavira.