Martha Fajardo

Grupo Verde (GV) - Latin American Landscape Initiative (LALI)

A landscape architect in Colombia, Martha Fajardo is the CEO of Grupo Verde, a firm dedicated to the practice of Landscape Architecture inspired by nature. She is the co-founder and chair of the Latin American Landscape Initiative (LALI), a regional bottom-up initiative mobilising civil society for the safeguarding of nature and landscape values. Martha holds a Doctor of Letters (DLitt) degree from University of Sheffield.

LALI – the Latin American Landscape Initiative unites 12 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean through a shared vision for peoples and the environment. Could you tell us more about your work?

Founded in 2021, LALI arises as a bottom-up movement with a horizontal, transdisciplinary, and cross-cutting trajectory that brings together civil society, academia, public institutions, and other parties. At its heart is the declaration of fundamental ethical principles that promote the recognition, valuation, protection, management, planning and sustainable design of the Latin American landscape. This is done through the adoption of agreements that recognise the diversity of Latin American landscapes as well as their local, national, and regional values, both tangible and intangible, and which promote culturally appropriate norms and processes to safeguard them.

LALI is a network of networks. It nurtures partnership-making in the extraordinarily diverse region that is Latin America. By leveraging alliances and complicities between actors, it raises awareness of the importance of protecting biodiversity, traditional knowledge, beauty, and heritage in all its forms. A melting pot of Latin American citizens of different professions, nationalities, and origins, LALI is inspired by ancestral worldviews (or “cosmovisions”) and the European Landscape Convention. Its regional adaptation, going towards a Latin America Landscape Convention, responds to the knowledge of each place and territory, with a “Latin American conscience”.  The Initiative is consolidated through interactive clusters or ‘nodes’ which address different themes but have a common goal: safeguarding the landscape by crossing borders and disciplines to radically imagine cities of the future.

CONEXUS is a EU funded Research & Innovation project aiming to co-create NBS knowledge and practices for more socio-environmentally just places. Based on your experience in the project, what can EU cities and EU policy makers learn from Latin America and its rich tradition of “traditional” knowledge systems?

As a concept, nature-based solutions, is a wonderful European call and “invention”.  We appreciate the funding of this timely project by the European Commission. At the same time, we find ourselves in a stage of creativity to understand how to nurture and appropriate this vision in Latin America.

Our ambition is to bring in the cosmovision of ancestral peoples, communities, and a less utilitarian outlook on nature. We understand nature as part of our Latin American DNA, and this is an important addition to the European vision.  Nature has an incommensurable value, being part of our heritage and embodying the very essence of ancestral cultures, from traditional agriculture to holistic medicine, our livelihoods and economies, as well as our spirituality and the knowledge passed down from generation to generation.

We understand nature as part of our Latin American DNA

What is your vision for CONEXUS and the value for the LALI network?

Motivated by the sacredness of this knowledge, the LALI Ancestral Landscapes Node wants to contribute to CONEXUS with a planetary health perspective. This vision sees healthy landscapes and ecosystems as vital for supporting human life and social cohesion. In this context, restoring, creating, and caring for landscapes in a reciprocal, continuous and interactive relationship is indispensable. To collectively address the challenges our planet is facing, promoting NBS in a holistic cosmovision offers key opportunities to improve livelihoods, resilience, and the valorisation of non-Eurocentric understandings.

Martha Fajardo on… what we can learn from nature-based ancestral knowledge systems in Latin America

Author: Enrique Hoyos. Source: Pexels

“The planetary health perspective sees healthy landscapes and ecosystems as vital for supporting human life and social cohesion”

We hope to bring CONEXUS partners closer to a cross-cultural, sensitive, and empathetic appreciation of ancestral landscapes that will contribute to their valuation and protection. We invite researchers from different walks of life to share their work on nature-based ancestral knowledges, from the built to the symbolic and to listen to native voices, images, and sounds to understand what water, air, earth, fire, and landscape represent for them.

By recovering knowledge and meanings that native peoples have preserved of their landscape, in different forms and representations, our network uses dissemination as a tool for recognition and creation of new meanings. Ultimately, we aspire to mobilise CONEXUS collective capacity to integrate NBS in cosmovisions, facilitating mutual learning and the integration of NBS narratives and local cultures. Our consortium sees nature and humanity as inextricably connected and is ready to work across sectors, disciplines, and levels of government to advocate and educate for change that supports this transformation.

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