Women who live in rural areas of Colombia face great challenges due to a variety of factors: A lack of opportunities to generate an income; insufficient education; absence of health services as well as insufficient water, sanitation and waste management systems. Hunting wildlife for food and illegal trapping of birds and primates for the pet trade are common practice in such areas. In addition, these communities also traditionally rely on wood for cooking which results in destruction of the rainforest habitat. Other circumstances such as climate change, security issues and the availability of jobs for men, but lack of work for women, places them in a disadvantaged position. At the same time Colombia is a country of high biodiversity. The Blue-billed Curassow or Paujil (Craxalberti), is endemic to Colombia and critically endangered at both the national and global level, mainly due to habitat destruction, fragmentation of the forests where they live and because they are hunted for human consumption. Their last populations are found in northeastern Antioquia, Rio Sinu and San Jorge Valleys, north-western foothills of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Serrania de San Lucas and San Jacinto and Middle Magdalena Valley in the Sierra de lasQuinchas.
Women are vital to the success of any conservation project as they have the power to educate their children and the rest of the family to be stewards of their natural resources. The Picaflor Collection by Women for Conservation works to build awareness of this important role that women play as a catalyst for change in their communities by involving women artisans at the grassroots level in the conservation of threatened species of wildlife. The two primary species that the project is helping to preserve are El Paujil de Pico Azul (Craxalberti) and the Santa Marta Parakeet (Pyrrhuraviridicata), both endemic to Colombia.Women for Conservation works to discourage firewood collection by providing the women with gas stoves and gas cylinders. Replacing the use of wood has a positive impact on the preservation of the rainforest around them.
The Conservation Enterprise
The Picaflor Collection by Women for Conservation was established to offer an income and a better way of life for women living in these areas of Colombia that are rich in biodiversity, whose only prior means of survival was to exploit the natural resources around them through illegal hunting of endangered wildlife, logging or converting forests into cattle pastures in order to provide for their families. The project provides opportunities for women by training them to make environmentally friendly hand-made jewelry, which is Certified Wildlife Friendly®, using sustainably harvested Tagua seeds.Tagua is the hardened fruit of the Ivory-nut Palm Tree (PhytelephasMacrocarpa). It flourishes in tropical forests from Paraguay to Panama and is a sustainable substitute for elephant and whale ivory because of its properties and similarities. Tagua is a wild fruit, which grows in tropical forests under loads of other trees which provide it with shade.. The fruit required for craft making can only be collected when it falls on the ground, if collected before, it will not harden and it cannot be used for crafts. Only a small percentage of the Tagua is collected to encourage forest growth. Wildlife feeds from the outer layers of the fruit leaving the fruit behind and making it easy to collect.The seeds are dried and processed using traditional techniques to turn them into unique beads; they are then dyed using either vegetable or non toxic and lead-free dyes. There are never two beads the same due to the natural patterns.