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Colombia's Golden Triangle—Biodiverse and Market-friendly
By: Nancy Jeffries
Posted: April 27, 2012, from the May 2012 issue of GCI Magazine.
page 6 of 7
Waliwa sources biodiverse plants found in a region inhabited by the uitotos, members of an Amerindian nation that inhabits the Colombo-Peruvian Amazon basin. More than 41,000 different plants in the region make it a prime source of cosmetic ingredients.
The company’s development program creates social inclusion and benefits for the community, which helps produce the ingredients by cooking the fruit in their malocos (community houses) and working with the oil. Harvesting and preparation require great care, and company founders are conscious of their impact, being careful to not cut trees or disturb the environment.
In addition to work within the Amazon, Waliwa also sources in the Andes and the páramo—an ecosystem of the regions above the continuous forest line and below the permanent snow line located in the northern Andes, featuring vegetation composed mainly of shrubs and grasses. And apart from working with indigenous groups, the company works with women’s groups and farm communities to source plants and fruits, and produce products such as Amazon Balm for Lush Lips, a hydrating lip treatment packaged in an Andean Nogal nut, considered sacred by the Muisca people, handpicked by local women working for fair trade wages.
In this way, Waliwa continues to create a circle of trust with the local communities, many of which had been taken advantage of in the past by rubber companies and other developers—and as Neira emphasized, trust is the basis for the relationship with the local communities.
A Sustainable Future
Based on the work of various academic institutions, including the University of the Andes, where the Atomic Force Microscope enhances analytical capabilities, and work on micro and nanotechnology, as well as genetic research on plant life takes place; the University of Antioquia, where fungi and natural plant actives are explored for use and commercialization in skin care and health care projects; Biotec and CIAT, for cell structure evaluation and enhancement with natural sources like soursop, guanabana and cassava; and the efforts of BioIntropic and Ecoflora, to create natural pigments for cosmetics and foods, research into the biodiversity of the Golden Triangle continues to point to a prosperous future for the region.