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Centro ABC Tota, Colombia

Name of organisation: Fundación Mantecito

Funding support: Currently, internal: NGO and family funds. Project is self-sustainable, with hostel and other activities.

Number of staff: 4

Number of visitors per year: Online version, launched on 13/Jul 2016: (Currently: average 30 web visitors/day = would be 11,000/year)

Overall aims of the centre: Contribute to a positive transformation of environmental awareness and perspective of wetlands,in our visitors, for the benefit of Lake Tota.        

Description of the centre

ABC Tota is Lake Tota Wetland Center (information and interactive center), currently online. It is the first of its kind, and our mission is to always be at the forefront of providing comprehensive information about the wetland and its watershed, for multiple purposes. It is an initiative of the Montecito Foundation, an NGO committed to Lake Tota since 2010.

Currently it is a virtual centre, but in 2016 it will put at the service of the “Hostal Xieti” accommodation on the shores of Lake Tota, and new phases will gradually follow that will allow the visitor to encounter information, experiences and diverse activities that will facilitate raising the levels of communication, knowledge, education, participation and awareness about the realities that surround Lake Tota. Our work is constantly supported by volunteers, mostly foreigners, who contribute to various tasks of the Center and the NGO.

ABC Tota  quite new, inaugurated on 13/Jul, 2016. The current physical description is limited to its online version; however, the land space next to Lake Tota where ABC Tota will operate
 with its Hostal Xieti, later with the physical center and varied activities, are 4 hectares (4 Ha) mainly of slopes, in the sidewalk and cove of Guáquira, western side of the lake, that make part of the municipality of Tota (Boyacá).

The habitat of Lake Tota corresponds to a tropo-Andean lake wetland. It is the largest lake in Colombia (55 km2) and stores 44% of the country’s water in natural lakes and lagoons. Its basin is a high mountain and paramo ecosystem in the eastern Andes of Colombia, and in size its basin:lake ratio is 3.65:1.

The area of the lake where the ABC Tota Center will be located is an inlet (called Guáquira) on the west side, is part of the so-called “Lago Grande” or larger portion of Lake Tota. In this cove, a reed ecosystem is well preserved, habitat of several species of water birds, one of which is the Apolinar’s Wren (Cistothorus apolinari), a small endemic bird in danger of extinction.

Main CEPA work areas

At the same time with the components of our virtual center, which communicate and contribute to education, awareness and participation (through information and interaction dedicated to: library, social networks, FAQ, photos, videos and interviews, blog, summary documents, presentation of local issues, volunteering, details of fauna and flora, and tourism); ABC Tota is also an extension of the CEPA work in Lake Tota that since 2010 has been developed by the Montecito Foundation, which includes active and constant presence in various fronts of governance, including:

-Water Volunteer School – EVAgua | see: eva.fundacionmontecito.org

-Improve Our Footprint, a reflective strategy (includes a basin municipality) see: bit.ly/mnhuella

-Blog CEPA Cause Tota – Memory | see: bit.ly/ctb-fm

-Reflexiones Fundación Montecito | see: fundacionmontecito.org/reflexiones

-Related events and conferences | see: fundacionmontecito.org/eventos

-Related presentations : see: fundacionmontecito.blogspot.com/search/label/Presentations

-Activism, reflected in campaigns and various other forms | see: bit.ly/camp-ct, http://eventosprolagodetota.blogspot.com/,

  Synopsis: lagodetota.fundacionmontecito.org/campanas

-Lake of Tota and Tourism (English) | see: visitsugamuxi.com/lake-tota

-Participation in field projects : see: fundacionmontecito.org/proyectos-en-terreno

-Disclosure material : see: http://lagodetota.fundacionmontecito.org/material-divulgativo

-Web media in charge : see: http://lagodetota.fundacionmontecito.org/medios-web

-Underwater (video footage) | see: http://lagodetota.fundacionmontecito.org/bajo-el-agua 

Top three successes

1.) The Grey Globe (WWN) obtained for Lake Tota in 2012 (web: bit.ly/ggt-fm), with the leadership of the Montecito Foundation and active participation of civil society. Because it marked a change and a general awakening of awareness towards the problems of the lake, the need to solve them and invest time and resources in it, and strengthened the beginning of governance and influence of civil society in participation and decisions. And the ABC Tota Center is a later consequence of that Grey Globe, because since 2012 its need was already clear.

2.) With ABC Tota being the first Wetland Center in Lake Tota, dedicated to a specific wetland, the result of civil society work with an NGO (we do not know of a similar initiative in the country). Because it provides an example of CEPA in wetland management at local, regional and national levels, facilitates the articulation of actors, governance and participation, and improves education and research possibilities to raise awareness and knowledge of the wetland. This is necessary to promote good practice, raise awareness of wise use, and achieve protection at national and even international levels (Ramsar).

3.) Integrate and strengthen the Tota Cause, a collective civil society objective that has been led by the Montecito Foundation and aims to recover and preserve this lake and basin in perpetuity. Because it is a cause that has been sustained over time (since 2011), and it has demonstrated the capacity to influence change, for example with its key participation in the creation of the Lake Tota Stewardship Office, as well as in the Lake Tota Basin Council, which are scenarios of control, surveillance, consultancy and representation of actors, in the daily events of the basin and its governance (see essay that relates this process: http://bit.ly/c-agua). 

Top three challenges

Naturally, we believe that others can learn from our work and objectives at ABC Tota, because this Centre represents a notable reference associated with Lake Tota, and this lake is a wetland of international importance (although not yet a Ramsar site). And mutual learning can be created by maintaining visits, interaction and communication, from the Centre to the community (virtual, and on site), and vice versa.

Main challenges:

1.) To have soon our physical headquarters at the Centro ABC Tota, next to Lake Tota, and to centralize there the constant interaction and the strengthening of knowledge and actions that benefit Lake Tota, in integral themes (social, cultural, economic, political, academic, legal).

2.) To create a physical place and tools for the development of science and participatory research.

3.) To have our mobile unit for rural education, which allows us to go and reach easily all the schools in the basin, providing “emotional” environmental education to the child population.

Interpretation techniques

Creating signage; site information; Producing written materials; Using audio-visual tools; Developing nature trails

Visitor centres

Setting up a new visitor centre; Managing / creating habitat; Running a visitor centre; Building / maintaining structures

Participation

Working with disabled people; Engaging hard-to-reach groups; Engaging young people; Engaging the local community;

Working with volunteers

Education and communication

Early years education; Delivering adult education; Working with primary schools; Lobbying / running campaigns; Working with secondary schools; Developing resources / materials

General

Public relations and marketing; Effective management; Project planning

Contact details: Felipe Velasco.

Office: Calle 12 # 10-48, Of. 108-A; Sogamoso 152210 (Colombia).

Centro ABC Tota: Ensenada de Guáquira, Lago de Tota, km. 3 via El Túnel – Playa Blanca, Tota 152447 (Colombia).

E-mail: centro.abctota@gmail.com.

Phone: +57 8 773-1118 (office); +57 310 772-6819 (mobile).

Skype: fmontecito.

Website address:
http://abctota.org

Other Information:

On the website of our NGO Montecito Foundation: http://fundacionmontecito.org

2. Curriculum Vitae of the Montecito Foundation: http://bit.ly/cv-fm

3. Lake Tota overview: www.abctota.org/overview.html 

 

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