Photo Exhibition “Unseen Guardians: Rural Colombian Women and the Earth”

“Unseen Guardians: Rural Colombian Women and the Earth” showcases women coffee growers from Risaralda, Colombia, who are facing climate change. The photo exhibit highlights the complexity and humanity of these women and pays tribute to their unseen labor and role in both food security and responding to the challenges posed by climate change to their livelihoods and families.

The exhibit is produced by the social project Clima y Café (Climate and Coffee), a collaborative international project to raise awareness of climate change and support adaptation to its impact among Colombian coffee farmers. The project trials new outreach measures to engage communities with climate change. The project, which I founded and currently lead with a team of Colombians, is currently funded by the National Science Foundation.

Many people in our world are invisible and unrecognized. This is particularly true for rural people, whose farming is so vital for keeping us fed. It is even truer for rural women. And when we don’t know a group of people, we can create stereotypes that are wrong. In this exhibit, we see the faces of rural women coffee farmers. We can see and relate to their humanity and depth, and we can read their words and be inspired by their strength and resiliency in caring for the Earth.

Climate change is and will impact us all, and we need to find hope to face this challenge. We can do this by uncovering and recognizing everyday heroes in all the corners of our world, people who can show us a new way to approach our Earth. The dedication and care for the Earth by these women goes unseen, but it shouldn’t any longer. We should celebrate their efforts and look to them as a model for how we can unite together and adopt an attitude of strength while caring for each other and the Earth.

The photographs used for the exhibit were taken in October 2020 by Nicolas Gomez, a photographer with Clima y Café, with the support of the Colombian municipalities of Apía and Santa Rosa de Cabal. The women photographed include members of the Asociación Municipal de Mujeres Campesinas (AMMUCAMP) in Santa Rosa de Cabal and producers in Apía. Accompanying the photos are quotes from the women featured, highlighting their experiences, perspectives and beliefs toward the Earth and their role in protecting it.

“If we don’t treat the Earth well, what do we expect from her? It is she who gives us life,” states one of the exhibit’s subjects. Another says, “We tend the land because she is our mother. We must protect her because we are her children; we must care for her.”

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