MOCOA, Colombia — The Union of Traditional Yage Medics of the Colombian Amazon (UMIYAC) brings together five ethnic groups ­— the Cofán, Inga, Siona, Coreguaje, and Kamëntsá — who practice spiritual ceremonies for individual and community healing based on ayahuasca, or yagé. But that’s not all that these communities have in common. All five of these Indigenous groups are also classified by Colombia’s Constitutional Court as being at “risk of physical and cultural extermination.” “Our strategy has to do with revitalizing and strengthening our spiritual connection with Mother Earth,” said Miguel Evanjuanjoy, advocacy and project manager of UMIYAC, in a video interview with Mongabay in October. He was speaking from his community of Yunguillo, in the department of Putumayo. “As stewards of the Amazon rainforest, we care for the land because it is she who nourishes us spiritually and through her sacred products.” Spread across the Putumayo, Caquetà and Cauca regions of southern Colombia, with a small crossover into Ecuador, the 22 territories represented by UMIYAC are on the front line of the battle to protect the Amazon. A 2018 study conducted by the University of the Andes in Bogotá, for example, shows the annual deforestation rate in Caquetà alone is 0.77%, the highest in Colombia and nearly twice the rate for tropical South America as a whole. This map of deforestation hotspots in the Colombian Amazon shows how concentrated they are in the Caqueta region (and to a lesser degree in Putumayo) and how the indigenous reserves near them…This article was originally published on Mongabay Läs mer