Forest voices: Raising awareness on tropical dry forest through arts and culture

  • Country: Colombia
  • Organisation: Fundación Gratitud
  • Support area: Conserving biological diversity
  • IKI funding: 76,323 euros
  • Project start: 01/02/2023
  • Project end: 31/01/2024
  • Website:

The municipality El Carmen de Bolívar in northern Colombia is highly affected by deforestation and biodiversity loss. It is home to the tropical dry forest which is one of the most fragile ecosystems in the entire tropics. This IKI Small Grants project addresses the loss of the tropical dry forest by bringing together traditional and scientific knowledge to renew and strengthen cultural sustainable relationships between the ecosystem and its inhabitants through various artistic and cultural expressions. This process aims to strengthen local leadership, artistic skills and cultural and scientific knowledge of young men, women, and youth leaders to help them tackle deforestation and shape future sustainable forms of living.


The project takes place in the municipality El Carmen de Bolívar located in northern Colombia with alarming levels of deforestation and loss of biodiversity. The subregion Montes de María holds the biggest relicts of tropical dry forest in Colombia. Its geographic location delivers an extraordinary biodiversity that has shaped a local cultural, social, and economic web of relations, which has been vital for its conservation. The tropical dry forest in this territory represents an important carbon stock and provides critical ecosystem services. In Colombia, the tropical dry forest is not only threatened by agriculture, but also by the constant advance of livestock and urban development, to the point that only less than four per cent of its original coverage remains.


Direct beneficiaries of the project are 200 rural and urban young men and women and youth leaders between 12-22 years with at least 50 per cent women. Around 1,500 inhabitants of the municipality El Carmen de Bolívar benefit indirectly from the project through the results presentation and exchange of experiences.



The IKI Small Grants project organises artistic training workshops for young men, women, and youth leaders. Two sessions address cultural empathy to establish an emotional, social, and environmental baseline in order to stimulate the sensitivity of the participants towards the environment and their own cultural practices. Other workshops on forestry, biology and climate science include field trips to nearby and unique locations to address biodiversity issues of the tropical dry forest. Thereby, the trainings connect art, local contexts, and the tropical dry forest ecosystem in Carmen del Bolívar.

The Fundación Gratitud creates a series of arts and culture workshops for around 200 young men, women, and youth leaders to empower them to become generators of sustainable solutions. Those workshops include for instance working and recording with traditional singers and luthiers. Thereby, the instrument making, and the composition of songs are closely linked to the presence of the tropical dry forest. This process of construction, knowledge transmission and the music itself shapes the community’s identity.  Another workshop promotes the flavours of local culture by rescuing local ingredients, recipes, and the stories behind them, to generate deep connections with the local environment, and the protection of food sovereignty and autonomy.

In cultural events and a final exhibition, the organisation shares the results with the community. These include the screening of a documentary film on local music traditions, a concert, roundtables, and a photo exhibition. Further, film workshops lead to a final film that is presented to the local community. This is a collective work that revolves around the threat to the forest and the community that inhabits it. In this way, the film gives voice to both the tropical dry forest and the community.


The Fundación Gratitud was founded in 2017 by the Colombian musician Fonseca. The social purpose of the foundation is to design, implement, promote, and support projects, initiatives and proposals for the awareness, creation, and protection of cultural and artistic manifestations of the Colombian territory. It supports research programmes and projects that address the needs of cultural traditions. It also seeks to develop projects, programmes and initiatives that promote the social, environmental, and financial autonomy of cultural practices and accompany the activities of artists.