The Mangrove Tribe


The poorest of Colombias poor, Afro Colombians began gravitating near the city of Tumaco in the southern Colombian department of Narino in the 1850s, when slavery was abolished. They naturally settled on the inhospitable Pacific coast, where their lack of private property did not matter and where they could freely extract timber, fish, shrimp, gold and clams.

Mari Garcia 33 started digging for black clams in the mangrove swamps that line the coast here, at the age of 9 with her mother. She remembers when she could count on finding 300 a day. Now she is lucky if she gets 100. For 100 she is paid 10.000 Colombian pesos the equivalent of 5 US dollars from an intermediary that sells them further to Ecuador and Peru where clams have been over harvested. With 3000 pesos that she pays for the rent of a room she has very little left to feed her 5 young children and the additional son of a recently died friend that she has taken on as her own.

Today, Oil spills, industrial pollution, drug traffickers, the overflow of the river Mira and over harvesting are quickly reducing the clam population in the mangroves of Tumaco, and threaten to destroy the livelihoods of Mari Garcia and according to a census another 800 extremely poor families who depend on clam digging for their subsistence.

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