Journalist, editor, and founder of independent media organization Agenda Propia
Colombian journalist Edilma Prada Céspedes believes that reporters can contribute to restoring the planet through nuanced, inclusive stories that amplify the perspectives of front-line environmental stewards—especially Indigenous elders and women.
Twenty years ago, Edilma started traveling Colombia’s remote rural landscapes to document what would become Latin America’s longest armed conflict. She reported on the struggles of small-scale farmers and Afro-descendant communities hit by violence and neglect, but was particularly shocked by the vulnerability of the country’s 115 Indigenous groups. Indigenous people currently represent only 4.4 percent of the country’s population, but their traditional knowledge, values, and institutions remain essential to preserving—and sustainably using—biomes such as the Amazon.
Prada committed to raising their voices through the intertwined lenses of human rights, environmental protection, and peace. “For Indigenous people, a good life is one lived in harmony with nature,” she says. “How can there be harmony or peace if rivers are polluted, people are hungry, and communities are forced to leave their homes? All human beings have the right to a healthy environment.”
As founder and editor of the digital platform Agenda Propia, Prada decided to change her approach. Not only would she report on the cultural heritage and concerns of Indigenous peoples, but she would bring them on board to set the agenda and produce multimedia stories. In 2018, the outlet launched its own approach to intercultural collaborative journalism, and has since allied with dozens of communities for more inclusive narratives.
“In the voices of Indigenous elders and women—in their experiences, knowledge and languages— there are keys to the protection and restoration of ecosystems,” says Prada. One way she works to help get these voices heard more widely is the Red Tejiendo Historias [Weaving Stories Network], a community of 360 Indigenous and non-Indigenous people who—in her words—co-create content to decolonize more traditional forms of reporting.
Prada notes the need for complementary approaches such as investigating the market forces behind rainforest destruction and learning to track data, use drones, and produce new formats. “But whatever the approach, we need to continue treading the land, involving Indigenous storytellers, and honoring communities’ own narratives,” she says.