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SDG Award 2023 supported by PAGE

The call for projects for Premios Verdes 2024 will open in March 2024. The Premios Verdes promote and encourage initiatives worldwide that seek a fairer society in balance with nature. In this context, PAGE rewards the projects which are best aligned with the SDGs and strengthen partnerships.

The year 2023 marked a major milestone for professor Ramon Maje Floriano and his team. As part of Premios Verdes 2023, PAGE has attributed the SDG Award to the Huertas Comunitarias STEM project – an offshoot of the research group Cafelab Colombia led by Ramon.

Ramon Maje Floriano holds a PhD in Educational Sciences from the Universidad Cuauhtémoc in Aguascalientes, Mexico, a Master in Educational Sciences and a Bachelor in Mathematics and Physics from the Universidad de la Amazonia in Florencia Caquetá, Colombia. He is currently working as a teacher at the Municipal Montessori Educational Institution in San Francisco and lecturer at the Universidad Surcolombiana in Pitalito.

Last November 2023, the Cafelab Colombia’s proposal catapulted the Institution as the best school in the world in the environmental action category – a recognition by the T4 Education Foundation.

Committed to help his community in Colombia, Ramon Maje Floriano plays an active role in tackling the triple climate crisis and delivering sustainable actions, through education and by empowering students to protect their community and future. In this interview, this recognised pedagogue tells PAGE  how his dedication and passion for teaching led him to develop impactful projects. 

Q1. What is it like growing up in the Caquetá region of Colombia? Why did you decide to study mathematics and become a teacher?

Caquetá, a department located in the south of Colombia, stands out for its exuberant biodiversity, its tropical rain-forests and the coexistence of diverse indigenous, Afro-descendant and mestizo communities. Growing up immersed in the dense jungle of this region has allowed me to cultivate a deep pride in my roots, by belonging to a strong community that, over the years, has shown remarkable resilience in the face of the armed conflict.

From an early age, during my school holidays, I played the role of “construction helper” alongside my father. It was through this experience that I began to notice the meaningful applicability of Mathematics in everyday life. Fortunately, my father’s construction projects were often linked to schools, involving the building of classrooms, painting, and allowing me to observe and admire those educators who managed to capture the attention of students with fascinating stories and topics that went beyond school boundaries.

This experience became the main motivation for my career as a mathematics teacher. The connection between Mathematics and everyday life, together with the inspiration derived from observing educational work in schools, spark a burning desire to contribute to the meaningful learning of future generations.

Q2. PAGE has awarded the SDG Award to the Huertas Comunitarias STEM project at the 10th edition of the Green Awards. The project was awarded for its innovative and successful approach to addressing multiple challenges in the local community. What prompted the project?

Talking about Huertas Comunitarias STEM (community gardens) necessarily implies referring to CAFELAB COLOMBIA, a project that emerged in a rural Colombian public institution. This research-oriented group is dedicated to contributing to environmental sustainability and the development of the social fabric in a coffee-growing community. Through three phases, we work together with students to identify and address a significant environmental issue in the region. Our approach focuses on reintegrating all coffee by-products into productive life through various entrepreneurial ideas, thus promoting the green and circular economy.

These three phases include immersion (diagnosis of the problem), transfer (circular economy) and communication. In 2020, in response to the pandemic, Huertas Comunitarias STEM were established to contribute to the food security of students and their families. Each individual student designed and implemented home gardens following four steps: garden design, prototyping, testing and evaluation. In the communication phase, didactic guides were developed to be shared within the community.

Importantly, in the context of CAFELAB COLOMBIA, three prototypes were created and implemented in the community gardens. These include composting using coffee pulp, electricity generation and the production of natural herbicides, whose active ingredient is the bean’s honey water. These initiatives not only seek to address environmental and social challenges, but also to promote sustainable practices and foster community empowerment through the active participation of students in solving local problems.

Connecting with the community of Premios Verdes has enabled to establish and strengthen collaboration with other similar initiatives, as well as with experts and organisations committed to sustainability. This has provided opportunities to share knowledge, learn from successful experiences and collaborate on continuous project improvement.

Q3. How has participation in the SDG award and the experience gained through Premios Verdes 2023 activities impacted the roll-out of the Huertas Comunitarias STEM project?

The experience gained through the SDG Award and Premios Verdes’ activities have had a significant impact on the roll-out of the Huertas Comunitarias STEM project. These contributions manifest themselves in a number of ways.

It  has brought visibility to the Huertas Comunitarias STEM project. Being recognised by these initiatives highlights the importance and positive impact of the project, generating greater interest and support both locally and internationally.

Connecting with the community of Premios Verdes has enabled to establish and strengthen collaboration with other similar initiatives, as well as with experts and organisations committed to sustainability. This has provided opportunities to share knowledge, learn from successful experiences and collaborate on continuous project improvement.

By being recognised by an award focused on sustainability and SDGs, the Huertas Comunitarias STEM project gains external validation of its sustainable approaches and practices. This reinforces the credibility of the project and demonstrates its alignment with global sustainable development goals.

Q4. The ODS award offered you the opportunity to travel to the United Nations headquarters in New York to meet with the UN network and participate in an agenda of activities. Tell us about this trip.
How have these activities given or will give resonance to the impact of the project?

The LAC Awards (Premios Verdes)  mission was a success, and the following conclusions can be drawn from it:

  • Focus on Sustainable Development: CAFELAB COLOMBIA’s proposal is strongly aligned with the principles of sustainable development, addressing multiple Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The inclusion of aspects such as STEM community gardens, student skills development, women’s leadership in research, waste management and circular economy demonstrates a holistic approach.
  • Active Community Participation: The collaboration with the Small Grants Programme (SGP) highlights the importance of active participation of local communities in the implementation of sustainable development projects. This reinforces the idea of empowering communities to be key agents in solving environmental and educational problems.
  • Strategic Partnerships: The proposal seeks to establish strategic collaborations both nationally and internationally. The virtual meeting with  Ana Beatriz Barona [Colombia National Coordinator of the UNDP Small Grants Programme] and the search for funding through the SGP indicate an effort to secure the necessary support to carry out the project effectively.
  • SDG impact: The SDGs to which the project contributes are clearly identified, strengthening its relevance and sustainability. From food security (SDG 2) to gender equity (SDG 5) and climate action (SDG 13), the proposal addresses a variety of challenges.
  • Institutional Support and Potential for Scalability: The engagement with the national government, mentioned in relation to SDG 16, suggests that the project has the backing of government authorities and has the potential to be replicated internationally. This represents an important opportunity to scale up the impact of the project.
  • Possible Partnerships with Multinational Companies: Seeking partnerships with multinationals such as Samsung for investments and improvements indicates a strategic vision to secure resources and technical support from external actors, which could strengthen project implementation.

We aim to strengthen the Research and Innovation Centre for Sustainable Development, with the purpose of mitigating the environmental impact derived from coffee production and other productive activities in the region. This strengthening will be carried out through the creation of an ecosystem of learning environments, designed to promote scientific and technological progress [...]. These spaces will not only foster knowledge acquisition, but will also stimulate creativity, research and the practical application of sustainable solutions.

Q5. The Premios Verdes aim to highlight and support initiatives in Latin America that carry out sustainable actions that have a positive impact on society. What are the prospects and upcoming project achievements for Huertas Comunitarias STEM?

We aim to strengthen the Research and Innovation Centre for Sustainable Development, with the purpose of mitigating the environmental impact derived from coffee production and other productive activities in the region. This strengthening will be carried out through the creation of an ecosystem of learning environments, designed to promote scientific and technological progress within the framework of the three fundamental methodological phases: Immersion, Transfer and Communication.

This ecosystem will comprise a number of strategically designed learning spaces to provide a conducive environment for the integral development of the project phases. These spaces will not only foster knowledge acquisition, but will also stimulate creativity, research and the practical application of sustainable solutions.

Our vision is for this Research and Innovation Centre to become a dynamic epicentre, where participants can immerse themselves deeply in the environmental problems of the region during the Immersion phase. Subsequently, in the Transfer phase, the practical application of scientific and technological solutions that contribute to sustainable development will be sought.

In addition, the Communication phase will be enhanced through these learning environments, facilitating the dissemination of results, interaction with the community and the promotion of environmental awareness. This holistic and multidisciplinary approach promises not only to strengthen the centre itself, but also to maximise its positive impact in the region, positioning it as a reference in the search for innovative and sustainable solutions to current challenges.

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