Strengthening of Colombia’s national parks system to promote climate change mitigation and biodiversity conservation

Project description

Title: Strengthening of Colombia’s national parks system to promote climate change mitigation and biodiversity conservation
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB)
Lead executing agency: Ministerio de Ambiente y Desarrollo Sostenible
Overall term: 2013 to 2017


Colombia ranks among the top five countries in the world for biodiversity. The country also has great cultural wealth. For example, there are thousands of pre-Columbian indigenous rock drawings in the Serranía de Chiribiquete mountain range in the Amazonian rainforest. The unspoiled nature in the Amazon region of Colombia has huge significance for global climate and provides a livelihood for the local population. This ecosystem is being threatened by illegal logging.

The Chiribiquete National Park in the province of Caquetá was established in 1989. Covering an area of 2.8 million hectares, it is one of the largest national parks in the world. It provides the region’s population with environmental services, especially water and food. Deforestation is impacting on the areas surrounding the national park more severely than anywhere else in Colombia. The main cause is livestock farming, traditionally the mainstay of the region’s economy. Livestock breeders clear the forest to create pasture land, but in doing so are gradually destroying their very livelihoods: deforestation causes the soil to erode and become unproductive, thereby leading to a loss of biodiversity. Violence is a further problem in the area and has its roots in the presence of illegal armed groups and the difficulties encountered by the state in establishing the rule of law. These factors prevent deforestation from being contained and the Chiribiquete National Park from being managed effectively.

The national parks authority protects the Chiribiquete National Park effectively. In cooperation with regional and local authorities and user groups (such as livestock farmers, timber users and the indigenous population), alternatives to deforestation have been developed. The national biodiversity strategy is being implemented and the national system of conservation areas is being strengthened. The population groups that are affected have access to platforms for conducting a dialogue with the state.

The programme is pursuing two complementary strategies to combat deforestation. The first of these involves programme advisors and research institutions jointly analysing deforestation in and around the park as well as the social and economic factors that contribute to deforestation. To this end, they make use of satellite data procured and presented in cartographic form by the programme. The national parks authority and the institutions responsible for managing natural resources outside the park (such as Caquetá’s environment agency) are thereby able to better manage and monitor the park, its buffer zones and surrounding areas. This component is being handled by The Nature Conservancy, a non-governmental organisation.

A second strategy entails introducing alternative livestock farming practices. These are designed to enable farmers to produce more without having to clear and use additional land. This makes them more aware of the need to use land sustainably while at the same time conserving biodiversity, since the latter will ultimately safeguard the productivity of their soils and secure their future income.

Crop and livestock farmers are also being encouraged to continue working with the authorities to devise and implement alternatives to deforestation once the programme has come to an end.

Traditional animal husbandry used to yield 912 litres of milk per hectare of land per year. The livestock farmers supported by the programme have now doubled their production to over 1,800 litres without expanding their area of production. None of the forest was destroyed, and in fact farmers were able to leave parts of their land fallow and restore it to its natural state. In two cases, these fallow areas have been officially declared as conservation areas.

Satellite analysis of soil conditions in the area of the national park is helping local and national authorities to monitor the existing forest and put effective control systems in place.

The national parks authority has devised and implemented a plan for managing the Chiribiquete National Park.

Colombia. Flat-top mountain in the Chiribiquete National Park © Parques Nacionales Naturales de Colombia


Anna Willingshofer