Strengthening Colombia’s national parks authority to conserve natural resources

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)
Country: Colombia
Lead executing agency: Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development (Ministerio de Ambiente y Desarrollo Sostenible, MADS)
Overall term: 2013 to 2017

Colombia ranks among the top five countries in the world for biodiversity. The unspoilt nature of the Amazon region of Colombia has huge significance for the global climate and provides a livelihood for the local population. This ecosystem is being threatened by increasing deforestation.

Chiribiquete National Park in the department 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. This can chiefly be attributed to animal husbandry, traditionally the mainstay of the region’s economy. Livestock farmers clear the forest to create pastureland, 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 Chiribiquete National Park from being managed effectively.

The national parks authority protects Chiribiquete National Park effectively. Regional and local authorities and user groups (such as livestock farmers) have developed alternatives to deforestation. The national biodiversity strategy is being implemented and the national system of conservation areas is being strengthened. The population groups 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 advisers 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. This enables the national parks authority and the institutions responsible for managing natural resources outside the park (such as Caquetá’s environment agency) to manage and monitor the park, its buffer zones and surrounding areas more effectively. The Nature Conservancy, a non-governmental organisation, is managing these activities.

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, which 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 after the programme has ended on devising and implementing alternatives to deforestation.

Traditional animal husbandry previously yielded 912 litres of milk per hectare of land per year. The livestock farmers supported by the programme have now doubled this figure to over 1,800 litres without expanding their area of production. None of the forest was destroyed; in fact farmers were able to leave parts of their pastureland fallow and restore it to its natural state. In two cases, these fallow areas have been officially declared as conservation areas. A beneficial side effect is that these practices are also reducing harmful emissions. This form of forest-friendly livestock farming in Caquetá is now serving as an example of a best practice in the context of implementing Colombia’s climate strategy.

Satellite analysis of soil conditions in the general 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 Chiribiquete National Park.

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


Anna Willingshofer