Protecting natural resources in the former conflict regions of Colombia

Project description

Title: Environmental regional planning in areas affected by conflict in Colombia – AmPaz
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Colombia
Lead executing agency: Colombian Presidential Agency for International Cooperation
Overall term: 2018 to 2020

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Context

Only two other countries in the world have greater biodiversity than Colombia. Around 15 per cent of the country’s land area is protected under nature conservation laws, while over 50 per cent is covered by forest. The country’s most highly biodiverse and forest-rich regions have been heavily affected by more than 50 years of conflict involving guerrilla factions and criminal groups. The state’s lack of control in these regions has enabled illegal land-use practices to thrive, like coca cultivation for drug production or the illegal extraction of mineral resources.

In 2016, a peace agreement was signed with the largest guerrilla group, the ‘Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia’ (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, FARC). Integral rural development, alternatives to illegal land use, and the generation of income-earning opportunities for the local people all figure strongly in this peace accord. The significance of natural resources in regions particularly affected by the conflict is another focal point, especially given that, in addition to the fragile social and economic situation, there has been a strong increase in deforestation.

Environmental authorities are responsible for establishing guidelines for protecting the environment and natural resources as part of development measures. However, their capacity for action in post-conflict regions is limited.

Moreover, only a few examples of income-generating measures based on sustainable forest use and the protection of biodiversity actually exist. Also, there is often a lack of access to financing instruments and other grants and financial incentives that would allow producers in the region to access the loans and other resources they require.

The project on environmental regional planning in areas affected by conflict in Colombia (AmPaz) is operating in the regions of Meta and Caquetá.

Objective

Territorial planning and pro-development measures in post-conflict regions promote the conservation and sustainable use of natural resources while taking account of the specific needs of population groups affected by the conflict.

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Approach

Working in the thematic triangle of ‘environment-territory-peace’, the AmPaz project promotes land-use options that a) incorporate environmental aspects and b) are consistent with the development plans laid out in the peace agreement. AmPaz itself is divided into four fields of activity:

The first field of activity aims to strengthen local and regional stakeholders in a bid to foster a uniform approach to developmentally and environmentally oriented regional planning. To this end, the local populations in both regions are involved in the planning processes, thus enabling local stakeholders to voice their the views and opinions with regard to the use of natural resources. This also means that negotiations with the potential for conflict can be moderated constructively and non-violently.

In the second field of activity, the project focuses on developing green business models and making these accessible to the local population.

Based on the above, the project’s third field of activity aligns financing models to the needs of the local population and runs financial training courses. Consultancy for local and national financiers is designed to overcome barriers to financing and give sustainable business models and forms of employment access to funding.

In the fourth field of activity, cross-cutting training courses and development measures strengthen the skills of key stakeholders. Joint training sessions aim to foster networking and exchanges of knowledge.

Results

In the regions of Meta and Caquetá, the participatory process for developing land-use plans is already under way. In both regions, local producers and representatives of social organisations, the local government and environmental authorities are involved in the processes.

Multiplier organisations were identified in both regions when designing business models. The focus of further work will be on the cocoa, rubber and milk value chains. The cooperating organisations reach a total of 400 producers (35 per cent women) and support them in developing and implementing sustainable business models.

Following an extensive needs assessment on access to financial services in the target regions as part of the third field of activity, cooperation agreements were signed with two financial institutions regarding the development of credit products for sustainable value chains. The aim here is to enable small farmers to access funding. In cooperation with the Environment Ministry and the development bank FINAGRO, the project is currently supporting the development and rollout of a country-wide ‘green’ credit strategy. Moreover, a financial and sustainable agri-skills training programme has been developed as part of a joint effort with national and international financial institutions. This has led to the qualification of some 40 trainers from the regions who are now aiming to educate at least 500 small farmers. In addition, the project has worked with Wageningen University on six case studies and development scenarios for environmentally and economically sustainable business models for agricultural value chains in the country’s conflict regions.