Sustainable Livelihoods and Forest Ecosystem Conservation, Colombia
Basin of the Buritaca river, Department of Magdalena, Colombia
The SFEC Programme is a forest conservation and rural development programme for the high conservation value forests (HCVF) of the Buritaca Basin, in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Colombia. The programme is based on partnerships with local state actors, non-governmental organizations, a Community Based Organization (CBO) of local forest dwellers, and ENVIRONOMICA. The programme is supported by WWF Italy and the Global Heritage Fund.
SFEC aims to safeguard portions of mega-diverse forest ecosystems and water resources by establishing forest reserves and by supporting the transition of local livelihoods to short, medium and long-term sustainable activities. The SFEC approach is based on disseminating know-how, targeting certified markets and fostering regional inclusive green growth.
The primary goals of the programme are:
- securing representative portions of HCVF ecosystems in the basin of the Buritaca river through reforestation and conservation,
- fostering land rights formalization by promoting round-tables and triggering class-based validation processes,
- guiding the transition of local rural economies to sustainable, inclusive and certified integrated operations.
The Programme is based on a preliminary need assessment run in March 2015 by our team and on a baseline study assessed between September and December 2015. Roughly 1.5 million people are dependent upon the freshwater supplied by the Sierra Nevada. Yet its inhabitants are thriving at the expense of nature through uncontrolled cattle ranching, land clearing, poaching, and irresponsible eco-tourism. In the aftermath of the Colombian armed conflict and decades of illegal crops, many are the environmental threats to such irreplaceable bio-region.
Mod 1 – Organic crops and restoration
The first Module focuses on optimizing land use and generating income via organically grown indigenous cotton and cacao under cooperative arrangements. Farms will be reorganized with a holistic land management plan for the area aimed at restoring forest cover and reducing cattle grazing.
Mod 2 – Forest reserve and land rights
Module 2 addresses security of tenure: the legal status of land possessions will be assessed in conjunction with regional public authorities. Through the community’s Free, Prior and Informed Consent, forms of compensation for conservation will be sought and rightful settlers asked to join a multi-stakeholders Megadiverse Forest Reserve.
Mod 3 – Reforestation and tourism
The third Module builds upon the previous two modules to restore ecological corridors through extensive reforestation, optimized land use and growing portions of protected forest. The Lost City tourism will be linked with this restoration process and its responsible commercialization boosted as a sustainable, profitable alternative for income generation in the area.
Mod 4 – Dissemination and replication
Module 4 means the Programme has been fully implemented and is now proof-of-concept: time to disseminate its results throughout the local, regional and global communities alongside assessing best suited locations where to replicate the project.