A team of forestry, climate and land-use experts has come together in Colombia’s capital, Bogotá, to assist in developing territorial plans for municipalities with the highest rates of deforestation in the Colombian Amazon. The first-of-its-kind gathering is part of efforts to help the regions come into compliance with a 2018 ruling from the nation’s highest court granting legal rights to the Amazon rainforest.
Participants say that once approved, these Local Land Management Plans will help lead to lower rates of deforestation and prepare municipalities for challenges associated with climate change.
“This is unprecedented, there is no template for this,” said María Adelaida Fernández-Muñoz, EII’s national program coordinator for Colombia, adding that one of the main challenges is in developing strategies that are tailored to the unique needs and circumstances in each region.
“Each municipality is very different, with its own deforestation processes,” she explained. “Each is a case study on its own.”
EII is partnering with the Colombian engineering firm C.P.A. Ingeniería S.A.S on the project, which is supported by a grant from the Amazon Vision Program. The team includes planners, as well as hydrologists, GIS scientists, forest engineers, experts in Indigenous communities, ecology and climate change adaptation. Together they are working to provide technical support, evaluation and analysis to governments in 15 municipalities that have experienced the nation’s highest rates of deforestation.
Together, these regions accounted for almost 70% of Colombia´s deforestation in 2018. They include: Puerto Guzmán and Puerto Leguizamo in Putumayo Department; Solano, Cartagena del Chairá, San Vicente del Caguán and Puerto Rico in Caquetá Department; Calamar, Retorno, Miraflores and San José del Guaviare in Guaviare Department; and La Macarena, Uribe, Puerto Rico, Mapiripán y Vista Hermosa in Meta Department.
Colombia’s Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling in April of 2018 in response to a letter from 25 young people demanding action be taken to protect the Amazon for this and future generations. The ruling requires all 81 municipal governments of the Colombian Amazon to integrate net-zero deforestation and climate adaptation criteria in their territorial plans.
Once approved the plans will set policy in each of the regions for the next ten years, determining such things as road construction and agricultural expansion, both of which have contributed to rising rates of deforestation in Colombia.
Fernández-Muñoz says one key element of the planning process involves the “agricultural frontier” beyond which residents are prohibited from clearing forests for pasture or crops. She noted that once in place the plans will provide clear guidelines for communities living beyond the frontier on ways to promote forest recovery.
In addition to deforestation, the team is also providing guidance on issues related to protection of Indigenous People’s rights as well as climate change adaptation and risk management.
The team has seven months to finalize their recommendations, a tight window says Fernández-Muñoz, considering the breadth and scope of work involved. Once complete, documents will be submitted for approval from regional governments followed by the Regional Environmental Authority and the Municipal Assemblies of each municipality.