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New Restoration Project in the Andean-Amazonian foothills of Colombia

Tree Partnerships Manager Madeleine Scordellis shares more about this new reforestation project that engages all generations in restoration and environmental protection.

 

Thanks to your generous donations, I am delighted to share a new restoration project TreeSisters is supporting. Located in the Andean-Amazonian foothills of Colombia, the project works closely with families living around the edges of Municipal Natural Parks and the Alto Fragua Indi Wasi National Park to support reforestation, income generation, environmental education and land management planning and development, including the planting of native forestry and agroforestry tree species.


These trees will aid the restoration and consolidation of the biodiverse forest corridors and protect existing forests in Belen de los Andaquíes. This area, in the southeast of Colombia in the Caquetá department, is an ecologically important transitional zone between the Andean Massif and the Amazon jungle. The project also aims to preserve the wetland areas of Belén, which are currently invaded by cattle. Here, a natural barrier of native palms will be planted, which will also economically benefit the local community.


The project is led by the Corporación para el Desarrollo Sustentable para el Piedemonte Andino-Amazónico (CORDESPA), a local NGO that residents formed to work with people in land management planning for conservation and sustainable development.


CORDESPA’s approach is to work at the local community level. Starting with families, from children to elders, a big part of their focus is to encourage a shift in perspective from seeing the environment and forests as enemies to seeing them as allies and providers. Most of the population has migrated from other areas of Colombia over the last 100 years, and they often view the national parks as a limitation preventing their expansion. This project is working closely with families to highlight the beneficial aspects of the forest and fully involve them in the how and why of conservation efforts.


Starting with families, from children to elders, a big part of their focus is to encourage a shift in perspective from seeing the environment and forests as enemies to seeing them as allies and providers.

Cattle grazing, bananas, maise, sugar cane, cacao, coffee and coca - primarily for illicit purposes, are the most common types of production in the area. As such, producing forest products such as fruit and oils through planting native agroforestry species, which in turn

benefit families economically, is a key part of this project. This approach further strengthens their relationship with the forest and assists in moving towards more sustainable economic activities. The project also works with a local women’s association that processes palm fruits and is currently exploring how to strengthen their capacities.


Aiming to go beyond the typical male-dominated land management culture, the project involves the whole family, including women, children and elders. For example, children are invited to paint how they would like their farm to look, and the elders are invited to bring their knowledge about how the land used to be and to share the mythology or stories they carry.

The project also works with local schools, building several tree nurseries so students can propagate the seeds, care for the seedlings, and participate in environmental education workshops. The seeds are collected from mother trees in the local ecosystem to ensure true sustainability, and the species are identified with the communities to ensure they match their needs and visions for their lands and future.


This project is exciting for TreeSisters because it is centred around a participatory approach with education and nature connection embedded into its aims. Furthermore, we are partnering directly with an NGO whose staff are all local to the region. This is what our new Restoration Strategy looks like in action, putting leadership of landscape restoration into local hands.


CORDESPA were also thrilled to partner on a project based on a shared community vision rooted in local knowledge rather than a traditional top-down allocation of funds with a pre-existing strategy and design. In the words of Maria Campo, CORDESPA’s legal representative:

“Often funds come with a specified objective, and we can’t go outside of that. As an organisation, what we want to do is work with people on the initiatives that the families themselves have identified… where we work with the families to build plans based on what they envisage for their future, bearing in mind the need to conserve the trees, rivers and national parks because they provide environmental services, and above all thinking about the sustainability for the children and grandchildren to come.”

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