by Andrea Amelia Vera Arabe
For more than 50 years, Colombia has faced an internal armed conflict which has restricted access to protected forest areas, affecting the management of natural resources. Two years ago, I was performing stakeholder consultations for a REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) project when I saw an elderly couple entered the class room. They had walked for more than four hours to attend the workshop, only motivated by the hope that the potential project would help them conserve their forest lands and improve their agricultural productivity. They walked because there is no infrastructure in these rural areas. No adequate roads, no technical assistance, no presence of the State.
In the country, we still are fighting against the lack of a land-use planning framework at national, regional and local levels. There is no intersectoral and intergovernmental articulation. The growing population requires the development of infrastructure and the provision of electricity, water, transportation and other resources. However, if there are no planning instruments to ensure adequate quality of life, national climate change targets will not be achieved, and natural resources will be rapidly exploited.
We, as professionals, should be able to response to these needs. The rural communities have the knowledge, and we (researchers, technicians, politicians and business) have the tools and resources to develop and address these needs. The projects should be developed under a community-based approach, amplifying the voices of rural people, facilitating poverty reduction, strengthening governance and empowering women. Participation at all levels is required to lead better-designed projects with targeted benefits and cost-effective implementation.
“…There is no more scalable or more innovative solution than the pursuit of peace” (Juan Manuel Santos, President of Colombia). It is expected that with the signing of the peace agreement (2016), environmental opportunities will begin generating social and economic benefits in the regions affected by the internal conflict through initiatives for conservation and the protection and sustainable management of natural resources while contributing to the mitigation of GHG (greenhouse gases).
This elderly couple always reminds me that there is no age limit for conservation; we all must work together at all levels, from communities to national governments. We all are connected, we all are linked.