Translated by Siobhan Wakely & Rosanna Radford within the initiative PerMondo. Sponsored by Mondo Agit, which offers voluntary translations from Spanish into English. Translation proofread by Bradley Rice & Benjamin Bartz.
PARTICIPATORY ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT FOR PEACE
AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT IN REGIONAL COLOMBIA
ECOFONDO and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) signed a contribution agreement on 13 March 2004, for the implementation of the national project,'Participatory environmental management as a contribution to peace and sustainable human development in regional Colombia.’
The project responded to the issues surrounding the growth of illicit cropsand the detrimental effect it has had on the economies of subsistence farmers and ethnic groups. Such activity has distorted social and cultural dynamics, heightened insecurity over the population's food levels and had a significant impact on the environment. The main reason for people partaking in illicit production, is due to structural marginalization and rising poverty within communities. The situation is reflected by the low incomes, the low yield from legal production, unemployment and a high index of basic needs that are not being met. If we compare this to the significantly higher income garnered from illicit activity, then it becomes glaringly apparent why it has become such an attractive proposition for so many people. In combatting this, the project intended to offer an alternative way of life for these communities by strengthening the social fabric whilst enhancing their stability and territorial control. The project hoped to achieve sovereign security and self-reliance on food as well as environmental improvement.
Final Result: Ten separate regions in Colombia have been deeply affected by the cultivation of illicit crops. As a combative measure, alternative environmental programswere introduced and implemented by the farming and ethnic communities in each of those affected. The proposals related to the strengthening of processes concerning food security and sovereignty as well as social control of the territory. Furthermore, they hadan impact on public policies through strategies of environmental conservation, agro-ecological production and organizational strengthening.
The project consisted of ten regional sub-projects, located in ten of the so-called Regional Units (Amazon, Central and South Cauca-narino foothills in Putumayo, Chicamocha, Chocó, Magdalena Grande, Northeast, Orinoquia, Sabana Grande and the Caribbean, Tolima/Huila, Valley of/Northern Cauca).
Implementing organizations and beneficiaries: The project was planned and carried out by 56 community organizations and had a direct positive impact on1,360 families, made up of 7,983 people. Half of which were female adults and adolescents and the other were male of similar demographic. In addition, it indirectly benefited 23,169 people as part of the process overseen by ECOFONDO, including 49 project implementing organizations and the additional participation of 101 local and regional organizations.
150 farming, indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities were involved in the implementation of the scheme, impacting 17 provinces and 49 municipalities. The beneficiaries of the project were subsistence farming and ethnic communities including indigenous people and those of African descent. In fact they were the last remaining descendants of Embera, Nonuya, Cocama, Tikuna, Yagua, Zenu, Cofán, Nasa, Murui and Muinane. Each of the tribes worked alongside a further 101 organizations that helped to instate a more programmatic approach and improve certain operational aspects. The collective consisted of 5 women's organizations, 4 farming organizations, 42 communal action committees, 20 producers' organizations, 17 community-based organizations, 3 ethnic organizations, 4 labor management companies and 6 NGOs.
Duration: March 13, 2004 - May 31, 2010.
The implementation of the 10 regional sub-projects and their integration into the national project. It enabled the building and validation of an alternative environmental and economic proposal for each operational area according to their particular ecosystem and cultural characteristics.
Participating communities recognized and validated the agro-ecological proposal, stating that it strengthened community ties and became a definite incentive to keep hold of their land and within their communities. Effectively the shift towards illicit growing areas decreased. As a result, their quality of life has improved substantially. Furthermore, the quality of their environment has increased, human relationships have become more cordial and children are now more nourished,due to having greater access to basic needs.
Rectifying the balance in the roles between men and women is apparent, and the role of women in decision-making has been strengthened. In addition, levels of domestic violence have decreased. In particular, the undervaluation, subordination and control of women in relation to production processes, benefits and income have lowered considerably.
Men learned to share chores that were once deemed exclusive to women, which generated new spaces for community participation and new organizational forms that strengthened the community as a whole. Women trained themselves in aspects of production and conservation rights allowing for increased self-esteem and self-worth, fostering a sense of belonging and self-management. This aided in the collective construction of proposals for viable alternatives to resolve problems that affect the entire community as well as straightening out issues with basic needs on a family level.
Self-assessment and increased self-esteem was instilled within the young generation, and led to their social recognition as valid actors for the advancement of the community, becoming advocators of change.
After a process of demobilizing groups on the fringes of the law, the challenge (despite not being a goal of the project), of giving psychological support to children who had shown signs of post-traumatic emotional problems was undertook. They achieved significant progress in emotional stabilization and reawakened the childlike ability to dream freely without the worry of armed conflict.
Community awareness over the effects of violence, resulting from the planting of illicit crops, through the community uniting around environmental and agro-ecological conservation processes. The strengtheningof organizational structures has been encouraged as the initiatives eliminate social exclusion and pose less risk when compared to the illicit activity.
The impact of the project guaranteed food security and ensured people could move around freely without fear. Communities were motivated to encourage other communities to discontinue illicit crops, reassuring them that they and their children would be safe.
It had a positive impact on the young generation, encouraging the educational institutions, promoting the implementation of environmental projects.
They have achieved important results,the valuation of traditional and collectively gained knowledge actas the primary tools that give desired sustainability over time. It phases out technical (conventional) assistance which does notconsider what the farmer already knows. It allows a shared vision in which criteria isn’t imposed but shared; don't instruct but accompany; don't teach, but explore and communicate. Local knowledge and techniques are utilized to ensure tasks are carried out successfully and this self-initiative generates a greater sense of ownership, self-esteem and rooting of the territory.
The increase of income allowed families easier access to goods and services to which they previously did not have access, or if they did, it was limited. It is clear to see that improving quality of life generates higher levels of life satisfaction in general.
The participatory environmental management strategy generated community awareness in such a way that changes in perceptions and practices became evident in terms of the soil-water-trees relationship. Levels of appropriation by families began to emerge, which guaranteed and continues to guarantee the efficiency and maintenance of the introduced production models. In turn, this becomes the best mitigation strategy for the periodic displacement of people towards areas used for illicit crops. The strategy is able to positioncommunities before State agencies and armed groups on the fringes of the law intervene.
In local level commercialization strategies, each farm became a green point, in which the participating families commercialized their surplus. Thus the properties became channels of communication between buyers and sellers. Each buyer observed the different production systems adopted by the individual properties. It provided room for careful thought andconsideration over the situation that is currently causing manual labor migration towards areas of illicit crops.
Responsibility over resources was handed over to each community, who were tasked in dealing with them in a responsible manner. This initiative acted as the fundamental element within a framework of sustainable development and a pillar of the solidarity economy. Reinvesting profits towards greater development, achieving better efficiency in the implementation of resources and eliminating consumers without discrimination and keeping running costs to a minimum.
There was a greater resistance to selling land.
Communities learned that they didn't need large sums of money to work the land since the farm provided much of the inputs required. They also became aware that if they used chemicals on crops, not only are they killing the soil and contaminating the water, but they end up poisoning themselves, along with the people that consume what they produce.
They were able to stop the practice of selling off the best farm produce and instead reserve the rest for family consumption, thus improving levels of nutrition.
Increasing awareness and changing attitudes, regarding the importance of the diversity of native species, living in the areas where they worked. There is a growing need to advance reforestation work with these native species; to seek their conservation and the conservation of water sources.
Conservation strategies coupled with agro-ecological processes, helping to establish synergies between environmental quality and local development. It is important to put sustainable development processes in place, ensuring they have an impact on local public institutions and academic centers.
The establishment of community agreements involving families, educational institutions and state entities. They declared strict conservation areas and the regulated management of water as a basic human right.
Families pledged to gradually reduce bird hunting, with children taking over the mantle ofpromoting wildlife conservation.
Organizational strengthening and public policies developed through ongoing support and training to local organizations with a significant use of inter-institutional relations. It led to achieving important economic and institutional support for the expansion of advanced processes.
The reinforcement of inter-institutional relations with environmental authorities and academic centers, allowed action to be taken with regards to the management and conservation of native flora and fauna. They have even adopted the methodologies used by project research studies.
Important inter-agency agreements were achieved for clean production and to provide a political platform for food sovereignty, which will further contribute as is evident, to the sustainability of implemented processes.
Using various participatory planning instruments, the agreements outline the use and fortification of the skill sets or capabilities of local families. They equip local organizations with specific proposals and public policy arrangements that include the environmental dimension. Their participatory construction implied that the communities had a sense of belonging regarding decisions made.
Achievements in Figures
2,525.69 hectares were usedin order to accommodate the different production system models, using an agro-ecological and ethnic-based approach with specific characteristics according to the natural and cultural particularities of each region.
The productive models implemented and prior planning of each of the properties usedgenerated optimal levels of appropriation by every family. It guaranteed their efficiency and maintenance, even after the regional sub-project's work was formally concluded. They were constituted in strategies that mitigated the periodic displacement of people to the area of illicit crops. It impacted on family integration and the positioning of families before State agencies and illegal armed groups could intervene. Likewise, the above strategy was based on the appropriation and application of principles. It included practices, ancestral and agro-ecological technologies in the plots, farmland and collective ethnic territories. This contributed to the reviving of food production in areas that before the project, were aimed at the production of coca, and reinforced a harmonious relationship between people↔soil↔water↔ forests.
It produced 572 tons of livestock products.
The direct protection of water sources was obtained from the project, with efficient water management using isolation and reforestation in a coordinated manner. The ECOFONDO-CIDA national project put in place563 water management systems for irrigation and domestic consumption, benefiting a total of 771 families.
The implementation of the ten regional projects generated a significant increase, resulting in the production of7,686.37 tons of agricultural products, consisting of: 4,207.1 tons of tubers; 1,109.5 tons of tree fruits; 1,037.1 tons of musaceae (bananas); 490.8 tons of cereals; 314.2 tons of leafy vegetables; 313.2 tons of legumes; 115.6 tons of sugarcane; 83 tons of coffee and 16 tons of aromatic and medicinal plants.
Organizations adjusted their structure or composed appropriate organizational forms in order to adopt the transformation and marketing processes. Done in such a way, that without losing their nature, members of each organization might benefit from the possibility of generating new income obtained from the sale of their fresh or processed products. Thanks to these structures and the use of various marketing mechanisms (Green Points, local and regional farmers' markets, agro-ecological fairs and selling goods on the same premises), the following results were achieved.
49 regional and 101 local beneficiary organizations worked in conjunction with ECOFONDO. They concentrated on the coordination, strengthening and projection of local, regional and national organizational processes. The processes were of an ethnic and intercultural nature, initiating the construction and arrangement of organizational proposals for support with productiveprocesses.
The ecosystem restoration work covered 510.97 hectares of moist, sub-moist, dry and cloud forests. It was achieved through reforestation of native species with food, craft and commercial worth as well as isolation to promote natural re-vegetation. Thus, it was preserved and fostered as a habitat for wildlife and it recuperated water resources in the strategic eco-regions' scope of influence (Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Colombian Massif, Laguna de la Cocha, complex Caribbean swamps, Biographic Chocó and Colombian Amazon basins). 123,608 trees were planted on 1,134 properties, demarcating and establishing40,643.70 hectares as conservation areas.
From our findings, management plans were drawn up over those flora and fauna species with local vulnerabilities and/or declared endangered, including a strategy for the responsible management of marine resources by artisan fishermen. This led to the increased presence of birds and mammals in the adjacent areas, and the greater care of water sources.
A Regional GIS (geographical information system)for Chocó was introduced. The geo-referencing of established plots was carried out by the project, training community leaders in the management of GPS and other tools of the aforementioned system. For COCOMACIA, the Main Community Council for the Medio Atrato black communities, this process helped with accommodating cartography in its territory. In addition, it reviewed and adjusted37 internal regulations,to equal the number of local community councils in Baudó black communities, including rules concerning the use of land and natural resources.
Organizational Strengthening and Public Policy Component
Four Amazon reservations formulated life plans andcreated processes of knowledge recovery. They began the development of the bread of life for the Nonuya and Muinane villages, in Middle Caquetá.
Additionally, ten regional public policy proposals were given the go ahead. A different project was devised for each regional project. Each contained suggest guidelines, strategies and actions in terms of agro-ecology and conservation of biodiversity, civil society organizational processes and alternative actions to deal with illicit crops. There was also a similar proposal at national level.
It managed to strengthen the capacity for proposals and the dialogue between the participating organizations, through the development of collective regional agendas and proposed public policies. They were used as instruments for the establishment of consultation processes with environmental authorities, territorial entities and the private sector in the regional project's areas of intervention. Additionally, the combination with other regional processes promoted in ECOFONDO's scope, such as the campaign for the protection of water as a fundamental human right, led to the civil initiative for a constitutional referendum on this matter.
Facing forced displacement (which generated aerial fumigation conducted by the Government in the Plan Colombia framework) the CabildosIndigenas (indigenous councils)put clear mandates in place, addressingthe need to manually eradicate and replace illicit crops using traditional Nasa Tull production systems.
The regional sub-projects managedto influence the way in which autonomous regional corporations and municipalities were managed. Not only did it affect academic and professional practice of higher educational institutions but also other entities which all received various sorts of economic and technical support through understanding and signed agreements to that effect.
Beneficiaries were connected to various reflection and action processes regarding human rights. They worked on the identification and recognition of human rights violations in the Catatumbo region (which generated the forced displacement and break down of the social fabric, amongst other effects). They wanted to evaluate the progress of the organizational process and what can be achieved with this. The formation of the Social Integration Committee of Catatumbo (CISCA) was sought for this cause - to help with national struggles–meeting those victims belonging to social organizations and allowing local leaders to join organizations in other parts of the country. Another scenario was the national petroleum hearing, which helped local organizations advance their capacity to understand the decisions taken at a national level, enabling the use of strategic resources in the Catatumbo. All of the above manufactured the necessary skills for the collective and consensual definition of the stance held by the community action associations group. It defined the territory's protection as constituent elements for a peaceful and autonomous platform to fight for their rights.
The results for each subproject are presented in the following reports