Course:FRST370/The Impacts of REDD+ on Community Forestry in Antioquia Department, Colombia

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The Department of Antioquia, Colombia, has been praised by some as an example of what successful implementations of REDD+ projects may look like. However, others believe that REDD+ has served to exclude and disenfranchise the people most affected by the resulting land-use and corporate decisions. This case study examines some of the power dynamics which compose the two leading REDD+ projects' decision-making structure and known impacts, to determine what ethical considerations must be made to help ensure that they meet REDD+’s sustainability and ethical targets in addition to the unique needs of the local peoples. A comprehensive literature review has been conducted, and although it was found that the projects have been effective in stemming unsustainable forest practices, local marginalized people desire a higher level of involvement and decision making in the processes that are shaping their home. To help improve socio-economic outcomes for those affected by the REDD+ programs in Antioquia Department, Colombia, we recommend higher levels of governmental transparency, more frequent data collection and reporting, and better including the local marginalized peoples in all aspects of the REDD+ project development.

Keywords: Community Forestry, Sustainable development, Environmental NGO, Decentralized management, Redd+

Terminology

Acronym Meaning
CCB Climate, Community, and Biodiversity Standard. A standard administered by Verra to projects which demonstrate that they simultaneously address climate change, biodiversity preservation, and help to improve the conditions of local affected stakeholders.[1]
CCBA Climate, Community, and Biodiversity Alliance. A partnership founded in 2003 by international non-governmental organizations with the goal of mitigating climate change, reducing poverty, and conserving biodiversity.[2]
EPM Empresas Públicas de Medellín. The largest multi-utility provider in Colombia. [3]
FAO Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. They have collaborated with UN-REDD on community forestry and resource development in Colombia.[4]
INCONTEC Colombian Institute of Technical Standards and Certification. A private Colombian not-for-profit recognized by the Colombian Government as the National Standardization Body and representative for Colombia in international standards organizations.[5]
NTFP Non-timber forest product. Is defined by the FAO as "Goods derived from forests that are tangible and physical objects of biological origin other than wood".[6]
REDD+ / REDD-plus Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries, and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries.[7]
VCS Verified Carbon Standard. A widely used standard for verifying carbon reduction emissions administered by Verra.[8] An American not-for-profit which helps to verify and certify carbon credit producers and other key market players.[9]

Description

Map of Colombia. Antioquia Department is highlighted in blue.

This case study covers the involvement of REDD+ in two community forest operations of the department of Antioquia, Colombia. Colombia is a unitary republic located in South America and is divided into 32 different departments (akin to states or provinces), each governed by an elected governor and assembly for 4-year terms. Antioquia is the sixth-largest department of Colombia, covering a highly mountainous territory of nearly 64,000 km2 and holding 13% of Colombia’s population. It has a tropical climate.[10] The current REDD+ projects currently operating in Antioquia as of December 2020 are the Mutatá REDD+ Project and the Empresas Públicas de Medellin REDD+ Project.[11]

The Mutata REDD+ Project began in 2013 and is projected to remain active for 30 years (completing in the year 2043). The project operates in the North to Northeast regions of Antioquia and in the border regions of Chocó in the basins of the Guadalupe, Río Grande and Porce Rivers.[12] It includes the Indigenous communities of Embera-Katio of Chontadural Cañero, Embera-Katío of Jaikerazavi, and Embera-Katio of Coribí-Bedadó of Mutata in the Department Antioquia and the community of Carolina del Darién in the Department of Chocó.[13] This project has a secondary objective to contribute to biodiversity conservation by protecting high value and at-risk species, and a secondary objective to foster the sustainable development of local communities by improving local governance policies, ensuring the inclusion of affected minority stakeholders in decision making, and providing funding for local infrastructure, education, and healthcare.[13]

The Empresas Públicas de Medellin REDD+ Project began in 2011 and comprises 5,648 hectares of land in 37 sub-districts, and 8 municipalities.[14] It is a private project being led by the largest multi-utility company in Colombia (Empresas Públicas de Medellin).[3] It should be noted that this project does not cover one continuous plot of land, rather it covers a large variety of scattered plots of natural forest interrupted by a mosaic of fields, bodies of water, and meadows, all owned by the utility company.[14] A secondary objective of this project is to improve the quality of life for impoverished local people by providing them with modern high-efficiency wood burning stoves. A tertiary objective of this project is to help protect waterways and watersheds where municipalities in Antioquia obtain their water. [15]

The primary objectives for both projects is to reduce deforestation and forest degradation, and the natural restoration of already degraded forest areas to help mitigate climate change.[7]


Tenure arrangements

Colombia stands out from other Latin American countries in regard to the amount of land under collective tenure, consisting of 34% of total Colombian land.[16] Approximately 28.4% of total Colombian land is also owned by Indigenous Peoples under community-based tenures. As per the Civil Code of Colombia, there are five ways of acquiring ownership of property, they are as follows: tradition, accession, succession upon death, occupation, and acquisitive prescription.[17] Antioquia, located in northern Colombia, consists of some of the Pacific Forests, owned primarily by Indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities.[18] Agrarian Law, in turn, gives the state the right to intervene in the event that a private landholding fails to meet a land’s social function, or to provide land access to agricultural workers. Indigenous groups have mobilized since the 1960's, receiving international support in securing land reservations and strong land rights, including access, use, exclusion, and management, while most titled reserves are inalienable.[19] The Indigenous Management Unit of the government of Antioquia has supported the growth of reserves especially over the last four years, strengthening Indigenous rights to the land.

Local Campesino leaders in Antioquia meet with UN project leaders in 2013

As of 2009, Colombia and REDD+ began work on prioritizing environmental protection and forest management. Land in Colombia is split into three categories: state property, private property, and communal land. Tenure agreements here are a product of the peace agreements signed by the National Government and the FARC-EP, “[adopting] measures to promote appropriate use of land in accordance with its suitable purposes and to stimulate the registration, restitution and equitable distribution thereof, by guaranteeing progressive access to rural property”.[18] The communities in Antioquia Department have communal ownership of the land, with rights that are inalienable, protected from seizure, and exempt from statutes of limitations.[20] Community members, specifically Afro-Colombian communities, are granted the rights of use, access, exclusion, and management, though for the communities to receive an official title, they must establish Community Councils.[21]

That being said, Indigenous communities have secured stronger land rights than the Afro-Colombian communities, and certainly more than the Campesinos and farming communities. Only in 1991 was Transitory Article 55 signed, providing communal land rights to the Afro-Colombian communities, though some have called the language used, "vague" and "left to statutory legislation".[22] Such groups were not considered an ethnic group, or grupo étnico, politically until 1993, formally granting communal land rights to these communities. Additionally, Campesinos have been displaced on multiple occasions especially due to the armed conflict of the Colombian Civil War. Consisting of fishermen, miners, and farmers, the Campesinos and related communities made up of union workers have struggled to establish strong land rights. As a result, ethnic tensions have arisen between the Campesinos, Afro-Colombian, and Indigenous communities.[22] However, as the Afro-Colombian communities contribute greatly towards the logging and forestry sectors of the economy, local NGO's and grassroots organizations have assisted these communities, and those of the Campesinos, in securing stronger land rights through land reform in recent decades.

Administrative arrangements

The Empresas Publicas de Medellin REDD+ project is a private REDD+ project being run by EPM, a large Colombian utility provider with the objective to protect the natural forests under their ownership. They operate the program in partnership with MGM Innova Group (who helped with Program Design Document writing). Funding comes in part from EPM and from local municipalities. They have been verified by ICONTEC which is the Colombian non-profit organization responsible for certifying that standards are met in Colombia, (albeit after significant changes from their initial proposal), and as following guidelines beyond the minimum as set by the CCBA (Climate, Community, and Biodiversity Alliance), attaining the gold standard.[23]

The EPM REDD+ project complies to CCB Standards (Second Edition) as outlined in 2013 executive report released by MGM Innova[24] and verified by the 2013 audit and verification report released by Incontec.[25] This project also complies to federal standards for sustainable development as developed by Colombia’s Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development.[26] There have been concerns (as outlined in the audit report released by Incontec) that the project is not doing enough to support the local peoples.[25] This issue is presumed to have been rectified as the project was ultimately certified by CCB and listed in the Verra registry for sustainable development. [23] No documents mentioning how this has been accomplished have been found.

The Mutata REDD+ project is a public REDD+ project being run by the Greater Indigenous Council of Mutatá (Cabildo Mayor Indígena de Mutatá) with the objective to improve, protect, and enhance the livelihoods of local communities and vulnerable affected stakeholders.[27] They are in partnership with ecoPartners, ClearSky Climate Solutions, and Fondo Accion. They are funded through donations from Fondo Accion, the federal Colombian Government, and from selling carbon credits to the international community. They were verified and audited by Rainforest Alliance[28] and are listed on the Verra Registry where they are certified by the VCS and CCB standards.[29] This program also reports to the CCBA where their annual reports are verified[29] and to Colombia’s Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development.[12]

Affected Stakeholders

Stakeholders Primary Objective(s) Secondary Objectives Relative power Scope of influence
Afro-Colombian Communities
  • Procure more rights
  • become involved in decision-making and development
  • N/A
  • Have the required permits to use and access the forests and its resources
Local
Campesinos (peasants)
  • Procure more rights
  • Gain representation in decision-making and local development
  • Earn the ability to carry out functions and governance within their territory[30]
  • Far fewer rights amidst their community
Local
Indigenous Resguardos
  • Seek to maintain their land rights
  • Assert control over the community forests
  • Customary rights to the forests in Antioquia department
  • Decree of 2001 of 1988 states that the Resguardos are a "special legal and sociopolitical institution composed of one or ore indigenous communities that enjoys the guarantees of private ownership through collective titling, is in possession of its territory, and is governed for its management and internal affairs by an autonomous organization protected by indigenous law and its own norms" (citation needed)
Local
Producer Associations
  • Strengthen value chains and help in business practices of forestry industry
  • Create inclusive governance in Antioquia department[31]
  • They assert more control over the access, use, and sale of resources and commodities in the region than the other affected stakeholders.
Local - National

Interested Outside Stakeholders

Stakeholders Primary Objective(s) Secondary Objectives Relative power Scope of influence
Supporting firms (MGM innova group, ecoPartners, ClearSky Climate solutions, Fondo accision)
  • Provide a living for the owners of each relevant firm
  • Provide a living for the employees of each relevant firm
  • Holds major influence over the success of the local REDD+ projects of Antioquia as they are responsible for creating documents, scheduling meetings with locals, audit financials and policies, etc.
Local - International
Departmental government of Antioquia
  • Reduce poverty and crime throughout the department of Antioquia.
  • Increase sales of local resources and improve department productivity.
  • Holds control over the allocation of local resources.
  • Legislative control over local municipalities.
  • Legislative control over local police.
National
Empresas Públicas de Medellín
  • Protect the land and water used to provide utility service to the local municipalities.
  • Improve public relations / image with the local peoples.
  • Own large areas of land and water throughout the department of Antioquia.
  • Multi-national corporation with large amounts of money.
National - International
Federal government of Colombia
  • Reduce poverty, crime, and corruption throughout Colombia (including the department of Antioquia).
  • Increase international credibility.
  • Offer competitive products on the global market.
    • Can be achieved through "green marketing".
  • Holds supreme power over all lower levels of government in Colombia.
International
The United Nations/REDD+
  • Mitigate climate change through forest management policy.
    • Increase GHG absorption by increasing the number and quality of carbon sinks in developing countries.
      • Reduce forest loss and degradation through forest conservation and ethical management.
  • Improve the quality of living, wealth, and well-being of the local peoples in areas which they operate.
  • Holds influence over local, departmental, and federal branches of Colombian government by offering economic and developmental incentives for "good behavior".
International
The European Union
  • Reach their own climate targets.
    • To reach these targets, they must reduce or offset their climate impact.
  • Increase the number of sources of Climate Credits to increase competition and reduce the price per credit.
  • Holds major influence over the REDD+ projects as they are a major supporter and source of funding
International
International Community
  • Varying and ranges from importing cheap high-quality Antioquia forest resource to offsetting climate impacts by purchasing climate credits
  • Various / unknown
  • Holds influence over the federal Colombian government through which forest derived resources the international community is willing to import - a substantial source of income for the federal government through taxes.
  • Holds influence over REDD+ projects as they have the ability to purchase climate credits - a substantial source of income for local communities.
International

Current progress, goals, and issues

The community forestry development tasks in Antioquia department, Colombia, are joint projects undertaken by the FAO and UN-REDD. The national program under the Colombia REDD+ strategy general framework is led by the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development. With deforestation posing a large threat to the forests in Colombia, local communities and the federal government felt a mutual necessity for a new forest management plan. REDD+ and their associated projects were introduced with the goal of reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, as well as the long-term goal of combatting climate change. In addition, REDD+ sought to link community forestry activities to the country’s Bosques Territorios de Vida (Forest Territories of Life) Integrated Strategy to Control Deforestation and Manage Forests.[31] Through this, they planned to implement a community forestry model based on experiences in Guatemala and Mexico.

REDD+ primary goals in Colombia

1.     Train representatives of local producer organizations in market analysis and other useful business practices

2.     Work with producer organizations to implement instruments for inclusive governance that can further support effective policies and strengthen value chains

3.     Support community forestry initiative to shape the development of inclusive value chains in four regions of the country: Antioquia, Cauca, Tolima, and Valle del Cauca

Progress

REDD+ has already achieved much progress in activities related to forest governance. Major accomplishments include the development of an Early Warning System, improved legality in the use of timber and non-timber forest product (NTFP), and the aiding of Producers Organizations that maximize value chains that increase quality of life. In addition, the program has provided fund for research and has assisted in the co-production of science through the “fostering of linkages between specific science and policy networks”.[32] The reduction of illegal timber seizures, the increase in professional skills, and the increase in volume of legally harvested timber that has been extracted and transported by the community, also makes up the larger goals that have shown significant progress. In effect, these advancements have ultimately protected the forests against uncontrolled agricultural development.

Issues

Issues have been reported with the implementation of the community forestry projects, with some saying that “participation in development practice and policy has become a buzzword emptied of meaning”.[32] Long-term issues have also damaged the effectiveness of the program. Many communities in Colombia are still recovering from the Colombian Civil War, recording much political violence in the country.[33] The community forestry project supported the idea of decentralized management; however, decentralized management is seen as pejorative at times as the threat of undermined democratic institutions and representation is pervasive. Nevertheless, political participation remains a key pillar of Colombia’s peace agreement with the FARC, but the fear of violence exists in some cases of community governance. Amidst the political disarray, some prevailing issues have faired better since the introduction of the community forestry project.[30] Poverty and high unemployment have been rampant but has been dropping over time. Antioquia department still records the highest deforestation rates in the country while being a diversity hotspot, though as mentioned earlier, protections against deforestation have been successfully implemented.

The REDD+ community projects in Antioquia department have only existed for a few years, however, REDD+ has provided a means of relieving many issues like unemployment, inclusion, and deforestation, as well as the legality of logging for survival. The community forestry projects have led to a strengthened community forest sector, the creation of additional value for the benefit of communities, and an updated framework for forest public policy through a partnership with environmental NGO ONF International.

Assessment of power

Power analysis of all the stakeholders involved in the community forestry case study in Antioquia department, Colombia

Federal government of Colombia

Although the federal government has the final say over all governmental decisions, programs, and initiatives made throughout Colombia, in practice, the federal government often acts as an invited party rather than the initiator when interacting with non-governmental organizations.[34] The federal government is also a major source of funding for sustainable development projects such as REDD+ throughout Colombia including the department of Antioquia.

Department of Antioquia and related municipality governments

Non-federal governmental bodies such as the government of Antioquia and municipal governments are considered legally inferior to the federal government. They are usually delegated very limited power by the federal government.[35] In practice, the departmental and municipal governments invite non-governmental organizations to help support the education of local peoples, to provide financial relief for local populations suffering from poverty, and to help provide resources for the development of the region. These governments encourage programs such as the REDD+ initiatives to start-up in the area by assisting the creation of these programs where they can.[34]

Empresas Públicas de Medellín

EPM (Empresas Públicas de Medellín) is a major utility company in Colombia. They are owned by the municipality of Medellín[3] and by extension give the municipality increased control over local populations by controlling the supply of electricity, natural gas, water, and telecommunications. They hold influence over other local governments and organizations due to their monopolistic behavior and size.[36] With this being said, they are generally seen as being a responsible company, earning the respect of local peoples. They have started their own REDD+ project (the Empresas Públicas de Medellin REDD+ Project) to help protect the waterways which they own and to further cement their public image as a "green" company. Concerns have been raised over how they view and treat local stakeholders and protestors, however this has presumably improved over recent years.[37]

UN/REDD+

The UN helps control the flow of international funding and manages the sale of carbon credits to local projects. Their influence over the local peoples, governments, and organizations is considerable because of their control over funding for the area. They largely use their power to further the goals of countries with late stage economies who want to buy climate credits but still focus on improving the quality of life for local peoples. They may lower corruption at all scales of governance with whom they interact by refusing to work with overtly corrupt officials and setting up ways for the local peoples to report misbehavior.

Indigenous Resguardos

Of the major ethnic groups involved in the region, the Indigenous Resguardos have secured the strongest land rights and in recent decades has established decent land security through statutory and constitutional measures, effectively ensuring that their customary land can be managed by their own communities. Over the recent decades, their political power and influence has grown significantly.

Campesinos (peasants)

The Campesinos, or Colombian peasants, seek help through NGO-based community forestry programs like REDD+ in hopes of securing land rights and strengthening rights to use and development. In terms of power among the three major local groups, they are given low importance (though it has been growing recently) and have very low influence in policy and decision-making without the aid of other NGO's.

Local Afro-Colombian Communities

Like the Campesinos, the local Afro-Colombian communities of Antioquia also look to REDD+ for help in sustainable management of forests and securement of land tenure. They make up over 1 million people in Antioquia department that depend on the forests for livelihood. These communities were once much weaker and poorly organized but since the 1990's, the Afro-Colombian communities have gained significant momentum in terms of importance, especially in regard to the economy. However, such communities still lack major influence without the help of NGO's.

Local Producer Associations

Trained by UN-REDD and FAO, the local Producer Associations are able to add importance and influence to the participating communities of the community forestry project by maximizing value chains in an efficient, organized, and collective manner.

Recommendations

Recommendations for the REDD+ projects of Antioquia department, Colombia are as follows:

Better reporting

There are very few publications, data sets, or reports for the REDD+ programs in Antioquia. Likewise, there is very few updated publications available online. Many documents have been removed and links are now broken. Information for this study has largely relied upon inference through third party sources and internet archiving services such as the way-back-machine.

Increased transparency with governance

Because of the large number of actors participating in the REDD+ programs outside of local populations, more transparent policy making could increase efficiency and reduce potential for corruption throughout the project.

Better Incorporation of marginalized local peoples and affected stakeholders

Peasant farmers (campesinos) still have very few rights. It is mentioned throughout an assortment of documents that the idea of participation has lost its meaning to the managing organizations of the local REDD+ projects. Better accountability to allow for even the most marginalized groups to participate in decision-making is vital. This is especially apparent with the local peoples of the páramo complex (a high elevation region of Antioqia) who've largely been uncompensated for their participation in sustainability initiatives and have been negatively impacted by local conflict exacerbated by poor management decisions. [38]

References

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  2. "About the CCBA". The Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance. 2020. Retrieved December 4, 2020.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 "Investor FAQ". Empresas Publicas de Medellin. 2020. Retrieved December 3, 2020.
  4. "About FAO". Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 2020. Retrieved December 15, 2020.
  5. "INCONTEC". International Organization for Standardization. 2020. Retrieved December 4, 2020.
  6. "Non-Wood Forest Products". Food and Agriculture Organizations of the United Nations. May 28, 2020. Retrieved December 12, 2020.
  7. 7.0 7.1 "What is REDD+". EU REDD Facility. 2020.
  8. "Verified Carbon Standard - Verra". Verra. 2020. Retrieved December 6, 2020.
  9. "Who We Are - Verra". Verra. 2019. Retrieved December 11, 2020.
  10. "Colombia | History, Culture, & Facts". Encyclopedia Britannica. December 2020. Retrieved December 9, 2020.
  11. "Projects in Colombia". International Database on REDD+ projects and programs. December 2020. Retrieved December 9, 2020.
  12. 12.0 12.1 "Project: Mutatá REDD+ Project". International Database on REDD+ Projects. 2015. Retrieved December 4, 2020.
  13. 13.0 13.1 "BIOREDD+ MUTATÁ REDD+ PROJECT" (PDF). CCBA. November 2014. Retrieved November 25, 2020.
  14. 14.0 14.1 "EPM REDD+ PROJECT ENGLISH SUMMARY" (PDF). MGM Innova. April 3, 2013. Retrieved November 25, 2020.
  15. "Project: Empresas Públicas de Medellin REDD+ Project". International Database on REDD+ Projects. 2015. Retrieved December 3, 2020.
  16. Herrera Arango, J. (2018). "Collective land tenure in Colombia: Data and trends". Center for International Forestry (CIFOR).
  17. "Colombian Civil Code. Article 669 et seq". Cargando el Contenido del Documento. 2015. Retrieved November 19, 2020.
  18. 18.0 18.1 Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) (2017). "Mid-Term Progress Report Colombia" (PDF). FCPF.
  19. Revista Semana (2019). "How Indigenous Lands are Being Titled in Antioquia". The Amazon Conservation Team.
  20. Land Links (2018). "Colombia". LandLinks.
  21. Garcia, Carolina (2014). "Fostering Ethno-Territorial Autonomy: A Colombian Case Study of Community-based Conservation of Mangroves". Journal of Latin American Geography. 13 – via ResearchGate.
  22. 22.0 22.1 Dennis, Christopher (2006). AFRO-COLOMBIAN HIP-HOP: GLOBALIZATION, POPULAR MUSIC AND ETHNIC IDENTITIES. The Ohio State University.
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  25. 25.0 25.1 "VALIDACIÓN DEL PROYECTO PROYECTO REDD+ EPM" (PDF). incontec international. December 2, 2013. Retrieved November 22, 2020.
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  27. "PROJECT DESCRIPTION - MUTATÁ REDD+ PROJECT". Verra. 2018. Retrieved December 8, 2020.
  28. "Final VCS & CCB Validation Report - Rainforest Alliance". Verra. 2017.
  29. 29.0 29.1 "MUTATÁ REDD+ PROJECT". Verra Registry. 2020. Retrieved December 4, 2020.
  30. 30.0 30.1 FFEM (n.d.). "Sustainable forest development in Colombia's Pacific Region". FFEM. Retrieved November 6, 2020.
  31. 31.0 31.1 Quintero, A. (n.d.). "Voices from the field: Sustainable Forest Management through Community Forestry in Colombia | REDD+ Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation | Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations".
  32. 32.0 32.1 Aguilar-Støen, M (2015). "Global forest conservation initiatives as spaces for participation in Colombia and Costa Rica". Geoforum. 61: 38 – via ScienceDirect.
  33. Steele, Abbey (2018). "Democracy and civil war: The case of Colombia". Conflict Management and Peace Science. 35: 587–600 – via SAGEpub.
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  38. Álvarez-Salas, Lizeth M.; Gómez-Aguirre, Ana M.; Cano-López, Wilmar A. (July 2016). "Percepciones de los servicios ecosistémicos en el complejo de páramos Frontino–Urrao, departamento de Antioquia, Colombia". Biota Colombiana. 17 – via Instituto de Investigación de Recursos Biológicos Alexander von Humboldt.


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