For eleven years, dreams, knowledge and commitments have added up to consolidate the Community REDD+ Portfolio in the Biogeographic Chocó.
A portfolio that thrills us from Acandí to Tumaco has been possible thanks to the commitment and work of the Mutatá Indigenous Council and the 19 Community Councils that are part of the 9 REDD+ projects: Bajo Mira y Frontera, ACAPA, Cajambre, Bajo Calima, La Plata-Bahía Málaga, Concosta, Sivirú, Usaragá, Pizarro, Piliza, ACABA, Río Pepé, Montaño, Vigía de Curvaradó-Santa Rosa del Limón, Domingodó, Apartadó- Buena Vista, Chicao, La Madre and Cocomasur.
During this journey, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) set a learning path that served as a compass for guiding the strengthening process with communities. Their committed work and the resources invested were crucial in shaping the Community REDD+ Portfolio into what it is now. Its management and accompaniment with Fondo Acción continued until 2018 through the Connected Landscapes program, leaving significant advances that paved the way for great achievements and results.
Fondo Acción joined efforts, abilities and resources to boost the project’s objectives, strengthening communication and trust with each of the participating communities, understanding the dynamics of their territories to generate real actions aligned with their contexts, culture and traditions.
In 2019, the Sustainable Colombia Fund and its donors, as well as the Inter-American Development Bank, joined this journey of commitments, learning and challenges, with the conviction that working with the communities of the Pacific could build viable territories.
Each of these actors has played an important role in this story with the goal of extending it in time and promoting it as a sustainable option for the families of the Colombian Pacific.
Here we narrate what the process has been like and the present the most important facts. We invite you to learn more about this story by clicking on the following sections:
The art of weaving collectively
To dream up a territory requires respect for the diversity of knowledge, experiences and realities that inhabit it.
In 2015, Fondo Acción needed to implement the projects that had been co-designed by the BioRedd+ executor and the communities.
At this point in time, one of the biggest challenges that Fondo Acción faced was building trust with the communities. This is what the work was ultimately about: consolidating not merely a team, but one big family that could push forward in the same direction and invest its efforts in the conviction that, together, they could build viable territories. Fondo Acción got to work listening, gaining insight and understanding the dynamics of the participating communities, with their people and the local knowledge that unfolds and becomes part of their story. Those steps took some time, but they allowed Fondo Acción to bond with the territories and be welcomed by the hopes and expectations of the participating communities.
Teamwork, field trips, cultural exchange and resource management started to link communities to Fondo Acción in a spontaneous and genuine way. This familiarity led to great strides in the implementation of the REDD+ projects.
Having already built trust with the territories, what was next for Fondo Acción? The projects were committed to mitigating deforestation and forest degradation, which implied determining the steps to meet those goals. To this end, in cooperation with the communities, they set out to strengthen productive chains, community governance and forest monitoring capacities in order to assess the state of the territories.
«Many people stopped going to the forest to log, they now work in agriculture, in the productive projects introduced by REDD+. This has allowed them to generate income and to care for the forest. People understood that these projects don’t belong to the those who brought them here; they belong to the community.»
Viviana Rodriguez, Acaba REDD+ Project – Pepé River
Progress on monitoring, reporting, and verification needed to be made in parallel to the strengthening of the productive chains. This meant establishing forest plots and making headway in measuring both carbon and social and biodiversity indicators, which required putting together work teams. Therefore, each REDD+ project set up a REDD+ unit, whose staff was led by community representatives. By the end of 2018, the projects were ready to be verified and offer carbon credits for sale.
It is said that climbing steep mountains is hard but not impossible. There came a point in this journey when long-standing efforts stumbled: the portfolio faced a termination of funding from international cooperation, through Connected Landscapes, at a time when communities lacked the resources to pay for third-party verification. This process entailed corroborating that community activities related to governance, productive activities, and forest monitoring were indeed contributing to the reduction of carbon emissions. At this time, Fondo Acción took on the role of investor in an innovative model.
Fondo Acción set up a financial mechanism known as fondeo, which provides resources to the ethnic-territorial organizations to cover verification expenses. Communities must repay the amount borrowed to Fondo Acción, interest-free, using resources raised from the sale of carbon credits. This vote of confidence from Fondo Acción to the communities was ultimately backed with financial support from the Sustainable Colombia Fund, formalized in December 2018. The signing of an agreement launched the REDD+ Portfolio Support project in the Biogeographic Chocó.
This support from the Sustainable Colombia Fund (FCS) enabled the financing of each of the portfolio’s lines of action, achieving important results that ensured the continuity of the processes that were already underway. Through the productive development component, this partnership allowed the strengthening of sustainable productive chains such as naídi, coconut, chontaduro, fishing, cacao and achiote to continue. These low environmental impact chains posed great challenges, such as support for technical training, product transformation, strengthening of commercial partnerships, among other issues that, once overcome, fostered employment and generated income for the 19 Afro-Colombian Community Councils and the Indigenous Senior Council that make up the portfolio.
Spaces for participation, training and decision-making -in which communities defined how they collectively envisioned their territories- were created in governance, as well as tools co-produced with communities to address their demands and particularities. These became inputs that guided actions and decisions of the Councils and the Senior Council. In addition, gender-focused spaces for participation were encouraged and accompanied, recognizing the importance and value of Pacific women in the conservation of territories.
Monitoring, reporting and verification work was undertaken hand in hand with communities’ technical teams, creating tools and training that allowed them to learn more about their territories and thus take early measures against the various risks that endanger the ecosystems or forest. This proved that the actions developed within the framework of the project were in fact achieving the main objective: to reduce deforestation and forest degradation in the Biogeographic Chocó.
The Sustainable Colombia Fund donation was possible thanks to contributions to this fund from the governments of Norway, Switzerland and Sweden.