ALLCOT and indigenous communities: Allies in forestry projects
Written by Andrés Melendro, Sustainability Consultant.
Indigenous communities are key stakeholders in global climate change mitigation and their territories’ local sustainability. At the regional level, according to the State of the Amazon report published by WWF in 2017, territories governed indigenous communities correspond to 33% of the Amazon and only 8% of deforested lands. This fact highlights the relevance of their role in the fight against deforestation. Over the past decade, technology has empowered indigenous people to monitor their territories. For example, GPS devices are used by indigenous groups to report environmental crimes. This has made companies operating in the Amazon more accountable.
In Colombia, indigenous reservations have historically been located at the crossroads of drug trafficking routes and rebel groups fiefdoms. Having been hit by the armed conflict between guerrillas and the Colombian army, their development rates are now below the national average.
The Inga and Kamsá communities, native of Alto Putumayo and Caquetá provinces respectively (both in southern Colombia) play a key role in this new stage of their regions, in which the progressive restoration of public order can generate an intensification of deforestation. Putumayo and Caquetá are located in a transition zone between the Amazon and the Andean region, Colombia’s economic and administrative center, and they display some of the highest deforestation rates in the country. In addition, the signature of the peace agreement in 2016 has meant the arrival of settlers and large economic groups, which is reflected in land-use changes towards agriculture, whether of large estates or subsistence. The agricultural frontier and livestock frontiers exert pressure on forests. It is worth remembering that the forestry sector is the largest emitter of greenhouse gases (GHG) in Colombia, responsible for 36% of emissions, according to the National GHG Inventory. Hence this sector is key to achieve the goals of the nationally determined contribution (NDC) of the country.
ALLCOT coordinates forestry projects with the objective of preserving forests so these will continue playing their role as carbon sinks. Since the founding of ALLCOT 10 years ago, the social consultation process has been rigorous and indigenous communities have been allies of several forestry projects. The social consultation carried out by ALLCOT is always governed by the principle of prior, free and informed consent. Through the funds derived from forestry projects that ALLCOT develops, it is possible to improve the community’s wellbeing, measured by indicators linked to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) such as 24-hour access to energy, schooling rate or infant mortality rate. The ultimate goal is to improve the social and economic development of the local populations of the area in parallel with forest protection. This way, we contribute to both the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement. This is ALLCOT’s mission and the ancestral knowledge that indigenous people have about forests is a key tool to achieve it.