The vision for a deforestation-free Amazon
By Adriana Varón | Apr 27, 2017
The Amazon Vision Program, an initiative of the Colombian Government and supported by the Governments of Norway, the United Kingdom, and Germany, aims to promote a new development model in the Amazon region that enables the improvement of living conditions of its inhabitants through productive alternatives that do not cause deforestation to the already devastated rainforest.
It is considered the largest tropical forest in the world, where 15% of terrestrial photosynthesis occurs, and it is at risk. According to the National Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology, and Environmental Studies (IDEAM), 124,035 hectares were deforested in Colombia in 2015, from which the Amazon accounted for 46%, i.e., nearly 57 thousand hectares were devastated.
According to an Amazon Vision report, the phenomenon is mainly attributed to the burning of fossil fuels and land-use for agriculture and forestry.
According to data from the Amazon Scientific Research Institute SINCHI, the region moved from having an estimate of 3,286,798 hectares of agricultural border (the limit dividing farming land from the conserved natural areas) in 2012, to 4,865,053 in 2016. This means that 1,578,255 hectares were transformed by human activity, particularly to extensive livestock production. The departments of Caquetá, Meta, Putumayo, and Guaviare continue to be the most affected.
The Amazon Vision Program has set itself a goal of reaching zero net deforestation in the region by 2020. To accomplish this goal, it focuses on five pillars for action. Pillar 3, Environmental Development, responds directly to the drivers of deforestation
associated to the expansion of the agricultural border and is under the responsibility of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MADR) and the SINCHI Institute, where the Ministry is in charge of coordinating the sustainable production activities, and SINCHI coordinates the corresponding agreements with farmers.
For the particular case of sustainable production activities, actions focused on promoting the development and strengthening of association schemes were identified, as well as the supply of rural public goods (e.g., technology transfer and extension services and productive partnerships to access markets) and financial mechanisms (through special lines of credit – from FINAGRO [Colombian Financing Fund for the Agricultural Sector]), which enable the transformation of production systems with a social, economic, and environmental sustainability approach.
Within the framework of the Agri-environmental Pillar 3, MADR has entrusted the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) with the following tasks:
- Implementing demonstration models in silvopastoral systems with different arrangements, taking into account native species from the area, in addition to multipurpose forages (sustainable livestock), among others.
- Establishing multi-actor platforms and defining sectoral strategies for supply chains in the case of cocoa, rubber, non-timber forest products, and dual-purpose livestock, with a focus on the sustainability of Caquetá and Guaviare.
This component focuses on enhancing competitiveness and environmental performance of the production chains in the region (specifically, beef, milk, cocoa, rubber and non-timber forest products) in terms of supply, quality, access to markets, processing, and other aspects.
It also seeks to strengthen the capacities to improve the quality, traceability, and association of such chains. These strategies will promote productive transformation processes in order to ensure a sustainable management of the Amazonian soils, the recovery of degraded areas, the Amazonian landscape connectivity, and the reduction of deforestation.
To achieve this, CIAT is facilitating multi-actor dialogues to define sustainability targets along the production chain and monitoring mechanisms that allow reporting the results. The ultimate goal is for production chains to have an effect on the productive transformation of the crop and livestock areas already established and to promote new commitments to achieve deforestation-free production chains by 2020.
According to Matthias Jäger, CIAT’s expert in markets and value chains from the Linking Farmers to Markets research unit, “it will be possible for organized actors to manage different projects from other donors with an action plan agreed upon, approved, and with a long-term shared vision. This sectoral strategy with specific goals of reaching zero deforestation involves a change in cultural practices regarding current crop management.
The strategy is already being implemented. Representatives of the cocoa, rubber, non-timber forest products, and livestock production chains have already sat on the table and thoroughly analyzed themselves, as well as the bottlenecks that need to be solved in order to take advantage of the new market opportunities for processed products, carrying an added value for the region and reaching the goals of zero deforestation for which consumers are willing to pay a Premium price.
The case of the cocoa chain
Cartagena del Chairá, Doncello, Florencia, and San Vicente del Caguán, in Caquetá, are sadly the protagonists of the Colombian armed conflict, and are also some of the prioritized municipalities of the Amazon Vision Program.
The cocoa producers in these communities can become key partners to give back the Amazon region its splendor, while enabling the Governments of Norway, the United Kingdom, and Germany, sponsors of the Amazon Vision Program, to outweigh their efforts with support programs for local communities and in the strengthening of institutions to enhance the forest and agricultural management, under a pay for performance model.
The following can be easily heard among cocoa producers of Caquetá, who take great pride in the fact that: “Caquetá is the golden gate to the Colombian Amazon. We enjoy a variety of climates, mountain ranges, plains, and a good number of trees from different species, mostly native, with blooming periods different from other regions in the country”.
According to farmers, it is the environmental characteristics that give Caquetan cocoa an unbeatable aroma and flavor. And this is the hallmark to be harnessed by cocoa producers, or rather cocoa growers (because growing cocoa is an art).
But to continue developing unique aromas and flavors, to earn a spot in the field of national production , and even to long for a protected designation of origin, it is necessary to be at peace with the Amazon.
“Cocoa is planted within an agroforestry system associated to plantain, which allows for a sustainable income and food security in the first three years, along with timber species that in twelve or fifteen years can become a trading chain, with the corresponding permits from regulatory bodies. We are going to work on a productive reforestation. Not a single fallen tree, but many planted”, points out Armando Andrade, president of the Board of Directors of the Cocoa and Timber Producers’ Association of Caquetá (Acamafrut), an organization that gathers 2,200 cocoa-producing households.
Farmers from Caquetá and Guaviare have high hopes set on Amazon Vision; now the challenge is finding ways to generate a profitable agricultural economy consistent with the recovery and protection of the Amazon.
CIAT has made available to the Amazon Vision Program all the methodologies, tools, and learning participatory approaches related to value chains and access to markets , which have been developed as a result of numerous collaborative projects over two decades in Latin America, Africa, and Southeast Asia. https://ciat.cgiar.org/what-we-do/inclusive-markets
The SINCHI Institute, through the Environmental and Territorial Information System of the Colombian Amazon, SIAT-AC, has generated five maps that make it possible to see the advancement of the agricultural border in the last 14 years, in the northwestern part of the region.
You see and download them at: https://siatac.co/web/guest/productos/frontera-agropecuaria
Zero deforestation and sustainable development
The Amazon Vision Program is developed from five action pillars:
Pillar 1. Improvement of forest governance: Improves the coordination among institutions, forest management, planning, and the command and control mechanisms in forest management.
Pillar 2. Sustainable sectoral development and planning: Improves the land management instruments; productive development without deforestation, intersectoral and public-private agreements on infrastructure and extractive industries in the Amazon region.
Pillar 3. Agri-environmental development: Promotes sustainable practices; cocoa, rubber, non-timber forest products, and dual-purpose livestock production chains; productive partnerships; and access to markets.
Pillar 4. Environmental governance with indigenous peoples: Preserves ancestral culture, forest, and land; promotes sustainable production practices; strengthens authorities and traditions.
Pillar 5. Creation of enabling conditions: Monitoring, reporting and verification system; develops the National Forest Inventory.
“We are trying to build a shared ten-year vision of all stakeholders in the production chains in Caquetá and Guaviare and prepare a regional improvement strategy to solve the bottlenecks along the chain, based on the gaps identified. This includes a research agenda and an action plan identifying the institutions responsible for the implementation.”Matthias Jager
“Cocoa is established within an agroforestry system and this entails a bonus for the cocoa grower. We offer the community crop strategies that are environmentally friendly, working with a zero rate of deforestation and seizing the regional genetic material we are testing.”Gelber Rosas
Edilson Giraldo, Acamafrut director
The Amazon Vision Program is funded by:
Implementation is under the responsibility of: