In the valley of San Nicolas, in the eastern part of the Department of Antioquia, Colombia, areas of land that were once vibrant pastures were abandoned and left unmanaged. These areas are in the hydrological basin of the rivers Negro and Nare, which serve as the main sources of hydropower production in Colombia, contributing up to 33% of total power production in the country. The area is a sub-region that consists of nine municipalities, with small-scale landholders and farmers depending on the land for their livelihoods.
The San Nicolas CDM Reforestation Project is establishing forestry and agroforestry systems on 617 hectares of abandoned pastures in the sub-region of the valley. With active participation from the communities of the San Nicolas region of Antioquia, the project is implementing a plan for sustainable management of forest resources, focusing on discrete areas managed by small-scale farmers. The project is implemented by the Corporation for Sustainable Management of the Forests (MASBOSQUES), which is a public-private partnership formed by different types of members: Governmental (regional and local), business associations, local farmers, NGOs, and academic and research sector.
The sustainable management of the watersheds is advancing soil and water conservation, as well carbon sequestration. The project is also contributing to the conservation of biodiversity in the agricultural landscape by promoting the establishment of native trees species. During project preparation, a 20-months consultation process was carried out to identify the tree species most suited to the needs of local communities and landowners. Ten of the twelve tree species promoted by the project are native and several were threatened from extinction. To resurface lost knowledge about these species, a detailed study on seedling production and maintenance was carried out and the project has played a key role in rehabilitating protected stocks of these tree species and downgrading their risk status on the IUCN’s red list of threatened species.
Through active participation and involvement of local communities, NGOs, government and the private sector in the project area, the project is ensuring that it is generating financial resources and improving the livelihoods of small-scale landholders and farmers. Participants have set up an institutional arrangement that guarantees the direct participation of the local stakeholders, including most farmer communities, the municipalities, the regional environmental authority, NGOs, two universities and private sector organizations. Under the project, small-scale farmers have entered into contracts for 5-10 years reforestation or agroforestry schemes for their lands. All participating farmers have thus far maintained their contracts as the project is providing new income streams for lands that were previously abandoned and often degraded or too remote to provide for other profitable land use. Taking into account complex context of land rights in Colombia, a detailed land tenure review of the project area was carried out as part of project preparation. This process helped to formalize the tenure situation for a number of small-scale land-owners, including a number of formerly displaced people who returned to their customary lands only recently..