Colombia

Colombia’s infinite wetlands

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Raquel Castillo Puentes dreams of protecting her lands and building a climate-resilient future for generations to come with the support of a GCF-financed UNDP-supported project in Colombia’s La Mojana

Every morning when the sun rises, Raquel Castillo Puentes takes a short stroll through her forest. On her way, she thinks about the marvels and treasures of her little piece of paradise.

Here in Colombia’s wetlands known as La Mojana, you find resplendent bouquets of tropical flowers, rare birds and raucous howler monkeys hanging from the trees. Raquel’s forest offers her a place of rest, of happiness. But floods, loss of crops, droughts and other climate change-related risks are putting Raquel’s forest – and her future – at risk.

Like other climate heroes the world over, Raquel is working to protect her natural patrimony, to preserve her livelihood and to build a climate-resilient future for generations to come.

With support from Colombia’s Adaptation Fund and the Ministry of Environment, through a project financed by the Green Climate Fund and supported by the United Nations Development Programme, Raquel is working to make her forest retreat larger… Hopefully the size of her entire farm, hopefully it will “cover the entire Mojana,” she says smiling.

The Scaling up Climate Resilient Water Management Practices for Vulnerable Communities in La Mojana, Colombia, or as the project is locally known, Mojana Climate and Life, will benefit more than 400,000 people like Raquel with strengthened water management, ecosystem-based adaptation approaches, early warning systems and climate resilient livelihoods.

PROTECTING HER FOREST

Raquel was born in western Colombia and found her place in the middle of the Mojana wetlands, in the department of Sucre. Here she lives on her plot, with her husband and daughter.

"I come from another region, and the environment is taken care of there, so now I have the opportunity to plant and take care of this forest," says Raquel.

Wetlands are fundamental in the life of the Mojaneros, they protect them from floods, they are a source of water and the basis of many economic activities such as farming and fishing.

But the wetlands of La Mojana are in danger. According to the Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar), despite all the essential services they provide, in the last century, the world lost 64 percent of its wetlands, and the decline continues at a rate of 1 percent per year – a percentage higher than the current rate of deforestation.

The La Mojana project is built in partnership with local governments and communities within 11 municipalities in La Mojana, delivering localized support to protect this vulnerable ecosystem and the people that call it home.

To reforest degraded lands, the project is helping local climate activists and enterprisers like Raquel to start nurseries on their land. Today, Raquel’s ‘Las Palmitas’ nursery has over 40,000 seedlings. The nursery has already planted 20,000 trees in the community.

"When they arrived here to tell me about the project, I was excited, that's why I told them that they could put the nursery on my plot. I go there and take a look at the plants, water them and pass the day with them, I even have a flower planted there," says Raquel.

The innovative project is implementing a restoration plan for 40,000 hectares (400 square kilometers) of vulnerable forest and wetlands with the participation of 50 communities. The plan was designed in partnership with the Ministry of the Environment, Colombia’s Adaptation Fund, and the Humboldt Institute, and is implemented in a participatory manner through community organizations, especially women’s organizations, who will be leading the restoration actions.

The restoration plan of La Mojana is part of Colombia’s main strategy for restoration lead by the Ministry of Environment in partnership with other national and local authorities, private sector, civil society and the academy. This strategy promotes improvement of degraded areas to ensure biodiversity and ecosystem services conservation, which also acts as a measure to adaptation to climate change

The Mojana communities have already restored 305 hectares (about 3 square kilometers). Raquel alone has planted 1,124 trees on 1.2 hectares, with trees such as American oil palm (Elaeis oleifera, Corozo dulce in Spanish), Laurel (Nectandra turbacensis), Guamoemico (Inga edulis), Pimiento (Phyllanthus elsiae).

The restoration of wetlands is a nature-based solution (NBS) that helps to regulate the quantity and quality of water. Wetlands are a first line of defense against the impacts of hurricanes and severe storms. They reduce the impact of strong winds and provide resources for communities.

Reviving these ecosystems acts as a carbon sink and is part of Colombia’s efforts to adapt to climate change and make good on commitments to the Sustainable Development Goals and Paris Agreement, as it was also included in its NDC where the value of NBS is being recognized giving special attention to protected areas, as well as to the conservation and restoration of strategic ecosystems such as paramos, mangroves, wetlands, coral reefs, glaciers, oceans and tropical forests, in recognition of their intrinsic value and the environmental services they provide for Colombia and the world.

“The restoration is a blessing. I trust that God will give me the power to see the trees grow. Imagine all the fauna that can live there! Here in Las Palmitas, we are all changing and planting trees, and we will not regret it, this initiative helps fight climate change and we will be happy when we see this good, green land again.”