Towards environmental reconciliation in Páramo land in Boyacá: resolving ecosystem trade-offs in post-conflict spaces

Lead Research Organisation: King's College London
Department Name: Geography

Abstract

Land was at the heart of Colombia's long-running armed conflict and is now the pillar on which the success of the peace agreement rests. The war changed the country's social landscapes as much as its natural ones and efforts to address the ecological balance are doomed to fail unless they confront that legacy of conflict. Decades of conflict displaced millions of people from their land and traditional livelihoods, disrupting the social fabric as much as the ecological. The páramo regions in Boyacá illustrate these socio-ecological conflicts. For the last 50 years Boyacá has experienced substantial conflict over resources, manifested through land-grabs, dispossession and displacement of local communities. The situation has deteriorated in the last decade associated with the mining boom that has pushed traditional campesinos into páramo land, further complicated by the fracking concessions currently being awarded in the region. In the wake of the peace agreement Boyacá faces substantial environmental problems, particularly with regards to the páramos, which the local authorities will have to delimit for ecosystem preservation and biodiversity conservation. In doing so, they risk potential new conflicts between contested land usages. Their decision-making needs to balance conservation priorities with concerns for the social and economic future of the displaced traditional campesinos, potato and onion growers, commercial and artesanal miners and small farmers. At the same time, the loss of these livelihoods imposes risks to local and regional food security and rural development programmes.

This project integrates a group of multi-disciplinary scholars from environmental and veterinary sciences, cultural and historical geography, anthropology, economics and design, working with an understanding of the social and ecological nature of these challenges. At the heart of the project is our conviction that peace and reconciliation between the different users of páramon order to facilitate and legitimise decision-making is not an add-on to conservation efforts but a sine qua non condition to the effective conservation of páramo land.

Planned Impact

This Project aims to develop integrated models and methodologies for understanding and managing social-ecological systems in the threatened páramos of Boyaca, Colombia, which are internationally recognised biodiversity hotspots. Illumination of environmental change impacts and vulnerability of these sensitive ecosystems will facilitate assessment of cost-effective adaptation strategies and the identification of robust policy options to protect livelihoods without compromising biodiversity conservation objectives. Effective communication with our target audiences to get a good overview of stakeholder needs, to test our ideas and to disseminate our products is therefore essential.

The programme of activities is designed to create a dialogue on needs, new approaches and next steps in relation to land-use change, ecosystem services and livelihoods impacts research with the three following key audiences:

- Scientists, in order to obtain input into our ideas and opinion on their scientific credibility;

- Policy-makers, as they are best placed to tell us whether the methodologies and integrated assessment frameworks are of potential use;

- Local communities and stakeholder group, who will contribute to our understanding of the systems being analysed (co-production of knowledge). A participatory approach can empower local participants to reveal the complexity of the systems which they depend upon for their livelihoods.

The key tools to communicate our findings to policy decision makers, farmers, natural resource managers and NGOs will be through our reports and publications and a capacity building workshop which will be organised at the end of the project. We will prepare an accessible statement on the key outcomes of the workshop and the project, written in Spanish and English. The successful dissemination will be facilitated by the established links between the Colombian academic organisations involved in the project and the collaborators from influential rgional and national stakeholders.

Our approach will explore the potential of integrating different knowledge domains and interdisciplinary expertise which involve direct community-research team collaboration in the development of shared conceptual models and understandings of the rural communities' activities, domain and requirements. This research is fundamental for poverty alleviation in the poorest communities where capital assets are inadequate or weakened, and governance and equality is compromised. The outcomes of this project will inform policy-makers and international development organisations as to where to target critical interventions for reducing hardship and distress at the household to the community levels.

The various dissemination activities of the project will also contribute to the education, training and awareness-raising of the local and international academic, scientific and policy community with an overall emphasis on information sharing and transnational co-operation.

Publications

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Description Collaboration and formal partnership agreement established with Colombian Universities 
Organisation University of La Sabana
PI Contribution A formal Collaboration Agreement has been set up with the UK University partners (King's College London and the universities of Bristol, Edinburgh and Loughborough) and the Colombian universities of La Sabana (Universidad de La Sabana, Dr Felipe Cárdenas) and Valle (Dr Jorge Rubiano, Universidad del Valle).
Collaborator Contribution Dr Felipe Cárdenas and his research group from Universidad de La Sabana, recognized by the highest scientific authority in Colombia - Colciencias - is supporting the mutual development of our social-economic research. The objective is to establish a symmetrical scientific relation between the partners for the exchange of ideas, theoretical and methodological frameworks that benefit the project. The Universidad de La Sabana will act as the local host institution to facilate the fieldwork and engagement of local stakeholders. Dr Jorge Rubiano and members of his team at the Universidad del Valle will be coordinating the development, production and deployment of the weather station equipment and climate monitoring stations into our designated Paramo catchment locations.
Impact A formal Collaboration Agreement has been published.
Start Year 2018
 
Description Collaboration and formal partnership agreement established with Colombian Universities 
Organisation University of Valle
PI Contribution A formal Collaboration Agreement has been set up with the UK University partners (King's College London and the universities of Bristol, Edinburgh and Loughborough) and the Colombian universities of La Sabana (Universidad de La Sabana, Dr Felipe Cárdenas) and Valle (Dr Jorge Rubiano, Universidad del Valle).
Collaborator Contribution Dr Felipe Cárdenas and his research group from Universidad de La Sabana, recognized by the highest scientific authority in Colombia - Colciencias - is supporting the mutual development of our social-economic research. The objective is to establish a symmetrical scientific relation between the partners for the exchange of ideas, theoretical and methodological frameworks that benefit the project. The Universidad de La Sabana will act as the local host institution to facilate the fieldwork and engagement of local stakeholders. Dr Jorge Rubiano and members of his team at the Universidad del Valle will be coordinating the development, production and deployment of the weather station equipment and climate monitoring stations into our designated Paramo catchment locations.
Impact A formal Collaboration Agreement has been published.
Start Year 2018
 
Description UK-Colombia Integration Workshop, 9-10 October 2018, Bogota,Colombia 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact The UK's Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) jointly with the Colombian Administrative Department of Science Technology and Innovation - Colciencias, held an integration workshop to:
1. Provide an opportunity for the UK and Colombian project teams to present their projects.
2. Facilitate partnerships between UK environmental and arts/humanities researchers and Colombian researchers
3. Provide an opportunity for project teams to develop an understanding of how they can work together to deliver a coherent programme.
4. Allow the research funders to set the expectations of the programme.
5. Explore links to the GCRF Growing Research Capability award: Preserving, restoring and managing Colombian Biodiversity through Responsible Innovation (GROW-Colombia).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018