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 páramo land in 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 regional 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

10 25 50
 
Description Waterworld water resources modelling provisional conclusions are as follows:

• Some 28% of water to Duitama (pop. 126,670) is derived from Boyaca's Paramo systems but only 23% of Duitama's water is derived from Paramos under some form of legal protection from unregulated land use change;

• 24 of Colombia's 181 largest dams have some water input from upstream Paramo and, on average, 3.1% of the flow of water into these dams derives from Paramo environments with 2.9% of water into these dams from protected paramos. Only 4% of current dams are influenced more than 10% by upstream protected Paramos with 4 dams receiving more than 50% of their water from Paramo;

• Hyrdo-electric power (HEP) is 70% of Colombia's electricity generation capacity. On average 1.6% of the flow of water into Colombia's 20 largest current HEP dams derives from Paramo environments. Only 1.4% of the water into these dams derives from protected paramos with no HEP dams influenced by more than 10% by upstream protected Paramos;

• Colombia's 25 planned large dams, yet to be built, would be on average 10% influenced by Paramos. 32% of these dams would have a >10% influence of paramos. Only 5.6% of water to these dams would be provided by currently protected paramos with only 12% of proposed dams influenced more than 10% by upstream protected Paramos;

• In summary, Colombia's dams receive inputs from Paramo landscapes. Some of these inputs are from Paramos outside of protected areas and subject to land use change. All are from areas subject to climate change. Future dams to be built as part of Colombia's decarbonization are likely to be more dependent on water from Paramo environments than the current dam infrastructure.
Exploitation Route Research outcomes being prepared as part of our wider outreach activities
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment

 
Description PLANT CONSERVATION IN COLOMBIA: INTEGRATING ECOLOGICAL APPROACHES AND LOCAL KNOWLEDGE FOR THE PROTECTION OF USEFUL PLANT SPECIES
Amount £69,251 (GBP)
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2020 
End 09/2023
 
Title Improvements to FreeStation and S,mart 
Description The FreeStation initiative uses open source hardware, open source software and open source 3-D printing technology to build and deploy reliable environmental data loggers with the lowest cost and easiest DIY build possible. These are designed to make reliable, detailed and local environmental data more accessible in areas that may have little local financial and technical capacity for the collection of such data. The FreeSensor initiative designs a variety of open source environmental monitoring sensors including fog gauges, wind driven rain gauges, soil moisture probes and water level sensors. As the names imply, the designs are freely available and open source so anyone can build them. Users of these are able to read the data via an SD card (and upload to a web platform) or connect directlly via WiFi or GSM. The FreeStation //Smart: platform at www.policysupport.org/smart provides both raw data and graphical summaries of the data as well as environmentally, agriculturally and hydrologically relevant analytical derivatives. The collected data contributes to the temporal and spatial detail of data available in widely used policysupport.org tools such as WaterWorld and Eco:Actuary. All FreeStation data are also open sourced for all to use. The //Smart: system brings together low cost monitoring technology from FreeStation with the WaterWorld and EcoActuary Policy Support Systems to develop and deploy reliable, low maintenance continuous monitoring and short term forecasting. The //Smart: stations combine standalone or internet-connected monitoring of environmental properties with near-term weather forecasts alongside AI based near-term predictions and variable-specific analyses. The system is designed to better understand environments and the impacts of human interventions on them through a combination of monitoring, analysis and modelling. Analyses can be carried out on single stations or networks of them 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2015 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Used by a wide variety of stakeholders across a range of countries 
URL http://www.policysupport.org/smart
 
Title Improvements to WaterWorld Policy Support System ( Improvements to the tool made during the award period) 
Description WaterWorld is a testbed for the development and implementation of land and water related policies for sites and regions globally, enabling their intended and unintended consequences to be tested in silico before they are tested in vivo. WaterWorld can also be used to understand the hydrological and water resources baseline and water risk factors associated with specific activities under current conditions and under scenarios for land use, land management and climate change. It incorporates detailed spatial datasets at 1-square km and 1 hectare resolution for the entire world, spatial models for biophysical and socio-economic processes along with scenarios for climate, land use and economic change. A series of interventions (policy options) are available which can be implemented and their consequences traced through the socio-economic and biophysical systems. The model integrates with a range of geobrowsers for immersive visualisation of outcomes. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2006 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Widely used by more than 3500 orga sijn >180 countries. 
URL http://www.policysupport.org/waterworld
 
Title Improvements to global dam watch knowledgebase 
Description GDW KnowledgeBase is a live dam mapping, curation, research, analysis and visualisation tool. Check and improve data for your country or basin before downloading. Analyse and visualise for research or education. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2021 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Being used to develop comprehensive global database of dams 
URL http://www1.policysupport.org/cgi-bin/ecoengine/gdw.cgi?project=gdw&action=GDWKB&CountryFilter=Singl...
 
Description Collaboration and formal partnership agreement established with Colombian Universities 
Organisation University of La Sabana
Country Colombia 
Sector Academic/University 
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
Country Colombia 
Sector Academic/University 
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 Academic presentation at Botany 2020 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presentation entitled "Plant Conservation in Colombia: Integrating ecological approaches and local knowledge for the protection of useful plant species" at the annual conference of the Botanical Society of America. This was hosted virtually, allowing the sharing of ideas related to people working on a range of botanical topics from around the world.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL http://2020.botanyconference.org/botany-2020-conference-organizers.html
 
Description Academic presentation (30th January 2020) at a 'Rurality' event 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Presented a paper entitled: "Paramo campesinos in post-peace agreement Colombia; farming, climate change, socio-environmental tensions and abandonment" at a 'Rurality' event hosted by the Countryside and Community Research Institute (CCRI), University of Gloucestershire. This was to share findings, generate discussion and meet other scholars working on rural issues, learn about different approaches and methods.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Academic presentation (September 2020) at POLLEN (Political Ecology Network) biennial conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Presented a paper entitled: "Socio-environmental Peace: livelihood-conservation tensions amongst campesino farmers of the Boyacá páramos" at the biennial conference of the Political Ecology Network (POLLEN) - an international academic conference. The conference theme was 'Contested Natures: Power, Possibility, Prefiguration', the paper was presented in the session: 'Territorial contestations, agrarian movements and the articulation of alternative trajectories amidst global food and environmental crises'. This was to share findings, generate discussion and meet other scholars working on similar issues, learn about different approaches and methods.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://event.pollen2020.exordo.com/presentation/995/socio-environmental-peace-livelihood-conservati...
 
Description Academic presentation at ICCB 2021 (International Conference for Conservation Biology) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Presentation given on "Integrating social and ecological approaches to conserve useful plant species in Colombia through the Important Plant Area approach". The ICCB is a global forum for addressing conservation challenges and for presenting new research in conservation science and practice, hosted by the Society for Conservation Biology.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Blog post (May 2020) on social science research posted on project website 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A blog post written about some of the social science research undertaken for the project. The blog describes some of the research and findings following a fieldwork data collection trip, in particular the context and challenges in one of the study sites. This was published in both English and Spanish on the project website, and shared with project partners, participants, and the wider academic and policy community, through for example re-publication through the Cabot Institute for the Environment (University of Bristol). It prompted interest and discussions around the research and participation.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://porelparamo.org/en/news/farming-in-the-paramos-of-boyaca-industrialisation-delimitation-aqui...
 
Description Blog post (September 2019) on social science scoping fieldtrip posted on project website 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A blog post written about a scoping trip launching the social science component of the project. The blog documents what the researchers did, some key issues being considered, and subsequent plans for the main research looking ahead. This was published in both English and Spanish and shared with project partners and participants, which prompted interest and discussions around the research and participation.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://porelparamo.org/en/news/scoping-historical-and-socio-cultural-conflicts-in-the-boyaca-paramo...
 
Description Interview on BBC Radio Gloucestershire 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Following participation on a panel at the Cheltenham Science Festival, Laura Kor was interviewed by BBC Radio Gloucestershire on the topic of conservation. This focused on plants and potential local level conservation actions. It was broadcast on several programmes several in the following week, spreading general awareness on the issues of conservation.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Launch of FreeStation Smart Climate change scenarios 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Launch of new climate change tools for FreeStation low costs sensors, developed during project
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://twitter.com/markmulligan/status/1339611304768761857?s=20
 
Description Organised and participated in an all team workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact All the team gathered online and in-person to discuss their findings to date. This encouraged a sharing of information, debates that challenged and enriched our findings.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Panel Discussion at Cheltenham Science Festival 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I was invited to speak on a panel at the Cheltenham Science Festival on the topic of conservation. There were approximately 40 members of the public who attended in person, with the event also streamed live on-line, with a further 20 people watching. This resulted in being invited for a radio interview on BBC Gloucester and to collaborate on a piece in the British Ecological Society magazine.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://www.cheltenhamfestivals.com/science-/
 
Description Panel Event as part of the ESRC Social Science Festival 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact A panel event was co-organised by project members Terry Dawson and Laura Kor, and King's College London colleague Maud Borie, focusing on the question "Are protected areas the future of conservation". This was open to the public and hosted both in-person and online featuring a series of presentations followed by a Q&A session. Over 50 people attended with high participation in the Q&A and subsequent networking event.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Participation in American Association of Geographers International Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact The talk is entitled 'Rural Geographies of Exclusion: Páramo Livestock Farmers in Boyacá, Colombia'.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description Participation in Royal Geographical Society International Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact The title of the talk was: Livelihood-Environment Tensions, Agroextractivism and Pastoralism: Campesino Farmers of the Boyacá Páramos. Roughly 20 individuals participated in the online talk. We spoke alongside a panel of experts from around the world, which encouraged comparative conversation on environment-livelihood tensions in mountain eco-systems. We also had a rich theoretical discussion on agro-extractivism.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Presentation entitled "Ecosystems in conflict - Environmental change impacts on the Colombian páramos" at the Valuing Nature Annual Conference 2019, London. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Presentation made at the Valuing Nature Network Annual Conference 2019 held at the Royal Society, London on Monday 28th and Tuesday 29th October. The Valuing Nature Annual Conference brought together people from diverse research areas and from business, policy and practice to share latest research findings from the VNN programme and beyond, and to improve the ways in which these findings can be incorporated into practice.

Presentation details: Dawson TP, Blake L, Chan K, Eisler M, Paula Escobar-Tello MP, Escobar-Tello C, Afanador J, Millington J, Moran D, Mulligan M & Rubiano J, 2019, Ecosystems in conflict - Environmental change impacts on the Colombian páramos, Valuing Nature Annual Conference 2019, 28-29 November 2019, The Royal Society, London.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://valuing-nature.net/ValNat19/overview
 
Description Seminar on arguementative valuation of ecosystem services 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Juan Afanador (PRDR Edinburgh University) presented his work on valuation to the Ecological Economics research group at Scotland's Rural College. The event was also attended by MSc students from the Ecological Economics degree
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Training course for UK teachers on tropical environments focus on project tools, data and case study 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Practical course for Princes Teaching Institute CPD course for Uk Geography teachers
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://twitter.com/markmulligan/status/1357989992916738048?s=20
 
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
 
Description WaterWorld and FreeStation training course, Cali, Colombia 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This training course brought together local and regional practitioners for training in the WaterWorld tool and the FreeStation ecosystem in particular those stations forming part of the Por El Paramo project
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description WaterWorld online training for Paramo environments and climate change 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Online training course (recorded on application of climate change scenarios in Paramo environments, suing WaterWorld)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://twitter.com/markmulligan/status/1339608545239678990?s=20
 
Description Workshop/taller with Agrosolidaria, Charala, Santander Province 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact In January 2020 we ran the first of two workshops with campesino farmers around the paramo fringe in Boyacá. The workshop was co-organised with Agrosolidaria a regional NGO seeking to link campesinio communities by economic and cultural network initiatives. The workshop explored ecnomid and social trade-offs faced by landowners and farmers in the context of paramo conservation initiatives.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020