ArticlePDF Available

Could Peace be Worse than War for Colombia's Forests?

Authors:

Abstract and Figures

The forests of Colombia are influenced by the actions of armed groups and, in many cases, their settlers are economically dependent on illicit crops. Up to the present armed conflict has simultaneously discouraged organized exploitation in some frontier areas, and encouraged unsustainable use of natural resources therein. The Colombian government seeks to end the conflict by pursuing peace negotiations, and to eradicate illicit crops. How will these policies affect the forests? The environmental consequences of these policies are not only dependent on the unlikely economic success of alternative development, but on making informed decisions about infrastructure development in affected areas.
Content may be subject to copyright.
The Environmentalist, 21, 305–315, 2001
©2002 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Manufactured in The Netherlands.
Could peace be worse than war for Colombia’s forests?
MARÍA D. ÁLVAREZ
Columbia University, Mail Code 5557, 2960 Broadway, New York, NY 10027-5557, USA
Summary. The forests of Colombia are influenced by the actions of armed groups and, in many cases,
their settlers are economically dependent on illicit crops. Up to the present armed conflict has simul-
taneously discouraged organized exploitation in some frontier areas, and encouraged unsustainable use
of natural resources therein. The Colombian government seeks to end the conflict by pursuing peace
negotiations, and to eradicate illicit crops. How will these policies affect the forests? The environmental
consequences of these policies are not only dependent on the unlikely economic success of alternative
development, but on making informed decisions about infrastructure development in affected areas.
Keywords: Colombia, forests, conflict, illicit crops, deforestation
Introduction
Areas of human encroachment into the remnant
forests of Colombia are currently under the influ-
ence of belligerent armed groups: guerrillas and/or
paramilitaries. These areas include the agricul-
tural frontiers in Andean, Pacific, and Amazonian
forests (Álvarez, in press). Armed groups pro-
mote environmentally relevant policies ranging
from ‘gunpoint conservation,’ to the procurement
of territories for cattle ranching that are then
cleared of any forest (Dávalos, 2001; Álvarez, in
press).
Up to the present, armed conflict has simul-
taneously discouraged migration and organized
exploitation in frontier areas, and encouraged
unsustainable use of natural resources in them
(Dávalos, 2001; Álvarez, in press). Forests in
municipalities where armed groups operate con-
stitute 33 percent of the total remaining forests,
with 18 percent of all forests found in munic-
ipalities experiencing conflict between the two
main armed groups: guerrillas and paramilitaries
(Álvarez, in press). Conflict between these groups
often involves local resources, including arable
María D. Álvarez is a student at Columbia University. E-mail:
mda2001@columbia.edu.; Phone: 212-854-8106; Fax 212-854-
8188.
land, minerals, hydrocarbons, and illicit crops.
The two most commonly planted illicit crops
are coca (Erythroxylum sp.), from which cocaine
is extracted; and opium poppy (Papaver som-
niferum), from which heroin is derived. Most fron-
tiers under armed rule are beyond the reach of
governmental conservation efforts, and are also
associated with the economy of the production,
processing, and trafficking of the prohibited drugs
cocaine and heroin.
Illicit crops in Colombia are a significant cause
of deforestation in biodiversity-rich areas, even in
protected land, in the southern Andes, the north-
ern West Andes, the Darién lowlands, the Sierra
Nevada de Santa Marta, Serranía del Perijá, and
Serranía de San Lucas (Fig. 1). If current trends
of illicit crop expansion persist, fragmentation of
forests in some protected areas of high priority for
biodiversity conservation may reach one tenth of
their surface over the next decade (Álvarez, 2002).
Deforestation is only one of the many envi-
ronmental injuries associated with illicit activities:
with higher profit margins, pesticides are applied
more liberally than in commercial agriculture and,
lacking any regulation, reagents from process-
ing factories are discarded directly into water-
ways. Armstead (1992) estimated the runoff from
Colombian prohibited drug processing facilities at
a total of 20 million litres per year of ethyl ether,
306 Álvarez
Figure 1. Remnant forests of Colombia compiled from Etter (1998). Main sites mentioned in the text: A, Sierra Nevada de Santa
Marta; B, Serranía del Perijá; C, Serranía de San Lucas; D, Darién lowlands; Cordilleras of the Andes: E, West Andes; F, Central
Andes; G, East Andes; H, Eastern Llanos (natural grasslands); I, Parque Nacional Natural Munchique (West Andes and Pacific
lowlands); J, Serranía de la Macarena; K, Guaviare river; L, Macizo Colombiano; M, Amazonia; N, Caquetá river; and O, Putumayo
river.
acetone, ammonia, sulfuric acid, and hydrochlo-
ric acid. The environmental effects of pollution
from illicit crops and their economy remain the
subject of much speculation and little system-
atic research. A comprehensive assessment of the
damage caused by illicit enterprises is lacking.
Systematic research on illicit crops and prohib-
ited business is, for obvious reasons, dangerous
and information available on deforestation, her-
bicides, reagents, etc. is estimated from outdated,
limited, or anecdotal observations, e.g., Armstead
(1992), Dourojeanni (1992), Cavelier and Etter
(1995), Dávalos (2001). The only current figures
available are those counting hectares of illicit
crops in some forested areas (see Álvarez, 2002).
An analysis involving linear-time observations
Could peace be worse than war for Colombia’s forests? 307
across a representative range of ecosystems where
illicit crops are grown, in all forested areas, has
not been done. This paper assumes that environ-
mental damage arising from illicit activities is very
large. Nevertheless, until quantitative comparisons
between illicit damage and ‘background’ defor-
estation, or between runoff from legal and illicit
agriculture, become available, this assertion will
remain a hypothesis to test.
A political crossroads: Peace and eradication
in Colombia
The political landscape of Colombia is evolv-
ing at a vertiginous pace, making conditions for
forest conservation very unstable. A critical fac-
tor altering the political landscape is the peace
process that began in 1998 with the election of
Andrés Pastrana as President with a mandate to
end a half-century of war (World Bank, 1999).
The Colombian government is seeking an end
to the conflict by using a dual strategy. One
part involves negotiations that are underway with
the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia
(FARC), largest guerrilla group, and are being
pursued with the Ejército de Liberación Nacional
(ELN), second largest guerrilla. A large armed
group opposed to the guerrillas, the Autodefen-
sas Unidas de Colombia or “paramilitaries,” has
only recently articulated a political strategy and
remains marginal to the government’s peace nego-
tiations (Cubides, 1999; Chernick, 2000).
At the same time, foreign aid is being obtained
to bolster the military capacity of the Colom-
bian army for illicit crop eradication and anti-
guerrilla operations, while committing domestic
and international resources for alternative devel-
opment projects (Presidencia de la República,
2000). The logic behind these seemingly oppos-
ing tactics is that government forces are defeated
because guerrillas and paramilitaries channel vast
sums of money from illicit crop growers, and pro-
cessors and traffickers of prohibited drugs. Hence
international aid to interdict illicit business would
help government forces subdue armed groups,
and thus make negotiations serious and effec-
tive (M. Rodríguez, pers. comm.). This package
of domestic and international funds is generally
known as ‘Plan Colombia.’
By removing armed rule and chronic political
instability, one could expect peace negotiations to
have a direct effect on the management of nat-
ural resources—including forests and wildlife—of
those areas currently dominated by any armed
group, as well as territories in dispute. Thus the
re-establishment of government control in rural
areas should send shock waves across a significant
portion (see Álvarez, in press) of the estimated
48.8 million ha of forests remaining in Colombia
(Fig. 1).
The main ways in which ‘Plan Colombia’ will
affect forest conservation is through the imple-
mentation of a scheme to eradicate illicit crops
and by the development of alternative economic
projects. The extension of illicit crops in Colom-
bian forests has been estimated at 109300 ha
in 1998 (UN-ODCCP, 1999). A large proportion
(85 percent) of illicit crop cultivation takes place
in newly deforested land, and there is additional
deforestation for airstrips, food crops and new
illicit crops estimated at 2.5–3.0 times the area
in illicit crops (Dourojeanni, 1992, Cavelier and
Etter, 1995).
If these estimates are correct, actual defor-
estation from illicit crops is at least twice the
area of illicit cultivation reported by UN-ODCCP
(1999). Therefore, alternative development pro-
grams in illicit crop-growing regions are in the
same order of magnitude as the ambitious gov-
ernment reforestation program, ‘Plan Verde.’ This
plan, which crystallizes a decade of forest policy,
aims to restore 160000 ha of forest over a four-
year period, focusing on strategic ecosystems for
protective and agricultural purposes to improve
the quality of life of local communities (Rodríguez
and Ponce, 1999).
How would the peace process, illicit-crop erad-
ication, and alternative development affect forest
and biodiversity conservation in Colombia? The
purpose of this paper is to examine the possible
effects of the agenda for peace negotiations and
‘Plan Colombia’ on forest conservation. The geo-
graphic and land use information presented here
is the result of two analyses, one on the extent of
armed conflict in forested areas (Álvarez, in press)
and another on biodiversity conservation priorities
for birds in relation to illicit crops (Álvarez, 2002).
308 Álvarez
Could peace be worse than war?
The peace process
The next few years are critical for the conser-
vation of Colombian forests because the polit-
ical and economic solutions to armed conflict
may have direct impacts on large swaths of
the remaining forests. The conflict per se has
been a major threat to governmental and non-
governmental efforts in conservation. As summa-
rized by Rodríguez (1998, p. 276): “conservation
activists [are] in the eye of the storm [of con-
flict], as confirmed by the brutal murder of park
employees at Katíos [National Park], attempts
against Ecofondo employees, bombing by guerril-
las and government forces of indigenous reserves,
the increasing number of displaced conservation-
ists…” The end of the conflict could reduce the
grave threats that make conservation activism in
Colombia a high-risk occupation, and perhaps
allow for effective protection of forests that are
today under the political control of armed groups.
Conversely, the end of armed conflict itself
poses tremendous challenges to conservation as
the forest frontiers become accessible to legal
economic interests, such as transnational logging
operations, which have been expanding in tropi-
cal countries in recent years (Laurance, 2000). As
proposed by Álvarez (in press), alongside threats
arising from illegal economic activities, patronage
from armed groups and haphazard development,
there are some tangible conservation benefits from
armed conflict that play a crucial role in protecting
a few biologically important areas.
The majority of forests in conflict experience
the ‘violence syndrome,’ defined as economic
development occurring despite the collapse of the
institutional framework for civilian law and order
that the conflict has engendered. For example,
the 200-km road linking the FARC demilitarized
zone (DMZ) in southeast Colombia to the south-
ern outskirts of Bogotá through the Macarena and
Sumapaz natural parks was built without any con-
sideration for the conservation of forests in the
region. The Colombian environmental authorities
had, until August 2000, been unaware of the con-
struction of this road and may only take measures
against its impact when they can regain access to
the area.
A fraction of the forests in conflict, however,
enjoys de facto protection from the guerrillas’
strategic interest in keeping forest hideouts invis-
ible from the air (Álvarez, in press). If war has
kept governmental and non-governmental conser-
vationists from accomplishing their goals, peace
will open the door to forms of exploitation that
are impossible today. The forest and biodiver-
sity resources at stake in armed conflict are not
negligible. The forests of the Serranía de San
Lucas, for instance, are the backdrop for the
struggle between the paramilitaries that dominate
the region today, and the ELN guerrilla. These
forests sit atop vast gold deposits that are currently
exploited by individuals resulting in significant pol-
lution and hunting impacts (Dávalos, 2001). The
ELN had, until 1998, succeeded in discouraging
settlement on the west slope of San Lucas and
preserved small tracts of forest by using ‘gunpoint
conservation.’ Peace would probably attract more
settlers, as well as investment by mining com-
panies, whose attention the government aims to
capture in a recent review of mining opportuni-
ties (Villaruel et al., 2000). Economic exploitation
would require significant oversight to avoid further
degradation of the remaining forest (Fig. 2).
Colombian authorities need to prepare for
enforcement of conservation in areas that are cur-
rently under ‘gunpoint conservation,’ because pro-
tection of these areas would largely disappear with
the return of guerrillas into civilian life. Álvarez
(in press) mentions only three sites of documented
‘gunpoint conservation:’ the west slope of the Ser-
ranía de San Lucas in 1998, the southern part of
the Serranía de la Macarena in 1995 (though not
at present), and parts of Parque Nacional Natu-
ral Munchique from 1997 to 1998. The possibil-
ity of full-blown, large-scale exploitation becomes
certain in rich areas that are now off-limits from
security risks. Armed groups may have deterred or
slowed organized exploitation, as well as conserva-
tion efforts, in the 33 percent of all forests that lie
in municipalities where they operate (Álvarez, in
press).
Perhaps as a result of this, environmental issues
are a small but significant part of the government
peace plan. The current agenda for peace negotia-
tions with the FARC guerrillas includes two broad
items that have a direct effect on forest use: agrar-
ian reform, and the exploitation and conservation
Could peace be worse than war for Colombia’s forests? 309
Figure 2. Trail in the Serranía de San Lucas. Colonization in the frontiers produces less than hospitable landscapes, such as this
trail in the Serranía de San Lucas, framed by a logged forest on the left and an unproductive field covered by ferns on the right.
(Photo courtesy: R. Guzmán.)
of natural resources (Ricardo et al., 2000). The
first hinges on the success of the illicit crop sub-
stitution and rural development efforts, while the
second underscores the huge territorial holdings
of the FARC which include protected and unpro-
tected forests throughout the country.
The inclusion of the environment in the peace
agenda is a significant first step in the right
direction. These arrangements, however, have not
stopped the FARC from building the 200-km road
cutting through two national natural parks in the
Serranía de la Macarena. Peace negotiations need
to include clauses for accountability of serious
environmental offenses such as this one, in addi-
tion to the political compromises inherent to the
process. Negotiations also need to include spe-
cific items on the establishment of protected areas
where there are none, such as the Serranía de
San Lucas. Enforcing conservation is also nec-
essary in protected areas where conflict has dis-
placed conservationists, park staff and local com-
munities, e.g., in the lowland forests of the Pacific
(known internationally as the Chocó), and in parts
of Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta (Fig. 3).
Oddly, the ‘Plan Colombia’ investment pro-
posal for “sustainable development in environ-
mentally fragile areas” only mentions Amazonia
as its one concern in terms of habitat loss (Pres-
idencia de la República, 2000). Without under-
mining the significance of the biodiversity of
Colombian Amazonia, the Chocó and remnant
Andean tropical and subtropical forests are, by
far, more threatened than the former (McNeely
et al., 1990; Bryant et al., 1997; Stattersfield et al.,
1998; Olson and Dinerstein, 1998; Myers et al.,
2000). Such a misconception about the relative
priority of conserving forests—like the Chocoan
and Andean remnants—that harbor more than 10
percent of the world’s endemic plants and ver-
tebrates (Myers et al., 2000) can easily lead to
tragic long-term development decisions. It also
highlights the necessity of including biodiversity
conservation priorities, or relative threat, as guide-
lines for the negotiation of environmental items
in the peace agenda and the formulation of forest
conservation policies at the national scale.
Illicit crops and alternative development
Eradication
The government aims to eradicate 43300 ha, less
than half the existing area, of illicit crops by
310 Álvarez
Figure 3. Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. The forests of the
Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta were first fragmented for illicit
cultivation in the 1970s to supply the growing demand for mari-
juana in North America. With the expansion and specialization
of illicit activities since then, other illicit crops have followed
suit. The Sierra, its snow peaks in the background, harbors one
of the most unique and imperiled faunas and floras of South
America. (Photo courtesy: L. Dávalos.)
2003 through a combination of aerial spraying,
aggressive law enforcement, and alternative devel-
opment projects. Successful eradication can be
construed as a two-part process: first, illicit plants
are killed by uprooting, or using herbicide, and
second, economic alternatives are offered to those
who grow the illicit crops (USAID, 2000).
Eradication programs as currently pursued
are not environmentally innocuous. In Colombia,
eradication often involves aerial spraying of
glyphosate—in different carrier combinations
to maximize efficiency—over illicit crop fields
amounting to a cumulative total of 171985 ha
in 1998 (UN-ODCCP, 1999). This is regularly
done in violation of specifications recommended
to reduce environmental impact: the chemical is
sprayed from heights above the suggested 10 m,
and using five times the recommended dose per
hectare (Vargas-Meza, 2000).
Recently, biodiversity surveyors have reported
that glyphosate spraying is being conducted in
areas where guerrillas have encroached in the
West Andes and the Serranía de San Lucas, even
in the absence of illicit crops, (T. Donegan, and
C. González, pers. comm.). If the use of defoli-
ating agents for political purposes is confirmed,
the impact of Colombia’s armed conflict on defor-
estation could be much larger than previously
described by Álvarez (in press). Whether these
are isolated incidents or constitute a policy of the
Colombian authorities, the implication is that her-
bicide spraying is proceeding without the extreme
care that the use of such a chemical weapon
demands. So far no study has been published doc-
umenting in full detail and from experimental data
the consequences of the use of glyphosate in trop-
ical forests (Fig. 4).
There is, however, one report establishing that
spraying over poppy fields is very accurate and
rarely occurs over forest edges. The authors
found aerial spraying preferable to the vast envi-
ronmental destruction resulting from the crop
itself (Cavelier and Etter, 1995). Their conclu-
sion rested on two assumptions: that spraying does
not result in the migration of the grower (and
the illicit crop) to another forested site, and that
spraying is in fact the only means of illicit crop
eradication. With regards to the first assumption,
Young (1996) and Forero (2001) have suggested
that illicit growers simply migrate deeper into the
forest, although no data support their assertion.
As to the second assumption, there is another
method of eradication: mechanical uprooting. The
latter, however, requires the participation of the
growers and the capacity to reach illicit cultiva-
tion sites on foot. Since the current government
effort purports to provide livelihood alternatives
to growers and simultaneously regain military con-
trol of territories, mechanical eradication seems
the most sensible alternative to avoid environmen-
tal damage.
It has been suggested that illicit crop eradica-
tion per se may increase deforestation in other
Andean countries (Henkel, 1995; Young, 1996;
Kaimowitz, 1997). Henkel (1995) estimated that
alternative agricultural systems in the Chapare
(Bolivia) would require almost seven times the
area that was once planted with coca to sup-
port the same rural population. The magni-
tude of deforestation arising from eradication,
Could peace be worse than war for Colombia’s forests? 311
Figure 4. Lowland forest of Colombian Amazonia in the
upper Putumayo. This is the kind of forest most affected by
illicit coca plantations and the (so far) futile attempts to erad-
icate by spraying glyphosate. If international pressures to use
biological weapons succeed, illicit plantations in the Colombian
forest may become the first to be sprayed with a strain of the
fungus Fusarium oxysporum bred to be lethal to coca. (Photo
courtesy: D. Davison.)
if any, would be contingent on the economic
activities that illicit crop growers undertake after
eradication, but currently no data are available
to corroborate this point. Few analyses exam-
ining land use options following crop eradica-
tion in Colombia have been published, despite
the acknowledgement by academics and public
officials that illicit crops have in fact stabilized
the settler economy and thus closed—or at least
curbed—encroachment into the frontier forests
(Thoumi, 1995; Rodríguez, in press). Eradica-
tion efforts will dramatically disturb this state of
affairs.
To summarize, mechanical eradication seems
the best option to minimize environmental dam-
age in Colombian forests, and alternative develop-
ment projects in illicit-crop growing regions must
prepare for a possible increase in deforestation
following eradication.
Alternative development
According to the government (Presidencia de la
República, 2000, item 5.3) “it is generally feasible
to substitute the illicit production of small farm-
ers with…legal crops…producers will be encour-
aged to abandon illicit production in return for
assistance in establishing profitable and legal
crops, provision of education and health services,
improved municipal infrastructure, and personal
security.” These projects will take place in poppy-
producing areas and about a third of coca-growing
lands. Because poppy production is concentrated
along the higher elevations the Macizo Colom-
biano (Reyes, 1999), the kind of infrastructure,
alternative crops, and environmental protection
furnished to the growers will affect an excep-
tionally biodiverse habitat (Álvarez, 2002). For-
tunately, there are environmental protection pro-
grams concurrent to the eradication efforts. The
environmental management activities envisioned
by the United States Agency for International
Development (USAID, 2000) for the Macizo
Colombiano focus on “sustainable…forestry pro-
duction, harvesting and marketing…reforestation,
management of forestry reserves…grazing in and
around protected areas, ecotourism, and environ-
mental education and community organization.”
Unfortunately, this vision does not mention the
biodiversity importance of the area, or that graz-
ing and forest harvesting will have to be carefully
monitored and become sustainable to minimize
impact on the forest. Additionally, the seemingly
benign and profitable ecotourism alternative will
only become possible if peace negotiations pros-
per, and if they actually generate safe condi-
tions for prospective visitors. Similar experiences
in Central America indicate that demobilized mili-
tias may continue their criminal activities long
after peace treaties are signed, and disenfran-
chised rebels are compensated (Kaimowitz and
Fauné, in press). For these reasons, ecotourism
312 Álvarez
should not be considered a viable economic option
in the next four years, the range of the USAID
funding request.
The government (Presidencia de la República,
2000, item 5.3) admits that “as much as 60 per-
cent of the coca-producing areas are far from
their potential markets and are poorly suited
to any sort of sustained agricultural produc-
tion.” The alternatives offered for these areas
are: move growers to land seized from illicit
entrepreneurs or provided by the agrarian reform
agency, small and micro-enterprises in small urban
areas, and economically-feasible environmental
protection activities to slow the advance of the
agricultural frontier into fragile ecosystems. This
seems feasible in so far as land purchases by illicit
entrepreneurs span two to four million hectares of
productive land (Vásquez-Ordóñez, 1997; Reyes,
1999).
To succeed in relocating farmers, government
programs need to make productive land available
by seizing lands purchased or otherwise acquired
by illicit entrepreneurs and/or paramilitaries in the
Guaviare basin, the Eastern Plains (Llanos Ori-
entales) and northern Colombia (Reyes, 1999).
To accomplish this, efforts to eliminate illicit
crop production in southern Colombia have to be
matched by similar actions in northern and eastern
Colombia. These parts of the country, however, do
not rank high in the agenda for wresting control
from armed groups and eliminating the environ-
mental threat of illicit crops. The justification for
this order of priorities is that program expansion
into other areas is contingent upon success in the
Macizo Colombiano and Amazonia (Presidencia
de la República, 2000).
The lack of synchrony between forcing eradi-
cation from illicit-growing lands where legal agri-
culture is unprofitable and making areas for
relocation available may accelerate the pace of
displacement to the cities or into forested areas.
With 1800000 rural people already internally dis-
placed (Chernick, 2000), either outcome is grim
from a socio-economic standpoint. In terms of
forest conservation, however, further penetra-
tion into the forest frontier will certainly imperil
the remaining Andean and Chocoan forests, and
make inroads into Amazonia.
An example of the potential scenario for alter-
native development involves the West Andes in
southwest Colombia (Fig. 1). The 47400 hectares
of protected forest in Parque Nacional Natural
Munchique and Reserva Natural Tambito consti-
tute one of the most important sites for conser-
vation of endemic and threatened birds in the
Neotropics (Wege and Long, 1995; Donegan and
Dávalos, 1999). At present, there are more than
200 families living at Munchique’s lower elevations
and on its 10000-hectare buffering zone, mostly
practicing subsistence agriculture (I. Bedoya, pers.
comm.). Trade in coca and poppy in the region
hastened the dynamics of colonization of the mon-
tane and lowland frontier, and increased political
pressure to build a road connecting the provin-
cial capital (Popayán) to López de Micay, a town
with direct river access to the Pacific Ocean. At the
same time, the FARC guerrillas control the entry
of people and chemical reagents, collect coca taxes
and sometimes co-operate with (or impose con-
ditions on) park staff. The road, with little gov-
ernment support, is being relentlessly extended
by settlers—mostly coca growers—and went as
far down as El Cocal (c. 900 m elevation) in
1999. If alternative development advisers deter-
mine that some of the lands with illicit crops
surrounding these reserves are suitable for agri-
culture and improve the road, Munchique’s great-
est protection—its remoteness—would disappear.
Conversely, if illicit crop growers are relocated
to less sensitive areas and more funds are allo-
cated for conservation and community develop-
ment programs for families currently living in and
around the park, Munchique may have a greater
chance of remaining forested.
Of course, there are numerous possible solu-
tions involving some compromise between the
conservation and development objectives of this
region. When making development choices in the
region, consideration for loss of biodiversity and
ecosystem services in an exceptionally rich site,
must be weighed against the long-term gains of
expanding agriculture in the steep, rainy (up to
10000 mm annual rainfall) hillsides of the West
Andes.
The key issue in eradicating illicit crops is prof-
itability: the market prices of crops—or other
natural resources—that replace illicit ones, and
their productivity needs to be sufficiently high
to support current illicit growers with little or
no further forest clearing and without indefinite
Could peace be worse than war for Colombia’s forests? 313
government assistance. Otherwise, the productive
system is sustainable only for the time of imple-
mentation of the project, when economic activities
are subsidized. If the domestic and global market
options fail to provide livelihood alternatives, once
direct government assistance stops, there is further
encroachment into the forest frontier facilitated by
infrastructure—i.e., roads—from earlier projects
(Rudel and Horowitz, 1993). In short, when the
money from projects, donor agencies, and govern-
ment programs dries out a socially, environmen-
tally sustainable economy needs to be in place.
The UN International Drug Control Programme
(UNDCP, 2000) presents one successful example
of alternative development in Colombia: the case
of the Guambía region. This area still enjoys eco-
nomic shock absorbing from national and interna-
tional aid, in addition to some inherent advantages
such as its relative proximity to local markets.
The success of any development initiative,
however, is only partially contingent on local con-
ditions. The domestic and global economic land-
scape limit the success of marketing strategies
attached to alternative crops. The economic con-
ditions that surround agricultural production in
Colombia today should therefore be considered.
The economic milieu
Inferences about natural resource use in the
forest frontiers become more complicated when
the current economic outlook of Colombia
is examined. Between 1992 and 1999 annual
crops were abandoned in 800000 ha, and the
participation of agricultural production in the
gross national product dropped four percent-
age points (Robledo-Castillo, 1999). Traditional
agriculture by small-to-medium landholders has
been replaced with extensive cattle ranching in
approximately 480000 hectares of agricultural land
(González, J.I. cited in Reyes, 1999). Agricul-
tural imports, in part replacing foregone pro-
duction, but mostly pursuant to liberalization
policies under the World Trade Organisation, have
jumped from 800000 tonnes in 1990 to 3000000 in
1995, to 7000000 in 1999 (Vásquez-Ordóñez, 1997;
Robledo-Castillo, 1999). Even the UNDCP (2000)
admits that (p. 13): “[g]oing beyond the deter-
mining conditions for coca production, it must be
stated briefly that the response to the challenges
raised is becoming increasingly difficult because of
the world context which imposes, at the macroe-
conomic level, liberalization and structural adjust-
ment policies.”
At the same time, national unemployment has
risen from 8 percent to 20 percent, and rural
poverty indices grew from 65 percent in 1991 to
72 percent in 1995 (Robledo-Castillo, 1999; Pres-
idencia de la República, 2000). A reverse agrar-
ian reform has taken place: today the concen-
tration of land is such that farms smaller than
50 ha occupy 27 percent of the agricultural land
whereas large farms (13 percent of total number
of farms) account for 87 percent of the total culti-
vated area (Vásquez-Ordóñez, 1997). Finally, over
the last ten years illicit business has purchased two
to four million ha of productive land. Seizing these
lands will be extremely difficult. Colombian laws,
as those in most States, are designed to protect
private property rights, making it easy for illicit
entrepreneurs to use the law to their advantage.
With their large profits, they protect their assets
using both the best legal counsel and the fiercest
private armies available (Thoumi, 1995).
Whence alternative development?
Given current conditions, alternative rural devel-
opment projects by national and international
agencies must create jobs and raise rural income,
notwithstanding competition from globalization
and the concentration of the land in a few (some-
times corrupt) hands and its large-scale conversion
to low-productivity pasture, or other perennial
crops. What ‘alternative development’ means is
unclear in terms of what crops are going to be
introduced as alternatives for small holders, what
the global market for them is, what kind of infras-
tructure development will take place, and what
employment alternatives will become available in
both rural and urban areas. It is clear, however,
that the prospects for economic success of alter-
native development programs are discouraging.
Conclusion: Can Colombian forests benefit
from peace?
The Colombian government is determined to
accomplish the interrelated goals of eradicating
314 Álvarez
illicit crops and resolving decades of armed con-
flict via comprehensive measures that, through
rural development, will likely affect forest conser-
vation. As much as security reasons drive these
efforts, environmental variables will determine
their success in the long run because illicit crop
eradication depends on the socio-economic stabil-
ity of the rural population, which in turn requires
sustainable management of natural resources. In
so far as rural livelihood is directly reliant on soil
quality and watershed stability, and these depend
on forest ecosystem functions, peace efforts will
have to make minimizing deforestation a priority.
Measures to conserve forests are relevant in
determining the method of illicit crop eradication
(manual preferred to aerial spraying) and assign-
ing land use options in development plans, partic-
ularly those involving infrastructure in highly bio-
diverse areas. If forest conservation is not made
a priority in current policy, some of the rem-
nant biodiversity-rich forests that have persisted
through the war may not survive the kind of
exploitation that peace can afford.
The information available on the government’s
peace and eradication project is not specific
enough to determine with certainty whether for-
est conservation (except in Amazonia) will be con-
sidered, and to what extent, or how. In general,
investment in infrastructure associated to these
efforts needs to be tempered by careful weighing
of the long-term land degradation and biodiver-
sity loss risks of many forested regions. From what
is available, though, it is clear that the govern-
ment should reformulate its environmental invest-
ment priorities to reflect the great threats to the
remnant Chocó and Andean forests, as well as
Amazonia.
The proximate success of the current gov-
ernment plan is contingent upon the capacity
of authorities to regain control of all territo-
ries in dispute, not just the south; to redistribute
land, and provide feasible economic alternatives
to illicit crop growers. Ultimately, the economics
of globalized agricultural products and natural
resources will likely have a significant impact on
the future of Colombia’s forests and the livelihood
of its rural population.
Acknowledgments
This work was made possible by AD, ED, and
M. Rodríguez. C. Padoch and K. Redford made
comments on an early draft. This paper has
greatly benefited from constant discussion with
M. Pinedo. Columbia University supports the
author.
References
Álvarez, M.D. (in press) Forests in the time of violence: Con-
servation implications of the Colombian war. Journal of
Sustainable Forestry.
Álvarez, M.D. (2002) Illicit crops and bird conservation prior-
ities in Colombia. Conservation Biology 16.
Armstead, L. (1992) Illicit narcotics cultivation and processing:
the ignored environmental drama. UN-ODCCP Bulletin on
Narcotics 2, 9–20.
Bryant, D., Nielsen, D. and Tangley, L. (1997) The Last Fron-
tier Forests: Ecosystems and Economies on the Edge: What
is the Status of the World’s Remaining Large, Natural Forest
Ecosystems? Washington, DC: World Resources Institute,
Forest Frontiers Initiative.
Cavelier, J. and Etter, A. (1995) Deforestation of montane
forests in Colombia as a result of illegal plantations of
opium (Papaver somniferum). In Biodiversity and Conserva-
tion of Neotropical Montane Forests (S.P. Churchill, H. Bal-
slev, E. Forero, and J.L. Luteyn, eds.) pp. 541–49. Bronx,
New York: The New York Botanical Garden.
Chernick, M. (2000) Elusive peace: Struggling against the logic
of violence. North American Congress on Latin America
Report on the Americas 34(2), 34–37.
Cubides, F. (1999) Los paramilitares y su estrategia. In Recono-
cer la guerra para construir la paz (M.V. Llorente and M.
Deas, eds.) pp. 151–99. Bogotá: Editorial Norma.
Dávalos, L.M. (2001) The San Lucas mountain range in
Colombia: how much conservation is owed to the violence?
Biodiversity and Conservation 10(1), 69–78.
Donegan, T.M. and Dávalos, L.M. (1999) Ornithological obser-
vations from Reserva Natural Tambito, Cauca, south-west
Colombia. Cotinga 12, 48–55.
Dourojeanni, M. (1992) Environmental impact of coca cultiva-
tion and cocaine production in the amazon region of Peru.
UN-ODCCP Bulletin on Narcotics 2, 37–53.
Etter, A. (1998) Mapa general de ecosistemas de Colombia. In
Informe Nacional sobre el Estado de le Biodiversidad 1997
Colombia. Bogotá: Instituto de Investigación de Recur-
sos Biológicos Alejandro von Humboldt, Programa de las
Naciones Unidas para el Medio Ambiente, Ministerio del
Medio Ambiente.
Forero, J. (2001) In the war on coca, Colombian growers sim-
ply move along. The New York Times 17, March, A1.
Could peace be worse than war for Colombia’s forests? 315
Henkel, R. (1995) Coca (Erythroxylum coca) cultivation,
cocaine production, and biodiversity loss in the Cha-
pare region of Bolivia. In Biodiversity and Conservation
of Neotropical Montane Forests (S.P. Churchill, H. Balslev,
E. Forero, and J.L. Luteyn, eds.) pp. 551–60. Bronx, New
York: The New York Botanical Garden.
Kaimowitz, D. and Fauné, A. (in press) Contras and coman-
dantes: armed movements and forest conservation in
Nicaragua’s Bosawas biosphere reserve in the 1990s. Jour-
nal of Sustainable Forestry.
Kaimowitz, D. (1997) Factors determining low deforestation:
the Bolivian Amazon. Ambio 26(8), 536–40.
Laurance, W.F. (2000) Cut and run: the dramatic rise
of transnational logging in the tropics. TREE 15(11),
433–34.
McNeely, J.A., Miller, K.R. Reid, W.V., Mittermeier, R.A.
and Werner, T.B. (1990) Conserving the World’s Biologi-
cal Diversity. Gland, Switzerland: The World Conservation
Union, World Resources Institute, Conservation Interna-
tional, World Wildlife Fund, and The World Bank.
Myers, N., Mittermeier, R.A., Mittermeier, C.G., da Fonseca,
G.A.B. and Kent, J. (2000) Biodiversity hotspots for con-
servation priorities. Nature 403, 853–58.
Olson, D.M. and Dinerstein, E. (1998) The Global 200: A rep-
resentation approach to conserving the Earth’s most biolog-
ically valuable ecoregions. Conservation Biology 12, 502–15.
Presidencia de la República. (2000) Plan Colombia. [online,
cited December 2000]. Available from:
http://www.presidencia.gov.co/webpresi/plancolo/index.htm
Reyes, A. (1999) Especial: 35 años de conflicto. Lecturas
Dominicales. El Tiempo, 17 October 1999, 2–11.
Ricardo, V.G., Valencia-Cossio, F., Mejía, M.E., Restrepo,
N., Espinosa, R., Reyes, R., Gómez, J. and Ramírez, F.
(2000) Agenda común por el cambio hacia una nueva
Colombia. [online, cited December 2000]. Available from:
http://www.dialogos.com.co/
Robledo-Castillo, J.E. (1999) Neoliberalismo y desastre
agropecuario. Deslinde 25, 32–49.
Rodríguez, M. (1998) La Reforma Ambiental en Colombia:
Anotaciones Para la Historia de la Gestión Pública
Ambiental. Bogotá: Tercer Mundo Editores.
Rodríguez, M. (in press) Forests and conflict: the Colombian
case. Journal of Sustainable Forestry.
Rodríguez, M. and Ponce, E. (1999) Financing the green
plan (‘Plan Verde’) in Colombia: challenges and opportu-
nities. Presentation at the Workshop on financing of sus-
tainable forest management. London: UNDP Programme
on Forests (PROFOR), Bureau for Development Policy,
and SEED.
Rudel, T.K. and Horowitz, B. (1993) Tropical Deforesta-
tion: Small Farmers and Land Clearing in the Ecuadorian
Amazon. New York: Columbia University Press.
Stattersfield, A.J., Crosby, M.J., Long, A.J. and Wege, D.C.
(1998) Endemic Bird Areas of the World: Priorities for Bio-
diversity Conservation, Cambridge, UK: BirdLife Conserva-
tion Series No. 7, BirdLife International.
Thoumi, F.E. (1995). Political Economy and Illegal Drugs in
Colombia. Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers.
UNDCP. (2000) Alternative Development in the Andean Area:
the UNDCP [United Nations International Drug Control
Programme] Experience. New York: UN.
UN-ODCCP. (1999) United Nations Office for Drug Control and
Crime Prevention Global Illicit Drug Trends 1999. New York:
UN Publication No. E 99 XI 15, UN.
USAID. (2000) United States Agency for International Devel-
opment congressional presentation: Colombia [online, cited
December 2000]. Available from:
www.info.usaid. gov/pubs/cp2000/lac/colombia.html.
Vargas-Meza, R. (2000) Cultivos ilícitos y proceso de paz
en Colombia. Bogotá: Transnational Institute and Acción
Andina.
Vásquez-Ordoñez, R. (1997) La agricultura colombiana en
1996. Agronomía Colombiana 14(2), 158–181.
Villaruel. J., Ochoa, J.H., Molina, J.M., Alvarado, L., Navarro,
J.L., Bernal, L., Jaramillo, L.E., Salinas, R., Sánchez,
C., Castro, H. and Buenaventura, J. (2000) Minerales
Estratégicos para el Desarrollo de Colombia. Bogotá: UPME,
Minercol, Ingeominas.
Wege, D.C. and Long, A.J. (1995) Key Areas for Threat-
ened Birds in the Neotropics. Cambridge, UK: BirdLife
International.
World Bank. (1999) Violence in Colombia: building sustainable
peace and social capital. Report No. 1865-CO.
Young, K.R. (1996) Threats to biological diversity caused
by coca/cocaine deforestation. Environmental Conservation
23(1), 7–15.
... Colombia ranks amongst the top countries in the world in regards to the latter, with over 7 million persons displaced from their home towns, representing a key factor of Colombian demographics (Negret et al., 2017). Surprisingly though, albeit conflict-induced migration exerted an important impact in terms of LUC dynamics in Colombia, the relationship between armed conflict and forest ecosystems has been analyzed mostly for small regions or has focused on a particular conflict-related impact on forests (Álvarez, 2001;Álvarez, 2003;Dávalos, 2001;Dávalos et al., 2011;Rincón-Ruiz and Kallis, 2013), with few exceptions that focus on recent periods characterized by a gradual decrease of conflict intensity (Sánchez-Cuervo and Aide, 2013;Castro-Nunez et al., 2017). ...
... Finally, the government's eradication of illicit crops through means of aerial fumigation with glyphosate was found to produce the opposite result it pursued, producing damage to the forest ecosystems under fumigation and displacing illicit crop production further into the forest (Álvarez, 2001;Pérez-Rincón, 2016). ...
... Relating the different armed conflict variables directly to underlying deforestation drivers instead of forest LU is difficult due to the unavailability of data for Colombia, particularly for periods prior to 2005. In spite of this, we are confident that the causality relationship is clear for Colombia, given the abundant literature describing during the last decades the main conflict-induced factors affecting deforestation and forest regrowth (Suarez et al., 2017;Dávalos, 2001;Álvarez, 2003;Sánchez-Cuervo and Aide, 2013;Rincón-Ruiz and Kallis, 2013;Álvarez, 2001). ...
Thesis
Um das 1,5°C Ziel zu verhindern, müssen bis 2020 die globalen anthropogenen CO2 Emissionen Sektor-übergreifend ihren Spitzenwert erreichen und bis 2050 auf Netto-Null-Emissionen sinken. Der AFOLU Sektor hat einen Anteil von 23% an den globalen Treibhausgasemissionen (THGE). Neben der Möglichkeit THGE zu vermeiden, bietet die Implementierung von Klimaschutzmitigation auch Synergien um die Ernährungssicherheit, Nährstoff- und Wassereffizienz zu verbessern sowie Landdegradation umzukehren. Eine kritische Bedeutung hat die Abholzung von tropischen Waldflächen durch die mehr als ein Drittel der Emissionen im Bereich des AFOLU entsteht. Vor diesem Hintergrund werden vorliegend, mit Fokus auf die Abholzung in der tropischen Zone, die indirekten Auslöser der THGE innerhalb des AFOLU untersucht. Diese Auslöser werden zunächst auf einer globalen Skala analysiert, wobei die Rolle der Variabilität von Preisveränderungen international gehandelter Waren und weiterer sozio-ökonomischer Indikatoren auf regionale Waldumwandlungsprozesse betrachtet wird. Anschließend analysiert diese Arbeit den Aspekt des Waldverlustes im Zusammenhang mit politischer Instabilität und bewaffneten Konflikten. Zudem werden regionale Lösungen zur Mitigation in weiteren Sektoren adressiert. Insbesondere wird die Möglichkeit zur THGE-Einsparung in silvopastoralen Systemen untersucht um das Zusammenspiel zwischen intensiver Viehbewirtschaftung und der Kohlenstofffixierung besser zu verstehen. Darüber hinaus werden regionale Lösungen mit Hilfe von Basisorganisationen bzw. gemeindebasierten Initiativen (CBI) zur THGE-Einsparung in den Bereichen Energie, Nahrungsmittel, Transport und Abfall erforscht. Diese Arbeit liefert vielfältige Beiträge zum Verständnis der indirekten Auslöser von Abholzung und den damit verbundenen THGE innerhalb der tropischen Zone, sowie zur Förderung lokaler Lösungen für die sektorübergreifende THG-Minderung.
... To understand the influence of armed conflict and coca cultivation on deforestation patterns, we examined Colombia, a global biodiversity hotspot with a complex political history , 2001. Colombia is emerging from 50 years of internal armed conflict, after a peace agreement between the oldest and largest illegal armed group, FARC-EP, and the Colombian government was signed on November 12th, 2016 . ...
... Armed conflict is recurrent in many tropical countries (Dudley et al., 2002) but our understanding of how it is associated with deforestation is vague Castro-Nunez et al., 2017a;Gorsevski et al., 2012;. We used Colombia, a megadiverse country with a complex political history , 2001 to assess the association between armed conflict, and an illegal crop (coca) that has been linked to armed conflict (Dávalos et al., 2016) with deforestation at a 1 km² resolution. These two variables on their own showed a notable association with deforestation, particularly in the amazon ( Fig. 3.2 b-d), but in combination with other variables their effect was small, with a reduction of only 3% in the model accuracy when removing them from the full model. ...
Thesis
Full-text available
Pressure on Earth’s biodiversity is increasing worldwide, with at least one million species threatened with extinction and a 67% decline in vertebrate species populations over the last half century. Practical conservation actions that are able to generate the greatest conservation benefit in the most efficient way are needed. Colombia, a mega-diverse country, has the potential to preserve a considerable portion of the world’s biodiversity, making conservation in the country both regionally and globally relevant. However, human activities are transforming the country’s natural landscapes at an extremely high rate, making urgent the generation of effective conservation actions. Colombia, after decades of civil unrest, is now entering a post-conflict era. But the peace agreement signed in 2016 between the Colombian government and the strongest illegal armed group, FARC-EP is impacting the country’s biodiversity. New pressures are being imposed on areas of high biodiversity that previously were off-limits for development because of the conflict. This makes the generation of conservation plans particularly urgent. Post-conflict planning initiatives have the potential to limit environmental damage and increase formal protection of the most irreplaceable natural areas of Colombia. These plans need to be informed by an understanding of changes in risks to areas of high biodiversity importance, and the effectiveness of conservation efforts such as protected areas. The aim of this thesis was to contribute knowledge to improve the effectiveness of conservation decisions in Colombia through a better understanding of the threats to forest ecosystems and the species that inhabit them, and an evaluation of the effectiveness of land protection for biodiversity conservation in the country. I first reviewed the effect of armed conflict on biodiversity in other countries in order to explore what may change with the peace agreement in Colombia. Post-conflict periods in other regions have often had negative impacts on biodiversity. Based on this, I recommended that the Colombian conservation science community engage actively in the development of environmental zoning plans on territories that were under the control of illegal armed groups to ensure positive and durable outcomes for the nation’s globally significant biodiversity. Second, in order to understand the effect of armed conflict on deforestation in Colombia I analysed the spatial association between deforestation drivers and forest cover change in the country, with a particular focus on the effect of armed conflict and coca plantations (Erythroxylum coca). I generated spatial predictions of deforestation pressure based on the period 2000-2015 and then explored how armed conflict and coca cultivation were associated with spatial patterns of deforestation. My results showed that proximity to coca plantation and armed conflict intensity both increased deforestation pressure, as did proximity to roads, mining concessions and oil exploitation wells. In some regions of Colombia, lack of stable governance after the peace accords is actually increasing armed conflict at a local level, and my results suggest that those increases in conflict may increase deforestation in those areas. Third, I aimed to understand the impact of deforestation on biodiversity in Colombia, by assessing the loss of habitat for forest dependent birds in the country up to 2015, and explored the projected loss to 2040. A total of 550 forest-dependent species were individually analysed, including 69 regional endemics. I assessed the extent of deforestation impacts on entire forest bird assemblages at different scales and for different bird groups. I found that the vast majority of forest dependent birds (536; 96.5%) had been affected by loss of potential habitat and that 35% of the forest dependent bird species in Colombia had lost at least 35% of their potential habitat by 2015. If deforestation trajectories remain the same, 43% of forest dependent species will lose 43% or more of their suitable habitat by 2040. The Amazon foothills was highlighted as an area where habitat for particularly diverse assemblages of forest-dependent species was projected to be lost, while the north-east of the Antioquia department was highlighted as an area where projected deforestation will affect bird assemblages that have a particularly high concentration of endemic species. My analysis shows the far-reaching impact of deforestation not only on endangered species, but also on common and widely distributed ones as well as on entire assemblages. The main tool the Colombian government has used to avoid biodiversity loss and prevent land conversion has been the creation of nationally designated protected areas. However, the effectiveness of these areas in preventing deforestation is not known. I evaluated the effectiveness of protected areas in Colombia at reducing forest loss between 2000 and 2015. I used statistical matching to account for confounding factors in park location and accounted for spatial autocorrelation to determine statistical significance. The performance of different matching procedures - ways of generating matching pairs at different scales - were compared, as there is no standard procedure for applying this technique at multiple scales (such as nationally versus within departments). Differences in matching procedures affected substantially the performance of matching, resulting in different estimates of the effectiveness of protected areas. Independent matching performed best, and these estimates suggested that average forest loss inside protected areas in Colombia was 40% lower than average forest loss in matched unprotected sites. Protection significantly reduced deforestation but its effect differed among regions; protected areas in Caribe were the most effective, but this region had the smallest percentage of protected area coverage. Protected areas in the Amazon were moderately effective but had the highest net forest loss, and protected areas in Orinoco and Pacific regions were least effective. Overall, this thesis improves understanding of how armed conflict increases deforestation, including how its effect can be indirect, such as through the expansion of illegal crops such as coca; and of the extent to which deforestation continues to threaten forest-dependent birds in the country that is home to more bird species than any other. Losses of habitat for common and widespread forest-dependent species are as great as for endangered ones, and due to their crucial roles in ecosystem functioning common species need safeguarding as well. While protected areas do reduce deforestation in Colombia, statistical comparison with similar areas is needed to understand the magnitude of the effect, and some protected areas particularly in the Pacific and Orinoco regions are less effective when this comparison is done. As Colombia continues to move towards a post-conflict scenario the increased understanding of forest dynamics, their causes and consequences, are fundamental to helping improve conservation decisions to safeguard Colombia’s biodiversity.
... Karsenty and Ongolo (2012:38-42) warn that it is important to consider the political economy of the state, especially when dealing with "fragile" or even "failing" states, facing severe and chronic institutional crises, which are often ruled by "governments with private agendas fueling corruption". The history of centralized forest ownership illustrates that although governments may be unable to enforce forest regulations against powerful corporate or elite interests, they are certainly able to exclude less powerful, poor forest peoples (Agrawal, 2010). In this sense, the impact of economic incentives to stop deforestation is not as substantial as REDD+ promoters initially considered. ...
Article
Full-text available
REDD+ is a mechanism to address climate change by reducing deforestation and forest degradation. In this article, the implementation of the REDD Early Movers-REM/Visión Amazonia program in Guaviare, Colombia, is analyzed, focusing on the implementation challenges and scope of the program when addressing deforestation drivers in a post-conflict context. By taking a historical perspective on regional deforestation challenges in Guaviare, we link these challenges to the recent deforestation trends in the region. This article demonstrates the particular challenges to implementing REDD+ in the Colombian post-conflict context related to the power vacuum left by the FARC retreat, land grabbing for speculation and cattle ranching, power asymmetries and corrupted regional elites. The article concludes that the current scope of REM does not sufficiently address the main drivers of deforestation, and that REM's focus on campesinos and indigenous communities will not significantly reduce the substantial deforestation rates in the present post-conflict context.
Article
Full-text available
Many armed conflicts worldwide occur in biodiversity hotspots and nearly 50% of those conflicts occur in forested regions. In Colombia, the armed conflict has implied the clearing of large forest tracts for the establishment of illicit crops. The aim of this study was to assess the role that illicit crops played in the deforestation dynamics in Colombia between 2001 and 2014. We established a database with the annual deforestation rates and nine predictors for 1120 municipalities and built fixed effects models that take spatial autocorrelation into account. Model selection with AIC suggested that the area cultivated with coca crops was the best predictor of annual rates of deforestation, whereas coca crop removal was associated with increasing forest cover. According to our results, coca crops promoted deforestation in Colombia between 2001 and 2014 through indirect (spilling-over to nearby areas), immediate and temporally-lagged mechanisms.
Article
Full-text available
Este ensayo navega a través de los bosques vivos de la Amazonía colombiana, reflexionando sobre lo que hemos heredado en tiempos de la así llamada “paz”, a medida que esta se desarrolla en un contexto de creciente violencia y deforestación. La firma del Acuerdo de Paz en Colombia, en 2016, marcó el fin de una guerra de décadas entre el gobierno y las Farc, pero también supuso otra guerra contra la selva. Este ensayo se basa en una investigación etnográfica en Putumayo, Colombia, para explorar cómo la selva ha participado como víctima y testigo de la violencia, a la vez que llama la atención sobre las formas en que las vidas (y muertes) humanas y no humanas están inevitablemente entrelazadas en la forja de la paz.
Article
Impact assessment and monitoring of conservation strategies are required to guarantee successful conservation outcomes. The establishment of protected areas (PAs) is a worldwide conservation strategies, but some PAs are not effective in avoiding deforestation. On the other hand, armed conflicts have ambiguous effects on wildlife. Colombia is a megadiverse country that not only has a huge network of PAs but also shows a high deforestation rate and a 50-years-old armed conflict. Here, we assessed the impact of the Colombian PAs and the FARC-EP guerrilla (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) occupation areas in avoiding deforestation in the country. For that, we compared the forest cover of PAs and FARC areas with environmentally similar control areas to assess forest loss from 2000 to 2017. We found that only large Colombian PAs were effective in avoiding deforestation over the last 17 years and that FARC presence increased deforestation in the country. Our results showed that the establishment of PA alone is not enough to ensure a positive conservation outcome. Our study offered a broad-scale analysis of Colombian PA impacts in avoiding deforestation as well as FARC's role in forest loss. Colombia has several challenges to reduce its deforestation rate and to enhance the impact of PA in avoiding deforestation. Those challenges include the solution of the land tenure conflict, improvement of current legislation , strengthening governance, and conflict resolution. Further, Colombia needs to deal with obstacles derived from armed conflict itself, particularly in the historic FARC areas, where fundamental conservation efforts are mostly needed.
Article
Full-text available
El narcotráfico como tema de estudio ha estado tradicionalmente vinculado a perspectivas institucionales y estadocéntricas, en las que la producción académica se enfoca en la violencia, el comercio de drogas, el terrorismo, el conflicto armado y la política de drogas. A partir de una revisión de literatura y un análisis bibliométrico, el objetivo de este artículo es ofrecer tres aproximaciones alternativas a la agenda de investigación del fenómeno: el régimen político, la paradiplomacia y el medio ambiente. Sostenemos tres grandes argumentos de debate. En relación con el régimen político, el narcotráfico se expande en contextos de autocratización y se consolida en regímenes autoritarios. Por otro lado, la paradiplomacia de las organizaciones criminales tiene un bajo costo, en términos de cooperación, comparada con aquella diplomacia que desarrollan los Estados. Por último, es evidente la existencia de un problema de degradación ambiental en la implementación de las políticas de lucha contra las drogas. Concluimos que estos argumentos revelan la complejidad y la necesidad de abordar al narcotráfico más allá de los enfoques clásicos.
Article
This commentary examines the challenge of sustainable development in the Amazon, arguing that global efforts to mitigate climate change and current Amazonian policies are clearly inadequate to prevent global warming and deforestation from tipping the forest into a savanna. It analyses the growing climate pressures jeopardising the Amazon's resilience; the erratic Brazilian, Bolivian, Colombian, Ecuadorian and Peruvian governance of the forest; and the failure of the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization (ACTO) to establish long-term forest conservation policies in the region. The research demonstrates that the ‘savannisation hypothesis’ is potentially closer to reality than most debates in the social sciences assume and should be considered seriously. The commentary concludes by suggesting possible pathways for preventing the dieback of the Amazon. These are based on three strategic axes: the strengthening of the ACTO, the promotion of a technological revolution in the forest, and a progressive environmental diplomacy by the Amazonian countries.
Article
The signing of Colombia’s peace agreement in 2016 signaled the end of a decades-long war between the government and the FARC (Las Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia), but also an emerging assault against the country’s forests. This article aims to understand the interactions between forests and peace. In doing so, it traces landscape transformations of deforestation and possibilities for making landscapes livable in the midst of disturbance. Drawing on field research, including interviews and participant observation carried out in Colombia from 2016 to 2018, it reveals how deforestation is driven by ongoing colonization and land grabbing, mostly dedicated to extensive cattle ranching, coca cultivation, and campesinos’ transition to ‘licit’ agricultural alternatives. The article also shows how emerging coordination among farmers and forests following forest disturbance contributes to an interpretation of peace in which forests are integral. The article concludes with a call to incorporate forests in the construction of peace.
Article
Full-text available
Forest remnants in the Colombian Amazon, Andes, and Choco are the last repositories of a highly diverse and endemic biota. Historical changes in the Colombian landscape have been dramatic, but the magnitude and rate of change has increased over the last half century, while conflict has consumed the capacity of Colombian society to respond to environmental threats. Academic experts in the study of the Colombian conflict have explored the social, political, and economic implications of the war. However, the environmental consequences of conflict are documented only when groups in conflict target salient economic resources. This paper presents the first analysis of the geographic distribution of forest remnants in relation to armed conflict in Colombia. Results show that guerrillas and/or paramilitaries range throughout areas of human encroachment into remnant forests. The policies promoted by Colombia's irregular armed forces range from "gunpoint conservation" rarely applied by guerrillas, to the rapid conversion of forests and crops to cattle ranches and coca (Erythroxylum sp.) plantations, following paramilitary occupation. Because the rates and extent of fragmentation are linked to such land use practices, armed groups may play a crucial role in determining the fate of Colombia's forests and their endemic biota.
Article
Full-text available
Introduces Global 200, a representation of habitat types on a global scale for environmental conservation. Stratification of ecoregions by realms; Boundaries of terrestrial ecoregions; Variation of ecoregions according to biological distinctiveness; Terrestrial ecoregion boundaries.
Article
Amid negotiations to end the civil war, Washington is not the only party guided by military thinking. All sides now think that increased firepower will strengthen their position politically.
Book
Colombia, one of South America's oldest, middle-income democracies, has developed rapidly despite a fifty year 'simmering' civil war and increasing levels of urban and rural crime and violence. In the past decade, however, the scale and intensity of violence has changed from a marginal conflict to generalized violence that now dominates the daily lives of most citizens. Today government and civil society alike recognize that violence is the key development constraint. It affects the country's macro- and micro-economic growth and productivity, as well as impacting on the government's capacity to reduce the poverty, inequality and exclusion experienced by the majority of its urban and rural population. This paper is intended to contribute to Columbia's effort to address the country's fundamental problem of violence. It introduces three critical issues of analytical and operational importance. First, a conceptual framework that identifies a continuum of violence, including political, economic and social violence; second, an assessment of the costs of violence, highlighting how violence erodes the country's capital and associated assets, especially its social capital; and finally, a National Strategy for Peace and Development, comprising components at three levels - a national level peace program, sector level initiatives to integrate violence reduction into priority sectors, and municipal level social capital projects.
Article
Analysis of aerial photographs of the Chapare indicated that 1000-2000 ha per year of primary forest and 3000-5000 ha of secondary forest were converted to coca cultivation during 1978-1992. This represents a significant loss to biodiversity. -from Author
Article
Determinants of low deforestation in Bolivia are analyzed, based on the Bolivian experience and general deforestation literature, and lessons are drawn for other countries with low deforestation. Weak domestic demand for agricultural products and poor transportation infrastructure are the principal causes of low deforestation. Weak domestic demand is related to small population and low per capita income, and poor transportation infrastructure is a function of a country's low capacity for investment in infrastructure and political factors. Production for export plays an important role in deforestation in these contexts, and is influenced by policies such as road building, appreciated exchange rates, and subsidies for commercial agriculture. Factors influencing land-clearing by poor families are less relevant. Political and institutional factors deserve greater attention than they have received in previous deforestation literature.
Book
The volume is broadly split into two main sections. The firsts consists of seven introductory chapters: biodiversity and priority setting; identifying endemic bird areas; global analyses; the prioritization of endemic brid areas; the conservation relevance of endemic bird areas; endemic bird areas as targets for conservation action; and regional introductions. The second, and larger part of the text looks at the endemic bird areas in detail. The section is split into six subsections, by region: North and Central America; Africa, Europe and the Middle East; continental Asia; SE Asian Islands, New Guinea and Australia; and the Pacific Islands. Within each regional subsection the endemic areas are detailed, providing information on : general characteristics; restricted-range species; threats and conservation; and location maps.
Article
This book examines deforestation in Equador, focusing on a case study of the Rio Upano Valley of Morona-Santiago as representing the type of deforestation prevalent in Equador. The first chapter briefly described deforestation patterns while the second presents a theory of forest destruction with two models of class interactions between rich and poor populations. Presentation of the representative case follows. The book illustrates the problem of cummulative effects of many small farmers in deforestation.