Case StudiesCase Study 1    December 1, 2020  English (United States) Español (España)
CS1 Description


Biodiversity is the fruit of billions of years of evolution, shaped by natural processes and, increasingly, by the influence of humans. Biodiversity underpins the life-support system of our planet. It forms the web of life of which humans are an integral part and upon which they fully depend (CBD, 2010). 2010 has been declared the International Year of the Biodiversity by UN. The benefits gained from biodiversity go far beyond the mere provision of raw materials. Food and energy security strongly depend on biodiversity and so does vulnerability to natural hazards such as fires and flooding. As demonstrated by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005) and The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) (2010), the benefits of conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and ecosystem services far outstrip the cost of proactive action. Yet several factors, including human behaviour, have brought the system to a critical point. The world is experiencing an unprecedented rate of species extinction, which may have far-reaching consequences for all life forms (Diversitas, 2010). The escalating extinction crisis shows that the diversity of nature cannot support the current pressure that humanity is placing on the planet. Every day biodiversity is being lost at up to 1,000 times the natural rate. Not only are these extinctions irreversible, but they also pose a serious threat to humans’ health and wellbeing. The extinction of individual species, but also habitat destruction, land conversion for agriculture and development, climate change, pollution and the spread of invasive species are only some of the threats responsible for today's crisis (IUCN, 2010). The loss of biodiversity threatens food supplies, opportunities for recreation and tourism, and sources of wood, medicines and energy. It also interferes with essential ecological functions (CBD, 2010). Halting the loss of Biodiversity was the topic of the recent Nagoya COP 10 conference. However, there has been some recent progress. The success of the UN-REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation in developing countries) programme for forest management is leading to the development of similar innovative approaches in the coastal zones such as the Blue Carbon programme.

Water resources are essential elements for human livelihood, social and economic development and Earth balance. At the same time, water is an integral component of climate change and the primary medium through which its exhibits its impacts. Stopping the unsustainable exploitation of water resources by developing water management strategies which promote both equitable access and adequate supplies, was included as part of the Millennium Development Goals. However, the third World Water Development Report (WWDR) launched during the fifth World Water Forum in March 2009 still showed alarming trends in relation to water availability, access to water and impacts on ecosystem services and human development. Future prospects are aggravated by the perspective of climate change, which will intensify looming water crises (Bates et al., 2008). Climate change is expected to enhance water scarcity, increase the frequency and intensity of extreme events (droughts and flooding) and the salinisation of groundwater due to sea level rise. The effects of climate change in freshwater systems will exacerbate many forms of pollution and will impact on water system reliability and operating costs (IPCC, 2007). Of all ecosystems, freshwater systems will have the highest proportion of species threatened with extinction via the warming of water, flow alteration and loss of aquatic habitat (MEA, 2005). The potential effects of climate change on water systems are also expected to affect related sectors, such as health, agriculture, industry, transport, and energy supply, ecosystem services, fisheries and forestry. However, many problems in water management are more associated with governance failures than with the resource base (Bakker et al., 2008; Rogers and Hall, 2003). Since the Dublin conference in 1992, significant international goals have been set to make water governance effective as one of the highest priorities for action (eg. 2000 World in The Hague, Bonn 2001 Freshwater Conference, The UN 2000 Millennium Assembly, 2006 World Water Forum in Mexico, 2009 World Water Forum in Istanbul). To achieve more effective water governance it is necessary to create an enabling environment, which facilitates efficient private and public sector initiatives and stakeholder involvement in articulating needs, and it will require the combined commitment of government and various groups in civil society, particularly at local/community levels, as well as the private sector (Rogers and Hall, 2003).


Colombia with just 0.8% of the world area, is classified as one of the seventeen countries with more biodiversity in the world. Colombia has 18 ecological regions, the highest number in Latin America, and 65 types of ecosystems. The basins of rivers such as Magdalena, Cauca, Paraná, and Amazonas create important water social-ecological systems and permit that water resources availability per capita in Colombia in 2007 was 45,408 cubic meters, well above the world’s average of 8,209 in the same year. Although it has been recognized in many international fora as an example of an effective use, management and conservation of different natural resources, Colombia has many species in risk of extinction. The institutional framework (Colombian Political Constitution and the Environmental National System) gives priority to the protection of the environment, to the water and biodiversity management and to the need of doing research and improve the knowledge about the Colombian natural resources. Different research and analysis have been undertaken by the Biological Resources Research Institute Alexander von Humboldt that will be used in the design of a new policy for the integral management of the biodiversity and ecosystem services.


The Law 70 of 1993 recognized black communities as an ethnic group and defined their collective property rights on the public lands in diverse watersheds draining into the Pacific Basin that they have traditionally occupy. This Law also established mechanisms for the protection of the cultural identity and rights of these communities, and for the promotion of their economic and social development, since their use and protection of natural resources are based on traditions, ancient practices, relational local forms (e.g. confidence and reciprocity) and “nested institutions”. As part of the implementation of this law, several Black Community’s Councils (Consejos Comunitarios de las Comunidades Negras) were created in the Pacific Basin. Two of them are the Alto y Medio Dagua, and Cuenca Baja del Río Calima, which are the selected case studies in Colombia. The former has 1254 inhabitants, while the second one has 4000 inhabitants approximately. These Consejos possess a collective heritage and mythology that marks them as a human group with a common history, based upon their origins as slaves brought from Africa to America in Colonial times.  Their concept of territoriality is key to understand community action and philosophy, an important part of the process of territorial and environmental organization in the Pacific area.

Both Consejos Comunitarios are located in the Choco Biogeographic Region, recognized internationally as one of the most biologically diverse areas on the planet. The Choco Biogeographic Region boasts several types of ecosystems ranging from cloud and mountain forests to coastal mangroves. The mountain forests cover diverse types of ecosystems and protect the network of streams and rivers that feed freshwater to extensive mangrove forests. There is a variety of ecosystems brought about by the combination of different climates and elevations, which makes this territory a sanctuary for an important number of endemic and endangered species. The ecosystem diversity in this territory is paralleled by high species diversity and endemism. In addition, important and threatened migratory species, e.g. some species of birds, visit this territory. The close location of this territory to the Farallones de Cali National Park gives this territory an additional significance. The Consejos Comunitarios’s territory is also part of an area of great hydrographical wealth as part of the Pacific Ocean watershed. The hydrographical system is a key element of the local biodiversity, and provides water for the local communities’ domestic consumption, agriculture and mining activities. The fauna in this territory is diverse and abundant. The territory is inhabited by various species of mammals, from small bats to pumas, ocelots, tiger cats, foxes, and spectacled bears. Marsupials are important, as well as five species of primates. There are also giant anteaters, two-toed sloths, the southern spiny pocket mouse, hares, otters, deer, coatis, and armadillos. It is calculated that in the territory of these Consejos Comunitarios and the nearby Farallones de Cali National Park the total number of bird species is 600. Amphibians are represented by toads, frogs, salamanders, and “cecilias,” or humming frogs. There are also some endemic species of Colombian fish such as the jewel cichlid, the freshwater sardine or minnow, and the rollizo snapper.
Communities in this territory have an economy based on the exploitation of natural resources such as forests, soils and minerals, fisheries and sceneries. Timber and minerals (mainly gold) are destined to national markets, while fisheries and agricultural products are mainly for domestic use and local markets. Sceneries are used by an incipient local tourism industry. Historically, local communities have developed a close connection with the natural environment. This connection became the central axis of the social organization and facilitated the emergence of a local culture closely linked to the ecosystems and with a strong sense of belonging to the local territory.


Several conflicts connected with the access to and use of natural resources can be observed in this territory: conflicts for accessing natural resources (e.g. illegal timber extraction, mining and hunting), overexploitation of natural resources (particularly forest and fisheries), infrastructure development affecting ecosystems and local communities, conflicts in the access to and forms of use of water, presence of illicit crops and illegal armed groups. COMET-LA will contribute to the empowerment of local communities and will give them tools and capabilities to deal with these situations.


Documents Case Study 1

Contact us:
Prof. Maria del Mar Delgado 

Directora del Secretariado para la Formación de Investigadores
Universidad de Córdoba





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