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The ecological recovery model in Colombia

Understanding the climate crisis and ways to adapt to it.

by Eni Staff
08 September 2020
4 min read
by Eni Staff
08 September 2020
4 min read

Over the past 30 years, more than 15.5 million Colombians have been affected by natural disasters (floods, landslides, earthquakes and hurricanes). In 2010-2011, La Niña put the whole country in a danger. Extensive flooding destroyed roads, bridges, aqueducts, houses and buildings, and hundreds of hectares of farmland. The effect was a major economic loss. La Niña cost Colombia about 11.2 billion pesos (441 million euro), equivalent to 2.2% of GDP, according to the Economic Commission for Latin America. Over 3 million people (about 7% of the national population) were directly affected.

The most vulnerable to extreme weather events were rural agriculture-based communities in high climate risk regions, such as the Mojana subregion of Depresión Momposina. While Columbia's wetlands have natural hydrological regulators to manage both wet and dry seasons, the Mojana area experienced more environmental degradation. This lowered its capacity to manage flood and drought conditions. As climate change has affected weather cycles, more extreme weather events have increased the vulnerability of households in the region.

Adaptation, a common virtue

A group of women in Pasifueres, a community of less than 1000 residents, created a coalition to promote rural climate change adaptation. The local association, known as ASOPASFU, is formed by farmers, producers, rangers, aqua-culturalists and ecologists. United they began the ecological restoration of 900 hectares of wetlands. “The flood destroyed everything. We lost our land, our plants, animals, and jobs, and as consequence we faced an economic depression,“ explains Yenifer Jimenez, one of the founders of ASOPASFU.

With a deep sense of belonging to their land, the women, along with the entire community, applied their creativity and knowledge to find solutions against the danger of climate change. Their commitment met the support of the Colombian Ministry of Environment and Territorial Development and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). They also received an adaptation fund, financial aid targeted to developing countries to support them in building resilience and adapting to climate change.

UNDP worked with the government of Colombia to design and present the Scaling up Climate Resilient Water Management Practices for Vulnerable Communities in La Mojana to be financed with the support of the Green Climate Fund. The fund is currently the world's largest dedicated to helping developing countries manage and mitigate GHG emissions and adapt to climate change.


Restored streams in the village of Pasifueres

Wetlands and water management

With input from residents, the 103 million euro project looked to find relevant solutions to address the region's principal vulnerabilities resulting from climate change. The first step of this process was to study long-term water management planning solutions, which enabled communities to invest in new ways to provide reliable access to drinking water. Wetland restoration was a key factor in the region's water management services. With improved water management, the communities could enhance early warning systems for flooding and build agro-productive household systems for crop diversification.

Understanding the local impact of climate change

The ASOPASFU's project also looked to improve the region's ability to understand the impact of climate change locally through the development of hydrological and hydraulic models, flood-risk maps, and vulnerability assessments. This enables the village, as well as local and national leaders, to better understand how they may be affected by climate change and how to adapt accordingly. “Our nurseries were fundamental for preserving our plants and vegetable gardens. We started to eat again our fruits and tomatoes and everything we were able to cultivate," says Jimenez. "They were important for our survival, as well as for our animals."

The village of Pasifueres and surrounding areas are seeing a rebirth as the restoration improves economic conditions, employment and quality of life. “Our goal now is to keep working on this project so we can teach to our children and other communities how to adapt to climate change and be more climate resilient," says Jiminez. ASOPASFU became a role model for the villages around it as it showed how —when they join forces— even a small community can fight to keep their land alive.