Until now, Colombia’s largest national park, Chiribiquete, and its largest indigenous reserve, the Predio Putumayo, have remained separated. Recently, the Colombian National Land Agency approved the expansions of two indigenous lands: the Puerto Sábalo Los Monos Indigenous Reserve, and the Monochoa Indigenous Reserve, by 413,110 and 154,790 hectares respectively. The expanded reserves now serve to connect the largest national park and indigenous reserve. This expansive stretch of land, roughly the size of the state of Virginia, is considered an Amazonian conservation corridor. The corridor links nearly 10 million hectares of lands under legal protection, and is a major win for Colombia’s indigenous peoples and rainforest conservation.
These results come as part of an agreement with Parques Nacionales de Colombia (National Park Service), established when they expanded the Chiribiquete National Park to the south. The Moore Foundation’s Andes-Amazon Initiative had supported the free, prior, informed consent (FPIC) process with Parques Nacionales, and had supported Amazon Conservation Team-Colombia (ACT Colombia), in alliance with The Nature Conservancy-Colombia, to work with the government and the indigenous organizations to implement the agreements that resulted from the FPIC process.
“The expansion and titling of these indigenous lands sets an important legal precedent to elevate the vital importance of recognizing indigenous land rights as Colombia implements its peace agreement,” explained Paulina Arroyo, a program officer with Moore’s Andes-Amazon Initiative. “The implementation of the agreement may open up areas to new settlements and generate potential land conflicts. In addition, these indigenous communities currently face great pressure from land invasions and illegal mining, so this new expansion will afford them more political clout with the regional and local authorities.”
Forty clans, composed of 1,423 people comprising 332 families, live in the two reserves. The majority of them belong to the Murui Muina people. The recognition and expansion of indigenous reserves throughout Colombia can help protect vulnerable territories and establish their connectivity with nationally protected areas, illustrating how effective the titling of lands to indigenous communities can be in participatory approaches to reducing deforestation and forest degradation in the Amazon.
It was in this context that Moore’s funding, as well as funding from the Andes Amazon Fund, supported Amazon Conservation Team’s surveying, data collection and coordination with local communities, for the expansions of the Puerto Sábalo Los Monos and Monochoa indigenous reserves. "This result comes from a collaborative effort between international cooperation and local communities; thanks to this effort, state entities were able to reach this remote territory," said Carolina Gil, ACT Colombia's program director.
The work was conducted through a plan developed with the communities, three indigenous associations, Parques Nacionales and the GEF/World Bank Heart of the Amazon Program, with essential support from the Colombian Ministry of the Environment and Sustainable Development. Adrian Forsyth, executive director and founder of Andes Amazon Fund remarked that "The Andes Amazon Fund and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation applaud this fantastic collaboration between the Colombian government, Amazon Conservation Team, and their indigenous partners to protect a huge biodiverse forest that plays a vital role in climate regulation and provides the natural livelihood for Amazonian people.”
By consolidating this lynchpin connectivity corridor in a region that is home to astounding cultural and biological diversity, as well as the country’s single highest rate of deforestation, the free movement of species and resilience for communities and ecosystems have been safeguarded for generations to come. “Colombia has made another step to securing key indigenous lands in the Eastern slopes of the Andes--one of the most cultural and biological diverse areas of the world,” reflected Moore’s Andes-Amazon Initiative director Avecita Chicchón.
Enrique Ortiz, program director for the Andes Amazon Fund added, “Colombia is delivering on their commitments to prevent deforestation. We all hope the ongoing expansion of Chiribiquete National Park will follow in these great steps.”