“It is unprecedented — it has not happened anywhere else, any other place at least that I know.”
BOGOTA, April 11 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Indigenous communities that depend on Colombia’s Amazon rainforest for their survival will have more say over their ancestral lands, as Colombia adds 8 million hectares to its protected areas in an effort to stem forest loss.
The new measures announced by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos on Tuesday aim to create a buffer zone for the country’s southern Amazon region.
Farmers are pushing deeper into forests, cutting down more trees to clear land for cattle-grazing and agriculture.
Santos said the protected areas will be marked off in the next two weeks, meaning that “once and for all, we (will) know where we can farm, produce – and from what boundary we will protect all the forests and the entire Amazon”.
This brings the total area of protected forests in Colombia to nearly 40 million hectares, Santos said in a speech in the Amazon town of Leticia, flanked by indigenous tribes and Norway’s prime minister and environment minister.
Norway, a key financial backer of Colombia’s forest conservation efforts, said the new buffer zone was important to meet Colombia’s goals of zero net deforestation by 2020, and halting the loss of all natural forest by 2030.
“It is unprecedented – it has not happened anywhere else, any other place at least that I know,” Ola Elvestuen, Norway’s new minister of climate and environment, said on this week’s visit.
Reducing deforestation is crucial in the fight against climate change, Elvestuen added.