Del Rosario University research team works with communities on Selva y Conflicto to slow the rate of deforestation in the Amazon.
After the failure of military intervention in the illegal forestry trade in Colombia, researchers have developed a new method called Selva y Conflicto, intended to gather vital information about the communities engaging in this practice effectively.
Carbon Sinks Are Vital to Our Survival
Carbon sinks are some of the most important natural features we have on our planet. Not only do carbon sinks often retain some of the highest levels of natural biodiversity on our planet, but they also function as the only existing large-scale mechanism of carbon capture we have.
While man-made attempts have been made to create scalable carbon capture technology, what is definite is that natural ecosystems work best for capturing large amounts of carbon.
The Amazon Rainforest is one of these carbon sinks, and while it currently still captures more carbon than it releases, it is at risk of becoming a carbon source due to mass deforestation.
Since 2016, deforestation has been on the rise in Colombia due to various factors. The issue must be more concise, and solutions have often needed to be more effective.
However, new research has been conducted out of Del Rosario University in Bogotá, pointing to a path with long-term benefits.
How Did We Get Here?
In 2016, the Colombian government agreed with FARC, the guerilla rebels operating in Colombia, waging a small-scale war against the government and other groups. Partly as a result of this cease-fire, a sharp increase in deforestation occurred in the country due to the necessity of tree-cover utilized by FARC.
Some other driving factors of the rising deforestation are the expansion of cattle ranches and the desperation of the peasants living on the land in Colombia.
In Operation Artemis, in 2019, the military of Colombia began sending heavily armed battalions into the area to prevent the ongoing illegal deforestation. However, their efforts were negligible, barely tackling only 3% of the deforested area and costing the country 3.4 billion pesos.
“Operation Artemis has not significantly targeted the large deforesters with political connections in the territory. It has, above all, [targeted] small settlers, who are responsible, but to a lesser extent,” said Nicola Clerici, an ecologist and researcher from Del Rosario University in Colombia.
To more effectively understand the problem in Colombia, what is needed is more community-oriented information. Each region has specific issues that lead to deforestation, and a one-size-fits-all approach is not tangible in an area with a wide range of needs.
To address this, a team operating out of Del Rosario University called Selva y Conflicto (Forest and Conflict) has designed a “toolbox” to help understand how to deal with the problems.
Selva y Conflicto works like a board game, as it comes with figurines and symbols representing various factors in the area. They use this to create a conflict map unique to each community and back-referencing this new information with existing satellite and geographic information.
With this information, the government can be adequately prepared to take more tangible and valuable steps in addressing the more significant problem of deforestation in their country.
Looking to the Future
Effectively understanding a problem before attempting to solve it is absolutely necessary. Oftentimes, the worst outcomes are paved with good intentions, which is why understanding the background of how these communities have been led to the decision to engage in illegal forestry is absolutely necessary.
Gamifying the process through Selva y Conflicto, will help gather critical information specific to each area.
For example, in Indonesia, Brazil, and Madagascar, an NGO identified the rising deforestation rate as a direct result of increasing fertilizer and medical goods costs. By providing medical services and teaching sustainable agroecological farming methods, they were able to significantly quell the rate of CO2 emissions arising from deforestation Selva y Conflicto seeks to emulate this success.
Ultimately, these decisions need to be made by governments, and by having the necessary information, they can accurately and effectively manage the situation in the Amazon. Selva y Conflicto might be a good place to start.