Gran Tierra’s Flagship Environmental Initiative in Collaboration with Conservation International

NaturAmazonas, Colombia’s signature reforestation and conservation project, made progress on multiple fronts in 2018. A year earlier, Gran Tierra entered into a partnership with the NGO Conservation International and committed to contributing USD $13 million over five years to a large scale reforestation and conservation project in the Putumayo. Conservation International is a non-government organization, well known for implementing and managing nature conservation projects around the world.

This initiative has been developed with the participation and support of the Colombia Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development as well as with the participation and support of Corpoamazonia.

It is our hope that the initiative will benefit not only the natural environment but also will bring economic and social development to the Putumayo region, in the Post Conflict era.

The project is a key component of the company’s efforts to utilize, to help restore and protect the Andes-Amazon corridor, one of the most biodiverse regions in the world. To maximize its benefits for local communities in the Putumayo, the project focuses on four initiatives: Socioeconomic Activities, Sustainable Production, Knowledge Generation and Inter-Agency Coordination.

The projects has four major components:

  1. Inter-Agency Coordination to help develop partners for current and future conservation efforts.
  2. Knowledge Generation integrates participatory research and planning methods.
  3. Sustainable Production implements sustainable management schemes of natural forest ecosystems affected by human intervention.
  4. Socioeconomic identifies different alternative productive chains and sustainable enterprises.

This initiative emphasizes Gran Tierra’s long term commitment to responsible resource development as well as our firm belief that our activities and presence should coincide with a healthy environment and prosperous communities.

One of the project’s major goals is to reforest 1,000 hectares. A very important factor in NaturAmazonas’ success is in helping people understand how sustainable forest practices can help increase their standards of living.

NaturAmazonas Goals

  • 1,000 hectares of land to be reforested, conserved, preserved and ecologically restored
  • 200 families to be trained in techniques for collecting and preparing botanical specimens, who will receive economic benefits for their research work
  • 500+ local families to benefit from establishing sustainable projects generating food products
  • 18,000 hectares of secured and maintained forests that adjoin the restoration areas
  • 150 people to be trained in tree nursery techniques, who will then serve as trainers in the following phases
  • 500 people will be trained and certified in techniques of breeding native bees and the production of honey
  • 500 eco-efficient stoves to be installed to reduce firewood consumption

Knowledge Generation

Local residents have been hired to make hundreds of expeditions deep into the Piedmont, collecting and categorizing over 10,000 specimens of native plants. Called “Guardians of Botanical Knowledge,” these residents are at the same time building their knowledge about the native plants and contributing to the creation of important mapping of the botanical make-up of the forest in their areas. New species of plants, including some that are at risk, have been discovered by the Guardians.

The Guardians of Knowledge program has been very important in providing income and also learning about our environment. In our organization we have 89 women from three townships. In this area we have a lot of natural resources but not much income, so we are looking to preserve our environment but also generate income.

SANDRA MILENA PISO CAMAYO, President of the Women’s Organization AMNUOC

The economy here used to revolve around harvesting wood. Now the community is very focused on preservation and environmental protection. Youngsters are now taking leadership roles in protecting the environment, which is excellent.


Botanical Health Development Through Beekeeping

Thousands of bees swarm around unprotected beekeepers, who are not concerned because these are stingless bees, native to this part of the Amazon rainforest. It had previously been illegal in Colombia to cultivate stingless bees, but NaturAmazonas worked with the Colombian authorities to change the regulations to allow local people to engage in this important line of sustainable production. The bees pollinate plants and trees, supporting reforestation and contributing to botanical health while also producing honey for the farmers—a valuable, durable commodity with appeal in both local and national markets.

There is a high demand for stingless bee syrups, which have a number of different flavors, and keepers can also rent the bees out to local farmers for pollination, providing yet another stream of income. The association of beekeepers grew significantly in 2018, with 150 current members having been trained and certified, and 200 waiting to join. Participants are selected based on the optimal distribution of bees and trees for future reforestation. The beekeepers have planted over 30,000 trees on over 30 hectares in 2018 alone.

I am one of the people who were trained to strengthen our traditional knowledge of beekeeping. This project allows us to work with the Indigenous bee species. Because the bees want to create more honey, they need more pollen, so they are helping more plants grow in the area. This has been marvelous; we have fallen in love with the bees and know how to attract them naturally instead of cutting trees down to get them.


Efficient Stoves

As part of this project, an innovative wood-fired stove was developed for use in rural areas without reliable access to electricity. In these areas, trees are frequently cut down for household heating, cooking and lighting. The stoves, which are portable, are 60% more efficient than open wood burning with less emissions. The latest version also generates a steady three volt current which can charge mobile phones and power 10 lights for three hours – a significant benefit for these communities. More than 100 families have received these stoves to date. The project is now looking at how to scale up the distribution of the stoves.