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NEWS: Building capacity, connection and mutual trust for community-based forest monitoring in Colombia

In a new report, WWF and its partners describe how they built greater connection, communication and technical capacity between community-based forest monitoring initiatives and national stakeholders in Colombia. 

In a new report, WWF shines the spotlight on a strategic, multi-step approach to build capacity, connection, and mutual trust among community-based forest monitoring initiatives and agencies tasked with forest monitoring at the national level in Colombia.

The landscape of Colombia encompasses a great amount of biological and cultural diversity, found nowhere else in the world. This vital landscape however, is facing significant threats including deforestation, land grabbing, overgrazing, illicit crop cultivation, illegal logging and the construction of roads. Additionally, climate change, political turmoil and weak environmental governance and internal conflict have weakened incentives for conservation.  

In 2016, WWF, along with several partners such as the Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies (IDEAM) established the The Interinstitutional Working Group on Community Monitoring. Through both vertical and horizontal integration, this initiative brings together community-based monitoring efforts and national systems to build mutual understanding, trust and collaboration. 

This approach encourages connection and knowledge exchange between community initiatives, enhancing the technical capacities and resilience of communities in the face of challenges and risks associated with community-based monitoring.  Overall, this initiative aims to strengthen the Forest and Carbon Monitoring System and to generate national guidelines that take into account the full diversity of community experiences and perspectives.

To date, the Working Group has achieved several successes owing to its emphasis on relationship-building. This includes the growth of collaboration and communication between local and national levels and between communities in addition to the increased capacity of NGOs of the Working Group to meet their goal of strengthening community processes. Innovative tools like WhatsApp forums have also been used to aid community monitors in sharing information and staying connected.

Over the past five years of this initiative, key lessons have been learned:

  1. It is essential to establish trust and open communication between community monitors and national monitoring institutions
  2. To empower community initiatives, the powerful national entities and NGOs must create space for local voices to be heard
  3. Information is power – and its use, communication and protection are key to the success or failure of monitoring initiatives 
  4. Community monitors are best empowered when they are integrated horizontally with other communities and vertically with the national framework
  5. Building space for inter-institutional work, in order to dynamize the entire process of integrating the local initiatives with the Forest and Carbon Monitoring System, turned out to be a successful strategy.

It is hoped that by sharing Colombia’s experience, this report can inform others to adapt and use the lessons in their own forestry and climate work.

Read the full WWF report here

 

Photo: Huts in Colombian forest. Courtesy of Alexander Schimmeck via Flickr.

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