In Southern Colombia, there is an incredible and unknown place with an enormous biodiversity. It is known as the Amazon Piedmont, a outstanding landscape where the cold mountains of the Andes meet the Amazon jungle. For more than a decade, WWF has been working for the conservation of the Piedmont with initiatives that aim to reduce deforestation and to increase protected areas and communities’ governance.
One of the main productive activities that take place in this area is the extensive cattle ranching for milk and meat production. Therefore, WWF is investing great efforts to achieve the transformation of these activities into sustainable ones that ensure the conservation of this territory, and improve the producers’ life quality.
So far, about 180 farmers have signed conservation agreements with WWF. How is the process? Who are the farmers who are transforming their farms? What results had been achieved? For a week, we visited some of the farms where changes to produce sustainable meat and milk have begun being implemented, in three municipalities in the area. This is how the transformation process looks like:
First stop: San José del Fragua, Caquetá
To get to San José de La Fragua we need to travel by plane from Bogotá to Florencia, the capital of the department of Caquetá. From there, it’s a one-hour car ride until reaching the municipality's urban center. For years, the inhabitants of San José del Fragua suffered the impacts of war due to the presence of the FARC and illicit crops proliferation. Little by little, traditional activities such as livestock and agriculture have been reassumed, and the communities are starting to conserve the forest. We begin the journey early in the morning.
One of the main problems of peasants in San José del Fragua is the distance between their farms and the population centers. They do not have electricity and the only means of transport is the horse.
To get to the village to buy food or sell milk, José goes through the mountains for over 3 hours on horseback. If the journey is on foot, it takes more than 5 hours. In farms such as Jose’s, WWF has implemented orchards to ensure the food safety of the families.
Luis Espinoza had cut down all the forest of his farm for cattle ranching, but as a result of the WWF contributions he has recovered part of the forest and implemented other activities such us growing live fences to feed the livestock and installing a solar panel to produce energy.
Mary’s family now transforms pigs’ manure into cooking gas! WWF has implemented a biodigester that allows generating gas and organic fertilizers for crops.
Many of the farms are in Alto Fragua Indi Wasi Protected Area influence zone.
Second stop: Puerto Asís, Putumayo
To get to Puerto Asís from San José del Fragua it is necessary to travel 10 hours by car. Along the journey, the landscape begins to transform, as well as the culture of the inhabitants.
During the war, many of the inhabitants of Puerto Asís (Putumayo) were dedicated to coca cultivation. Now, they have retaken livestock and alternative crops such as pepper and chili.
As a result of the WWF work, Guillermo Moran is recovering forest areas in his farm in order to protect water sources.
In addition to cattle, Eduardo Toro now plants and trades pepper on his farm, and has incorporated silvopastoral systems to improve the health and welfare of his animals. This calf is just born.
After school, Jenifer Torres helps her family with crops and animals. Before participating in the process, her family had cleared their entire farm. Now they combine cattle and pig raising with forest protection, and pepper and banana planting for trading.
Third stop: Valle de Sibundoy
In Sibundoy the landscape is completely different. From 820 feet above sea level in Puerto Asis we climb up to 7217 feet. In this valley which is surrounded by mountains the weather is colder, but the main activity is still the cattle ranching.
With WWF support, Eduardo Andrade learned how to make organic compost and for the first time he is going to have a corn harvest in a field where there used to be only cattle.
Adriana Castro is really proud about the transformation of this area once destroyed by deforestation as a result of the WWF work.
WWF’s local team checks the new crops located in a field used only for cattle ranching.
After an entire life working with traditional cattle ranching, Antonio Cueyal, 85, has implemented different activities with WWF support, in order to have sustainable ranching practices.