09 Jul Supporting Proyecto Reforestación, the Colombian Reforestation Project
There are many challenges facing the natural environment as a result of humankind’s use of our planet’s resources, from the degradation of land and habitat loss as a result of farming, mining and deforestation through to the pollution of our oceans by plastics or of our atmosphere by the burning of fossil fuels. They are huge problems but we must all remember that lots of people doing little things add up to have big impacts. With this in mind, we are proud to be supporting our Colombian friends at Proyecto Reforestación in their mission to reforest areas of Colombian rainforest and educate local communities and future generations about the importance of the forests.
Almost 60% of Colombia is covered by rainforests, an area roughly equivalent to Germany and England combined, and includes part of the Amazon rainforest and coastal cloud forests. The variety of ecosystems in the country are home to a staggering number of species, and Colombia ranks second in the world for biodiversity thanks to its richness of plants, amphibians, butterflies and freshwater fish – around 10% of the species found on this incredible planet are present in Colombia, including over 51,000 plant species. Colombia’s forests are internationally important, however they are constantly under attack and in serious need of protection.
Deforestation Issues in Colombia
Deforestation is a major problem in Colombia, where in 2016 it was estimated by Ideam (The Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies, a government agency that is part of the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development) that 178,597 hectares of forest were lost due to indiscriminate felling – a hectare being about the size of a sports field. The loss of forest is the result of agriculture (both small-scale/subsistence farming and commercial farming, such as for palm oil plantations), mining, the energy industry (including hydro-electric projects and oil exploration), commercial logging, felling for firewood, and the illegal drug trade (due to clearing for cultivation, and the aerial spraying of herbicides by the government in an attempt to combat the trade). The Alexander von Humboldt Biological Resources Research Institute for Colombian biodiversity has shown an average decrease of 18% as of September 2017.
The threats are many, and complex.
What Can Be Done?
Last April, the Colombian Supreme Court passed a landmark judgement that recognised the country’s Amazon rainforest as an “entity subject of rights” giving it equal status to humans and requiring the government to take urgent steps to protect it for the benefit of future generations.
Until now, however, halting the destruction of Colombia’s forest habitats and taking steps to reforest areas that have been impacted by human activities has primarily been undertaken by small-scale local and environmental organisations and charities. Beyond the obvious benefits to the environment of restoring areas to natural forest cover, reforestation is also of benefit to the energy sector whose current water sources are unsustainable unless watersheds are reforested.
We are proud to be supporting Proyecto Reforestación, an organisation working in Guadas in the San Francisco River Basin Forest Reserve, about 50km outside of Bogotá. The reserve serves to protect the drinking water supply for the villages of the municipality, so the forest cannot be used for farming, logging or mining and is protected by law.
Proyecto Reforestación work to identify areas that can be successfully reforested, identify the native species of the region and then obtain any necessary permits. They then propagate or purchase the seedlings of the selected plant species, plant them and monitor and care for them until the saplings reach a stage at which point they can be left to grow-on naturally.
The aim is primarily the conservation of national biodiversity and the reinstatement of forested areas for the benefit of the environment, but the project also generates awareness among the inhabitants and school children of the region about the importance of the conservation of forest areas, and provides opportunities for international language students from the Nueva Lengua Spanish School to volunteer with a local environmental charity.
In the future, Proyecto Reforestación hopes to involve more companies (both national and international) to join in environmental investment as part of their social responsibility plans, and to expand reforestation projects into areas in the other regions where Nueva Lengua has language schools.
By Buying Rathlee’s Rum…
Rathlee’s 2018 donation to Proyecto Reforestación allowed Ivan and his team to purchase and plant 55 plants – three Tulips, three Mussaenda (an evergreen shrub), two Helecho Palmas, four Helecho Nido de Ave, four Helecho Cacho de Venado (Helecho are ferns), ten Cedros (cedar), ten Ocobos (a decidual shrub with pink flowers), ten Chicalá (trees with yellow bell flowers), seven Aliso (Andean alder) and two Petunia. In the face of such widespread destruction of the natural environment in Colombia’s rainforests this may seem like a drop in the ocean, however these grassroots projects are so incredibly important. They represent more than just new trees where old ones were cut down, planting as well the seeds of understanding and hope in local communities and showing that small scale local action can work. If projects such as this spread across Colombia then there is potential for a widespread shift in the fate of the nation’s rainforests and a reason to have hope for the future of the planet as a whole. Lots of people doing little things add up to have big impacts. We are proud to be supporting a project making real changes in Colombia and thank you for your custom which allows us to do this. To help us to continue supporting Proyecto Reforestación, you can shop our rum here.