Risaralda Model Forest

Country: Colombia
Location: Risaralda Department, Andean region of Colombia
Area: 360,000 ha
Year joined IAMFN: 2008
Regional affiliation: Ibero-American Model Forest Network
Contact information:
Francisco A. Uribe G.
Risaralda Model Forest Technical Manager
E-mail: furibe@carder.gov.co

Forest profile and resources
The Risaralda Model Forest (Risaralda MF) belongs to the Department of Risaralda and is located in the center of the triangle formed by the cities of Bogota, Cali, and Medellin. Its surface area is approximately 3,600 Km2, which accounts for 0.3% of the total area of the country. Risaralda borders Antioquia and Caldas on the north; Caldas and Tolima on the east; Quindio and Valle del Cauca on the south and the Department of Choco on the west. There are 14 municipalities under its political-administrative jurisdiction.
By 2006, 46% of the area of the department had forest cover, which accounts for 165,934.70 ha of natural and/or secondary forest of the Andean, sub-Andean, high-Andean, and moor type forest. Approximately 30% corresponds to semi-permanent or permanent crops; 26% grass; 4% natural shrub vegetation (stubble, moor vegetation, among others); and the remaining 1.4% did not have any vegetation cover (urban soil and bare soil). The Risaralda MF water resources are divided as follows: two large drainage basins, seven drainage basins, 42 sub-drainage basins and 326 micro-drainage basins. The department has 32% of its territory under some kind of protection.
Data from the 2005 census reveals that Risaralda Model Forest has a population of 863,663 in 14 municipalities. Most of the population lives in urban areas (77%), the municipalities with the largest percentage of urban population are Virginia, Dosquebradas, Pereira and Santa Rosa de Cabal. The black community resides mainly in the Corregimiento (town) de Santa Cecilia, Pueblo Rico Municipality, where 5000 ha of land were granted to the community between 1996 and 2006. Furthermore, Law 160, from 1994, also granted 28,079 ha to indigenous communities within the department. By 2006, the black community of the area comprised 198 families while the indigenous communities had a total of 1566 families (8345 people).

Economic profile
The agriculture activity within the Model Forest consists of about 35 types of crops, ranging from permanent to temporary. The most significant one is coffee, even though its value added, which accounted for 81% of the subsector in 1990, dropped to 68% in 2003. Historically, coffee has been the main income and export generating product for the department. Due to the crisis this product is facing, several alternatives have been put forward, one of them deals with the "specialty coffees" that generate a higher level of income because its value added is greater. They are easy to implement according to the various regional agroecological conditions. They have a high demand in the international markets and command high prices, which makes them economically viable. On the other hand, the industrial activity of Risaralda, located in the Metropolitan Area and the surrounding municipalities, focuses on five activities: food, paper, textiles, garments and drinks.
Because of the coffee crisis, the panela sugar cane crop was promoted in the department as well as the production of panela as a development alternative for the poorest population in the area. There are 1,253 ha of panela sugar cane which utilize modern agricultural techniques, and 2,989 ha of traditional panela sugar cane. This means that only 29.5% of production has been modernized. The banana crop has become a very important socio-economic item for the department, with respect to food security and job generation.
The forest chain generates the most value added and contributes 6.7% to the department's economy. Thanks to its physical-mechanical features, the guadua bamboo has become a vital input for the construction of houses, bridges, furniture and handicrafts, among others.
Eighty products based on non-wood natural resources of the region have been identified. They include resources of native vegetation (52), crop by-products (7) and wildlife (21). During the three-year period between 2004 - 2006, business plans were drawn-up and executed for three businesses dealing in fines herbs and medicinal plants.

Why a Model Forest?
More than 20 years ago, and under the general guidelines of the Ministry of the Environment,
Housing and Land Development (MAVDT) of Colombia, in the Department of Risaralda, the
conditions were ripe for the development of a participatory model for land environmental management. This is based on a regional perspective that seeks to achieve a sustainable, social and profitable use of the demand for environmental goods and services from the area. In this context we can point out some important and recent highlights of the development process of such management model:

  • The consolidation process of the ECO-REGION OF THE COFFEE GROWING CROSSROADS, which includes the departments of Caldas, Quindio, Risaralda, northwestern area of Tolima and the northen area of the Cauca Valley.
  • The Municipal Environmental Agendas, prepared jointly by the mayors' offices and CARDER
  • Formal adoption of the Environmental Management Systems (SIGAM) by several municipalities.
  • Drawing-up of ENVIRONMENTAL REFERENTS for local land management and the processes for reviewing the Land Management Plans (POT).
  • Agreements signed regarding cleaner production with several sectors: coffee growers, sugar cane growers, hog producers, among others. Reviewing and adjusting the Regional Environmental Management Plan for Risaralda, adopting the Model Forest strategy.

After reviewing and considering the significance of the progress being made in the department during the last twenty-five years regarding environmental management and of the importance of the Regional Environmental Management Plan (PGAR) as a guidance tool for such management, we thought it was the appropriate time to seek the incorporation of Risaralda to the Ibero-American Model Forest Network.

The purpose of this initiative is, in retrospect and in line with the achievements from this management, to bring to the attention of the international community the progress made in the region and to share the results and the projections of a system that adheres to the philosophy of such international movement.

Recognizing the huge potential of the environmental goods and services the department has to offer, we seek to give priority to a sustainable development approach that conceives and assumes the landscape-land as a project. The basic management tool for this approach will be the formation of partnerships (agreements or contracts) among the different social stakeholders of Risaralda.

The Management Group is comprised of the following partners:

  • Risaralda Regional Autonomous Corporation (CARDER)
  • Government of the Department of Risaralda
  • Departmental Committee of Coffee Growers
  • Pereira Technological University
  • Municipalities of the department
  • The production sectors and fourteen municipal environmental committees guide the operation of the Risaralda MF based on the agreements on cleaner production and the sector's environmental agenda.

Strategic goals
The medium-term challenges are:

  • Move forward on the assessment and use of environmental goods and services.
  • Develop a sustainable tourism strategy.
  • Set in motion a strategy for climate change adaptation; put forward and manage projects as part of such strategy.
  • Put forward, within the Model Forest philosophy, processes that would lead to fair trade and green markets.
  • Consolidate the processes for restoration and adaptive management of strategic eco-systems.
  • Develop and apply the cultural landscape concept as an instrument for land management.
    Achievements to date
  • Formal organization of the Model Forest Management Group: Government of the Department of Risaralda, National Federation of Coffee Growers-Departmental Committee of Coffee Growers of Risaralda, Pereira Technological University and the Risaralda Regional Autonomous Corporation.
  • Drawing-up the plan of action (work agenda) for the Management Group.
  • An agreement among the institutions of the Management Group, to enhance and develop actions during the current year.
  • A formal request to CUSO-VSO, for support (through a cooperant) for the development of the Risaralda Model Forest.
  • Initiate the process before the Risaralda Assembly (a departmental body that approves bylaws) for submission and approval of the Regional Environmental Management Plan 2008-2019: Risaralda Model Forest.
  • Enhancement of mechanisms and instruments for Model Forest management:
    -Begin preparation of the Land Composition Model for Risaralda.
    -Adjust Municipal Environmental Agendas.
    -Adjust Environmental Referents for the Land Management Plans.
  • Design of communication and promotion strategy (preliminary) for the Model Forest.
  • Publishing of the Risaralda Environmental Management Plan 2008-2019: Risaralda Model Forest.
  • Submission of three proposals for horizontal cooperation in order to apply seed funding from IAMFN to the Yaque Norte MF (Dominican Republic), Atlantida MF (Honduras), and Reventazon Model Forest (Costa Rica), in areas such as sustainable tourism, analog forestry, payment for environmental goods and services and specialty coffees.
  • Publishing of promotional material on the Risaralda Model Forest (three types of banners and leaflets).
  • Started research project on features of the Model Forest in partnership with Pereira Technological University.
  • Formal agreement between the Government of Risaralda and the Risaralda Regional Autonomous Corporation to develop a departmental strategy for nature tourism.
  • Participation of the Model Forest in events: International Coffee Show and I Symposium on Sustainable Tourism in the city of Pereira.
  • Documenting the Model Forest process, through the Technical Secretariat.
  • Responding to requests and concerns from other entities in Colombia that wish to become Model Forests.
  • Formulation of the institutional strengthening project for the Model Forest, to be applied to funding from the FAO-Facility mechanism.
  • Preparation of agenda of academic events to conduct during the second half of the year in the following areas: adapting to climate change, food security and nutritional security, payment for environmental goods and services, energy and environmental economy.