Study Shows Colombian Guerrillas Were Guardians of the Forest

Victoria D. Doty

When Colombia’s largest guerrilla group laid down its weapons in 2016 as portion of a landmark peace offer, it ushered in a new chapter in the country’s record following five many years of brutal civil war. But the pact also designed an unintended victim: the country’s forests. 

Considering that the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) demobilized, deforestation has soared, a study printed in the journal International Environmental Change has located.

Involving 1988 and 2011, when Colombia’s conflict raged, deforestation fees remained relatively steady between the Andes mountains and the Amazon rainforest. But between 2012, when peace negotiations started, and 2019, the newest yr for which information is offered, conversion from forest to agriculture improved by forty%. 

The study echoes nationwide deforestation information for current a long time. In 2016, deforestation spiked by forty four% as people took advantage of the power vacuum to distinct forest for coca output, cattle, and land speculation.

“Nature was certainly still left out of the peace settlement and unfortunately it opened up the way for land appropriation”, says Carlos Devia, a forest engineer at Bogotá’s Javeriana College who was not included in the study.

Nevertheless it is established that the FARC’s conflict with military and paramilitary forces slowed deforestation, there has been minimal understanding of how this differed in unique regions.

Mapping the decline of forest with satellite information between 1988 and 2019 and evaluating it with data of conflict at the Uppsala Conflict Knowledge Method led to some sudden conclusions, stated Paulo Murillo-Sandoval, who led the analysis while at the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences.

“Many people say that the guerrillas ended up fantastic for the surroundings, and that’s legitimate: Deforestation in the Colombian Amazon was definitely, definitely gradual for several a long time,” says the researcher. “But amazingly, in selected destinations at regional stages, deforestation essentially improved.”

The FARC are notorious for human rights atrocities they committed in the course of the conflict, like kidnapping and pressured abortions. But they also enforced stringent procedures to safeguard the surroundings. FARC commanders prohibited animal trafficking, overfishing and even putting cocaine labs also close to rivers. Mass-clearing of the forest, which shielded the guerrillas from the eyes of military plane, was strictly banned.

The spike in deforestation put up peace settlement exhibits that the FARC’s existence guarded the forests at huge by deterring criminal groups from clearing huge swathes of forest. 

But at a regional stage, deforestation continued at a sizeable charge. Forest protect in a 1 km radius of conflict decreased on typical by 19% a yr. 

The shifting of deforestation hotspots because the peace offer also suggests that the FARC shielded the forests from land grabs, Murillo-Sandoval says.

Most deforestation in Colombia currently is in sparsely populated spots, like indigenous reserves and nationwide parks in the Amazon. This suggests that the driver of deforestation is criminal groups who are having advantage of the FARC’s departure to amass hundreds of acres of land at a time.

“There is often a connection between populace and deforestation, but we located that even in very small municipalities where no 1 lives there is mass deforestation,” Murillo-Sandoval stated. 

Other international locations transitioning from conflict to peace should understand from Colombia’s problems and safeguard their forests as portion of any peace offer.

Considering that the FARC still left the scene in Colombia, scientists have also rushed into the forest. But instead than clearing the forest, they are racing versus time to doc its inhabitants prior to the trees disappear.

Natalia Ocampo is having portion in the Colombia Resurvey Project, an initiative to develop a nationwide stock of Colombia’s birds. Colombia has additional types of hen, amphibian and butterfly species listed here than everywhere else in the globe, but conflict has prevented science from studying it for many years.

“Deforestation has improved significantly in the past five a long time adhering to the signing of the peace settlement,” Ocampo says. “We have to transfer speedily to study the biodiversity of our disappearing forests”. 

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