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  • Writer's pictureLuis A Mazariegos

March 2021 - 4Rs @ MPNR: Reclaim, Restore, Reconnect, Repopulate

Updated: Mar 11, 2021

Recognized as one of the world's “megadiverse” countries, Colombia hosts over 10% of the planet's biodiversity. Worldwide, it ranks first in bird and orchid species diversity and second in amphibians, plants, butterflies and freshwater fishes. With 314 types of ecosystems, Colombia possesses a rich complexity of biological, climatic and ecological components, and is also ranked as one of the richest countries in water resources. The country’s large watersheds feed into the five massive sub-continental basins of the Amazon, Orinoco, Caribbean, Magdalena-Cauca and the Pacific.

The country has several areas of high biological diversity in ecosystems found in the Andes, characterized by a significant number of endemic species. Unfortunately, a considerable part of these natural Andean ecosystems have been transformed for agriculture and cattle grazing. It is estimated that 70% of forests in the Andes have been reduced from their original cover.

The western Andes of Colombia is considered to have the ecosystems where most biodiversity can be found. The nearly 3,500 hectares of the Mesenia-Paramillo nature reserve (MPNR) are located in a strategic corridor that connects forest areas and is part of the Regional System of Protected Areas (SIRAP) Northwest, as a private reserve of the civil society. It is located in a strategic connection point where the DMI Cuchilla Jardín-Támesis and the Protective Forest Reserve Farallones del Citará join. The reserve has been consolidating itself as one of the most important places for the conservation of threatened species and in turn protects the San Juan de Antioquia river basin that provides water to at least 14 communities along its route to the Cauca river.

One of our main objectives is to rebuild connectivity between forest fragments, focusing on those areas with water sources. Therefore, we intend to restore 200 hectares that were dedicated to cattle grazing, by planting native species during the next two years, to create corridors that allow wildlife populations to mobilize, in addition to generating greater water wealth in the San Juan de Antioquia river basin. The assisted restoration of the 200 hectares will require some 320,000 native trees to provide a solid base for pastures to be colonized by natural plant species.

Currently, tree nurseries are being built in several sectors of the reserve. Organic soil is sieved and enriched with chicken manure fertilizer and the pH adjusted with lime before placing it into bags. Seeds and seedlings of nearly 300 species of trees and shrubs will be collected and potted. The plants will take six to seven months to grow to the right size to be planted. Using augers to assist in digging holes will make the planting process more efficient.

The labor force that will participate in this project will be hired from the La Mesenia Village providing them with an important income and appropriation of the project. The average daily pay, known as “jornal” in the area, is 10 USD per day. We are currently paying 14 USD per day which is 40% above the “jornal”. The national minimum wage is 260 USD per month or 10 USD per day (26-day month excluding Sundays). Our payment therefore will include additional benefits which, according to national standards, should be 30% of the minimum wage.

Our partner, Saving Nature, is supporting this effort to help us accomplish this goal. In summary, through land acquisitions we reclaim pasturelands and restore them with native tree species to reconnect forest fragments, recreating corridors and forests that living organisms repopulate to maintain biodiversity for future generations to enjoy.

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