Anthrotect was founded in 2007 with the mission of making conservation a viable economic alternative for forest-dependent communities worldwide. We believe that sustainable resource use begins with providing the training and skills that rural communities need to turn their traditional ecological knowledge into a global environmental service. The Chocó-Darién Conservation Corridor is the first REDD project to be issued credits for activities co-designed and implemented on a community-owned, collective land title.
Anthrotect works with Afro-descendant and indigenous landowners in Latin America to design and implement market-based solutions for achieving community-based conservation and sustainable development. Our approach is rooted in strengthening Afro-descendant and indigenous peoples’ capacity to collectively manage their traditional lands. Anthrotect’s flagship project, the Chocó-Darién Conservation Corridor, enables landholders to generate revenue from the carbon value of conservation activities, while preserving traditional livelihoods and ways of life.
The Chocó-Darién Conservation Corridor REDD project protects around 13,465 hectares of tropical rainforest in the Darién region of northwest Colombia, one of the most biologically diverse regions on the planet. The project is co-designed and managed with Cocomasur, an Afro-Colombian community association in the municipality of Acandí that received collective title to the project area in 2005. Cattle ranching is very common in Acandí, and there are an estimated 47,000 heads of cattle in the vicinity of the project. Working together, Cocomasur and Anthrotect have designed a strategy to stop the spread of ranching into the project area, thereby protecting Afro-Colombian livelihoods as well as the forests on which they depend.
Prior to the start of the project in 2010, Cocomasur had minimal capacity to receive and manage financial resources, and they had great difficulty coordinating and implementing activities in the field. The first activities of the project were to hire and train members of the community for administrative positions, including project managers, accountants, and other support staff. Then, Cocomasur began a comprehensive financial capacity building process under the guidance of the Fund for Environmental Action, a Bogotá-based environmental trust fund. Today, Cocomasur has a new office with six full-time administrative staff who coordinate all activities on the ground, ranging from community workshops to forest patrols.
So far, the project has created over 40 full and part-time jobs in the community, ranging from managerial positions, such as the Project Director, Social Coordinator, and Technical Coordinator, to staff specially trained in community outreach and forest monitoring. For most of these community members, it is their first time ever receiving wages and benefits through formal employment. Women play a special role in the management of the project, occupying most of the top administrative positions. Many of these women had left their children and families behind to work or study outside the region, and returned home because of the opportunities created by the project.
The Darién is a very remote region, and the only means of transport around the project area is by horseback or on foot. Members of the community are so accustomed to the difficult climate and terrain of the Darién region that they walk or ride for hours each day without breaking a sweat. They know when the rivers will rise, when the trails are passable, and how to read the subtle signs of the forest. One community leader, Aurelio, is so comfortable on his horse that he prefers to travel overland for days to quarterly project meetings rather than take a short flight by plane.
Measuring the carbon stored in the forest was an arduous process that would have been impossible without Cocomasur’s commitment and deep connection to the environment. Working together with engineers and botanists from the Medellin Botanical Garden, community teams identified and measured over 3,000 trees and palms to estimate the amount of carbon stored in their forest. The farthest transects were 2-3 days hike through dense jungle from the nearest village, which required cooks, guides, and other logistical support for the teams. Completing the carbon inventory gave community members the knowledge and skills they need to monitor the forest on a regular basis, in addition to a new appreciation and respect for the forests they call home.