25 November 2019 – INBAR Latin America and the Caribbean Office’s (INBAR LAC) project in Colombia exploring the potential for local varieties of bamboo to contribute to rural development in La Macarena, a region affected by more than five decades of civil war, has concluded. INBARLAC Communications Specialist Esteban Sacato shares the findings from the project.
In 2016, a peace agreement was signed between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People’s Army, known as FARC-EP after several decades of conflict. INBAR, with support from the Technological University of Pereira and the Colombian Bamboo Society, has now completed a project in the area of La Macarena called “Agroindustrial Development of Bamboo in the Municipality of La Macarena to Promote Peace, Income Generation and Employment”, also known as “Guadua for Peace”.
The main objective of the project was to contribute to the construction of peace, reconciliation, and rural development in La Macarena, through a variety of different actions including taxonomic study, inventory of bamboo resources, sustainable bamboo management, and transformation of bamboo as source of income in La Macarena.
Activities followed a model of investigation – participation – action, with a focus on working with displaced, ex-combatants, and those who had lived through the conflict. A bamboo-based rural development model was implemented that is replicable in other areas and provided economy and employment through training on sustainable management and processing of bamboo.
During this project, the following specific actions were achieved:
1) Identification of five key species in the region, of which four are herbaceous bamboos of the genera Olyra, Pariana and Raddiella, and one is a woody bamboo, the species Guadua angustifolia Kunth. Potential economic or social uses were defined for each species.
2) Determination of the bamboo resources in the area through biophysical and socio-economic evaluations. These studies registered 314 ha of bamboo forest cover within the project area out of a total of 72325 ha. 55% of this bamboo forest area is within the jungle, 23% is on the banks of rivers and waterways, and 22% is mixed jungle and pasture. The evaluation determined that 62% of the project area has access to electricity and that only 36% is covered by jungle. In addition, on average, bamboo species in the area grow to 10.5 cm in diameter and 19 m high, and grow with a density of 2876 culms per hectare.
3) 17 training workshops were carried out during the duration of the project, training local people in the in the areas of crafts, construction, management and propagation, environmental benefits, and planning. These workshops were carried out in collbaoration with local community organisations supporting those involved in the conflict, including to victims, re-incorporated ex-combatants and farmers in the Territorial Training and Reintegration Space (ETCR) of Playa Rica – La Ye. In total, 215 people from 17 villages took part in these training workshops.
4) A five-year action plan for bamboo was developed in the Municipality of La Macarena in a concerted manner, through dialogues with local actors linked to administrative, political, cultural, environmental, educational, and other sectors.
It can be concluded that guadua and other bamboos can alleviate poverty in many rural regions of Colombia, that the recognition of the diversity in each territory, the transfer and exchange of knowledge with rural communities, and the development of skills between them can contribute to improved social integration, achieving the economic progress of peasant families in a friendly, inclusive territory, and where sustainable development and peacebuilding is feasible.
To read more about INBAR’s project to explore the feasibility of using bamboo to rehabilitate communities impacted by conflict in Colombia, click here.