Chocó-Darien Conservation Corridor
At the time of writing in July 2013, the Chocó-Darién Conservation Corridor is the only Colombian REDD+ project to have credits on the market. It is also the first REDD+ project in Latin America to be implemented on collectively-owned land. The project received CCB Gold Validation in February 2012 and VCS validation/verification in November 2012.
The project arose from the collaboration between Anthrotect, a private company that was established to develop the project, with the Tolo River Basin Community Council (Cocomasur), which own the collective title to the project area.
The project is located in the Darién region of northwest Colombia within the administrative jurisdictions of the Department of Chocó and the Municipality of Acandí. This area is recognised as one of the most biodiverse in the world; it is also one of the poorest regions of Colombia.
The project area is the territory constituting the collective land title of Cocomasur. This is made up of two non-contigous blocks bordering the Darien National Park in Panama and covers 13,465 Ha of which largely undisturbed humid and very humid tropical forests make up approximately 11,807 Ha, or 88%.
The project area presents mosaic deforestation driven by: (i) cattle ranching, which is largely extensive as there are approximately 47,000 head of cattle in the vicinity of the project area; (ii) selective logging, both legal and illegal; (iii) subsistence and small scale agriculture.
Project activities aim to strengthen indigenous peoples’ capacity to collectively manage their traditional lands and generate a revenue stream linked to the carbon value of conservation and reforestation activities by:
1. Building governance capacity, through raising awareness of collective identity and rights, expanding and demarcating collective titles, instilling best practices for administration and accountability, and constructing collective visions and strategic plans for territorial development and resource use (Life Plan and Territorial Management Plan);
2. Reducing carbon emissions, through community surveillance to conserve the existing forest (forest patrols), protection of watershed, regeneration of degraded lands, and integrated management of forest resources by extending harvest rotations, improving permitting processes, and minimizing logging impacts; and
3. Investing in the community-identified priorities defined in the Life Plan that encompasses sustainable local economic development opportunities, health and education, and culture.
Stakeholder engagement and participation
One of Anthrotect's co-founders, Brodie Ferguson, first began talking to Cocomasur about the possibility of a REDD+ project in their collective territory in 2007. These conversations continued intermitently for three years, leading up to a community General Assembly in October 2010 where the community decided to participate.
Land tenure arrangements and carbon rights
On August 1st, 2005, the Instituto Colombiano para el Desarrollo Rural (INCODER) awarded Collective Title No. 1502 to the Council of Black Afro-Colombian Communities of the Tolo River Basin and Southern Coastal Zone (Cocomasur) in recognition of their longstanding presence in Acandí Municipality. This 13,465 ha area is managed by the nine Local Councils of Cocomasur, who in turn represent a mix of Afro-descendant and mestizo families spread amongst 31 villages. The most recent census accounts for 826 families and 5,782 individuals. By law, subsoil non-renewable resources belong to the State, but no mining concessions have been granted within the project area.
The Resolution recognising Cocomasur's collective title only marked out the the cardinal points of the territory. The boundary lines however are not straight, varying according to geography and neighbouring properties. Mercy Corps REDD+ TRS project has provided assistance here, mapping boundareies as well as the limits of pre-existing private holdings within the communal territory (which are offered an amnesty if they don't want to participate and excluded from the project area).
One of the main project activities are community forest patrols to ensure both compliance by the community itself and to make sure that outside agents do not enter and cause deforestation.
Under VCS VM009 A non-project reference area presenting similar socio-economic and geographical characteristics including gradient (which is primary determinant of likelihood of forest conversion in the project area) was selected. The historic reference period was chosen to be 1986-2010 and deforestation measured using remote sensor. Extrapolating levels of deforestation gave and expected total deforestion of 48% over the 30 year project lifetime.
The prjoect will use a combination of on-the-ground field monitoring with space-based high-resolution satellite imagery (ASTER 1:25,000 and Quickbird 1:10,000) and remote sensing using light detection and ranging (LIDAR) and RADAR methods developed by Dr. Greg Asner at the Carnegie Institute for Science. The project also includes community impact monitoring under the CCB standard.
Land Tenure Before Implementation
The US NGO Mercy Corps' REDD+ TRS project has provided support on the delimitation of Cocomasur's land title. The resolution which created the title only gives four boundary points, Mercy Corps have helped by clarifying the precise limits of this along the project borders.