This month saw the largest and most important summit of 2021, COP26. UEA made its presence felt in a number of ways, including showcasing the results of their work from a four-year biodiversity partnership project in South America.
The GROW Colombia project is a collaborative, multidisciplinary initiative funded by the UK Government, which seeks to achieve lasting biodiversity conservation by building the capacity of academics, government, civil society and the private sector to sustainably develop Colombia’s agroindustry and bio-economy for the benefit of the Colombian people.
Deforestation and biodiversity loss remain critical issues for Colombia, despite multi-million dollar national and international efforts to slow and halt these trends. GROW's work highlights the economic reasons that stress we must try harder to protect remaining forests and biodiversity. But for this strategy to succeed, more targeted and long-term economic incentives to support livelihoods are required.
UEA, together with the Earlham Institute, the Eden Project, and a number of organisations in Colombia have been heavily involved in the GROW Colombia project.
Dr Silvia Ferrini, Prof Kerry Turner and Prof Corrado Di Maria have led UEA’s role in GROW Colombia, which has been able to make several valuable insights over the last four years, leading to changes in biodiversity and conservation approaches in Colombia.
Most prominently, the efforts of the project to prevent deforestation and protect the natural environment were key in the fight to control climate change. Pursuing such a policy in a mega-diverse country is even more important, as the benefits to society and nature are maximised.
Equally, increased plant diversity in pastures prevents soil degradation, enhances water retention and regulation, and increases the carrying capacity of the land, all of which underpins the economic benefits of sustainable cattle ranching. GROW Colombia also advised on conservation, and on increasing plant biodiversity to create so-called slivopastoral systems for cattle ranching and agroforestry for cacao growing.
And generally, the work by the GROW Colombia project on ecotourism and scientific tourism demonstrates how these sectors can be key in the fair and sustainable transition to a bio-economy development.
Colombia’s environmental and cultural wealth and diversity can support a targeted tourism development exploiting specialist markets and high value-added activities which would support rural development, local traditions, and biodiversity conservation.