NaturAmazonas: Gran Tierra’s Largest Environmental Initiative

NaturAmazonas, the flagship conservation program started by GTE and Conservation International, has grown into an alliance of public and private institutions working together to address the root causes of deforestation. It works to develop solutions for reversing the process, while increasing the well-being of nearby communities.

GTE’s program has grown into a joint effort between the Colombian Ministry of the Environment and Sustainable Development, regional environmental agency, Corpoamazonia, and NGO Conservation International which oversees the project. The overall objective is to create the conditions required to protect and conserve Colombia’s Amazonia region by planting millions of trees and conserving land to restore important forested lands, helping residents live and work in greater harmony with the forest, and fostering partnerships amongst the institutions needed to effect long-term change at scale. This initiative strengthens the mechanisms needed for sustainable reforestation and large-scale conservation.

These include:

  • Bringing numerous public and private institutions under an established framework to collaborate and increase their combined impact.
  • Increasing knowledge of, and respect for, the value of forested areas.
  • Implementing mechanisms for people and communities that reside in the area to make a sustainable living in harmony with nature. As it continues to mature, the program has begun to serve as an increasingly effective environmental offset, contributing to global climate objectives and supporting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

In its first six years, this USD $13 million initiative has reforested and ecologically restored over 1,400 hectares of land and has attracted additional partners interested in moving this revolutionary program forward. In 2023, Gran Tierra will extend the NaturAmazonas program another four years and continue its industry-leading reforestation which will be implemented by Conservation International.

Agroforestry Centres

The Guayuyaco Agroforestry Centre in the town of Piamonte was converted and refurbished from an abandoned social site of a nearby Indigenous Inga community and is capable of growing over one million seedlings each year to support the reforestation initiative. Dozens of women from Miraflores and the surrounding areas carry out planting work at the Guayuyaco Agroforestry Centre. Cacao seedlings are spliced together to develop high quality and resilient varieties of the crop.

The Sacha Wasi Agroforestry Centre located in El Mesón, Villagarzón has a production capacity of one million seedlings per year, a total area of 8.06 hectares, and is designed with spaces to store materials, equipment and supplies. This agricultural-focused nursery includes specific areas for preparation and bagging of the substrate, irrigation, germination, management and sowing modules.

Knowledge Generation

Local residents have been hired for expeditions deep into the Piedmont, collecting and categorizing over 10,000 specimens of native plants. They are referred to as Guardians of Botanical Knowledge and they build their knowledge about the native plants and contribute to the creation of important mapping of the botanical make-up of the forest in their areas. New species of plants, have been discovered by the Guardians.

So far, 27,000 specimens have been collected and processed, 1,404 of species have been identified, two of which are new for Colombia and over 130 people have directly benefited from the project.

Botanical Health Development Through Beekeeping

Thousands of bees swarm around unprotected beekeepers, who are not concerned because these are stingless bees, native to this part of the Amazon rainforest. It had previously been illegal in Colombia to cultivate stingless bees, but Gran Tierra worked with the Colombian authorities to change the regulations to allow local people to engage in this important line of sustainable production through the company’s NaturAmazonas program. The bees pollinate plants and trees, supporting reforestation and contributing to botanical health while also producing honey for the farmers—a valuable, durable commodity with appeal in both local and national markets.

There is a high demand for stingless bee syrups, which have a number of different flavours, and keepers can also rent the bees out to local farmers for pollination, providing yet another stream of income. The association of beekeepers continues to grow, with over 300 current members having been trained and certified. In 2023, Gran Tierra extended the NaturAmazonas program another four years and continues its industry-leading reforestation which is implemented by Conservation International.

“NaturAmazonas was the best opportunity we’ve had as a conservation organization to invest in this important part of Colombia. Having exceeded its original goals, this project has now opened the doors for other funders to amplify these efforts to the whole Colombian Amazon Region. This has been absolutely massive from a conservation point of view. The multi-year investment that GTE made was very important and provides a roadmap for how other industrial companies can contribute to reforestation. ”
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