Fundación Biodiversa Colombia

A win for biodiversity! Fundación Biodiversa Colombia’s proposed land purchase of Rancho Verde has been funded by an external organization. 

TiME has agreed to a revised application to purchase the adjacent land — Galilea — to further expand El Silencio Nature Reserve and protect Colombia’s lowland biodiversity.

Status of registration

Fundación Biodiversa Colombia (FBC) is registered as a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization (NGO) at the Chamber of Commerce of Bogotá (La Cámara de Comercio de Bogotá) in Colombia.

Governance and management structure of the group

The foundation is run by our president (Fernando Arbeláez), who reports to a board of directors composed of nine people. Management decisions are made at this level. There are also three administrative staff, including our forest guard, and 11 associated researchers who are involved in various projects. All, except administrative staff, are volunteers. Every year an external auditor verifies our annual financial report and accounting and certifies that it complies with Colombian regulations. We are also under the supervision of the Department of Legal Entities of the City Hall of Bogotá, to which we report annually. We provide periodic and detailed technical and financial reports to our donors.

Exact location, including geographic coordinates

N 06°48’12.81″ W 074°12’14.23″ Our private reserve, El Silencio Natural Reserve and Research Station, and the neighbouring farms we aim to purchase are located in the Barbacoas District Management Reserve in the Yondó Municipality, Antioquia, Colombia. We are based in the lowlands of the Middle Magdalena Valley (MMV).

Map of proposed expansion of El Silencio Nature Reserve
Map of proposed expansion of El Silencio Nature Reserve

Short description of the area and the land to be purchase

The 61-hectare portion of Galilea we wish to purchase includes: 1) two very well-preserved forest patches (11.5 ha and 18.4 ha) in the south, where we have recorded the presence of many animals, including the Critically Endangered Blue-billed curassow; 2) a secondary forest to the north (6.5 ha); 3) a 30-meter corridor of grasslands to connect the forest patches; and 4) an isolated grassland to the east to restore and protect the wetlands. The southern forest patch is adjacent to the northern forest of our reserve, El Silencio, and will connect to the larger forest of Rancho Verde that we recently acquired (labelled “First expansion World Land Trust” on map).

In addition, the acquisition of 61 hectares in Galilea will allow us in the future to connect to another very well-preserved, important but isolated forest patch further north. The landowners have agreed to FBC’s long-term plan to acquire this important part of their land. This opens a unique opportunity to safeguard and connect these forest patches, since partial land sales are highly unusual in the area.

Main threats

The main threat to the area is deforestation for cattle rearing. Deforestation also causes the drying of wetlands, soil erosion and poorer water retention in the region after rainfall. In 2010 our studies suggested that at the ongoing deforestation rate, the remaining forests of Barbacoas would disappear by 2025. Despite our positive influence in the area, deforestation is still a major threat. It is therefore critical to ensure sufficient protected and connected habitat and to continue to strengthen our presence in the area.

Although the current landowner of Galilea has voluntarily preserved the remaining forest, there are no guarantees that future owners would be as ecologically aware. Most likely these forest patches would be transformed into pastures, destroying threatened and endemic local populations and biodiversity.

Estimated value ($) of a single hectare (average)

USD 1,852 (COP 5,000,000)

Conservation plan for the purchased land

Short-term expansion of the reserve:

Hiring a second forest guard: As much as possible we will try to hire a guard who is currently active on the existing farm.

Marking boundaries: Signs along the boundaries of our reserve will request respect for the natural environment and prohibit hunting. We will erect fences where necessary (for example, to keep out cattle), using sustainable and cost-effective living fences. We will connect the forest patches to each other and to the main forest patch of Rancho Verde, which we recently acquired, in order to establish biodiversity corridors.

Land-use planning: Aerial surveys and mapping will be used to set up a land-use plan for biological corridors, further active and passive areas for reforestation and sustainable agroforestry zones.

Registration of the expansion with Colombia’s National Parks: El Silencio is registered as a Natural Reserve of the Civil Society and part of the National System of Protected Areas. The proposed expansion and its land-use plan would be incorporated within the reserve.

Mid-term activities (within a year):

Monitoring boundaries and activities within the reserve: Our forest guards will patrol the reserve to check for illegal logging and hunting, while maintaining tracks inside the forests.

Reforestation: We will place a particular emphasis on increasing the populations of trees that are important food sources for Brown spider monkeys and Blue-billed curassows, as well as threatened plant species.

Visitor infrastructure: In addition to our existing El Silencio Research Station, we will build infrastructure, such as bridges and forest paths for visiting researchers and ecotourism.

Long-term options to develop sustainable income:

Ecotourism: This expansion makes the reserve much more interesting as an ecotourist destination. Tourists would enjoy excursions into the forest as well as ecofriendly boat excursions (e.g., canoe trips). Development will be carried out with limited impact on the environment and in collaboration with the local community, for which it could generate employment opportunities.

Visiting researchers: A larger reserve will also be of greater interest to national and international researchers, such as primatologists and ornithologists. A stable group of resident researchers, or ones that return on a regular basis, is a reliable source of income and information. At present we have arrangements for researchers with students to visit the reserve and use our existing research station, and we envisage an expansion of such arrangements.

Sustainable productive practices: We aim to research sustainable productive practices, including sustainable agroforestry, non-timber products and silvopastoral systems. These practices would not only serve as demonstrations or pilot projects for local landowners but would also generate income for the reserve while restoring the soils, protecting water courses and promoting biodiversity.

Friends of El Silencio: We will set up a fundraising scheme, whereby the public can become “friends” of the reserve for a monthly fee, endowing them with benefits (for example, a number of free nights at the reserve). We want to set this up as a tax-deductable venture, which is especially attractive for companies.

Payment for environmental goods and services, including carbon capture: In 2018 FBC is starting a carbon project in the Barbacoas area, funded by ISA, a Colombian electricity company, and in collaboration with South Pole and Panthera Foundation.The purpose is to generate incentives for conservation (avoiding deforestation), restoration and more sustainable practices for landowners through the verification and allocation of VCS/CCBS carbon credits. This project will not only contribute to our regional conservation and restoration plans but will also provide a regular income for the reserve and other projects in the area. We have also been discussing with the municipality the possibility of creating tax exemptions for conservation, using Barbacoas as a pilot area.