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Planting Cacao in the Colombian Amazon

This is the story of Don Albino who discovered with the help of the REDD+ Early Movers Program REM that it is possible to be productive without destroying the natural resources of the Colombian Amazon.

Changing generations

For a large part of his life, Albino Borrero lived surrounded by the mountains of San Vicente del Caguán in the heart of the Colombian rainforest. "I remember the journeys of up to an hour that we as children had to make to get to the school”, the farmer from the Amazon tells. “We came across many animals in the forest that you don't see much of today. Seeing tapirs, monkeys or coffee plants was very common”, Don Albino narrates.

But all that has changed. According to the farmer from San Vicente, his generation grew up doing what parents and grandparents had done for decades: Cutting down the endemic flora of the Amazon and then installing banana, yucca or corn crops there, or growing fattening grasses for livestock. The lush and lively landscapes that accompanied Don Albino's childhood gave way to barren lands.

"Today it is sad to look at our forests. The old generations thought that the water and the life of the Amazon, our home, would never end”, laments Don Albino. He and the other farmers began to ask themselves what could be done to preserve the forest for the future generations to enjoy.

Forest Conservation through the REM Program

The answer was simple: In order to save the endemic nature of their home they would have to preserve it.

For doing so, they received support from the REM Program “Visión Amazonía”. The Germany, Norway and United Kingdom financed program is implemented by KfW and GIZ and helps Don Albino to care for the surrounding water bodies, adopt sustainable cattle raising practices and install bird corridors. As part of the 'Agroforestry Systems' pillar of Colombia’s REM program, he further receives support for planting native timber trees such as walnuts, cacao and cedars that are allowing him to give back to the forest its richness.

“For years we have been cutting down trees, now we are planting them”, Don Albino tells. “We want to show that it is possible to live from the forests while being sustainable.”

Don Albino has realised that being a cacao farmer is not only about planting the cacao seeds, caring for the plant and harvesting the crop, but also about preserving the forest and offering a home for animals. He says that the birds living in the cacao plantation chirp to say "thank you for preserving the forest”.

"As an inhabitant of the green lung of the world, I say to all of Colombia let's not cut down any more trees; on the contrary, come and help us to plant more”.

With material from Visión Amazonía, Ministerio de Medio Ambiente y Desarrollo Sostenible Colombia.