Integration of ecosystems and adaptation to climate change in the Colombian Massif

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In the Cauca Region, there has been a loss of precipitation of up to 0.3 percent per annum and a temperature increase of up to 0.2 degrees Celsius per decade. These have direct consequences on the moors, biodiversity, glaciers and increasing desertification. The impacts are characterized by shortages of drinking water, food insecurity, loss of ancestral knowledge, migration of farming areas to conservation areas and the increase of health problems. The Joint Programme strengthened the articulation and integration of environmental aspects in the country’s National Development Agenda, stressing the reduction of vulnerability due to environmental degradation and climate change, among the most affected and poorest communities. Nationally, the programme impacted on the following political frameworks prioritized by the Country:

  • The national poverty eradication strategy,
  • The national integrated water management strategy
  • The Comprehensive National Action Plan against climate change.

Regionally, the Programme was carried out in the strategic eco-region of the Colombian Massif in order to ensure the conservation and provision of environmental services, the mitigation of the effects of environmental deterioration and adaptation to climate change.

The Joint Programme was drafted together with Colombia’s Ministry of the Environment, Housing and Land Development, the Institute of Environmental Studies and the United Nations agencies which had knowledge in the region.


Environmental degradation and climate change have the strongest impact on the poorest sectors of Colombian society. This Joint Programme's aim was to strengthen the coordination and integration of environmental issues within the national development agenda, with a focus on reducing the vulnerability of those groups most affected by climate change.

The United Nations Joint Programme allowed for work in a remote area that is of strategic value to the country and which is mainly inhabited by indigenous communities. The Programme developed an adaptation strategy that targeted the most vulnerable population-- the farmers and the indigenous communities—and focused on activities that would increase their role in the decision-making process to adapt to climate change.

The strategy chosen focused on strengthening national capacities, regional and local knowledge relating to conservation and the sustainable use of biodiversity and the conservation, management and restoration of ecosystems to ensure the maintenance of environmental goods and services.


  • Environmental elements were integrated into the policies, strategies, and instruments of national planning in order to facilitate the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and which address gender and the relevant ethnic and cultural aspects of the area.
  • Technical and organizational capacity was improved for the integral management of the ecosystems in the strategic eco-region of the Colombian Massif, allowing for the sustainable use of its natural resources.
  • Local institutions and communities in the eco-region of the Colombian Massif now have enhanced capacity to implement adaptation measures for tackling climate change with an ethnic and gender equality approach which will ultimately facilitate the achievement of the MDGs and influence national and region policymaking.
  • Nationally, the Programme was successful in establishing links with the country’s Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies so that it could act as the national lead agency.


The United Nations Joint Programme started out in a very fragmented way and there was lack of trust at the regional level. However, during its implementation the cohesiveness of the Programme was strengthened and local partnerships were established with the indigenous authorities in the area of the Kokonuco, with the indigenous population (Poblazón, Quintana, Kokonuco, Paletará and Puracé) andwith farmers’ organizations and with the city council of Popayan through the Water Company and the “Rio Piedras” Foundation. The local institutions involved have also contributed to the sustainability of the actions taken by the Joint Programme.

Way Forward

As part of this Joint Programme,an initiative is also being supported with the Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca (CRIC) to analyze the MDGs from the viewpoint of the indigenous communities, and which can be serve as a model for practice inside the country and abroad where there are indigenous populations.

Read more about this JP on the MDG-F website.

Lessons Learnt

JP Resources

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