THE BLOG
05/18/2015 10:44 am ET | Updated May 18, 2016

How the Tolo River People of Colombia Harnessed Carbon Finance to Save Their Rainforest

About This Series 

Colombia's Tolo River People collectively own 32,000 acres of rainforest, and that forest feeds the river on which they depend. But ownership means nothing if you can't protect it. Four years ago, they began harnessing carbon finance to save the forest and preserve their way of life. This series takes us into their thinking and their strategy. It has been adapted from "Modern day forest conservation: A Colombian community protecting its rainforest one carbon credit at a time," by Tanya Dimitrova.

Part One: How The Tolo River People Of Colombia Harnessed Carbon Finance To Save Their Rainforest provides an overview of the project.

Part Two: The Forest, The Farms, And The Finance: Why The Tolo River People Turned To Carbon Finance examines the drivers of deforestation in and around the Tolo River Community.

Part Three: The Tolo River Community Project: The Importance of Inclusion follows the development of the project itself - its conception, its implementation, and its challenges.

Part Four: Getting Down To Business: The Tolo River People Shift From Building Their Carbon Project To Selling The Offsets tells the surprisingly challenging story of finding and cultivating offset buyers.

You can also find the REDD Desk Project summary of this project here.

Colombia's Tolo River People collectively own 32,000 acres of rainforest, and that forest feeds the river on which they depend. But ownership means nothing if you can't protect it. Four years ago, they decided to start harnessing carbon finance to save the forest and preserve their way of life. This is their story.

This is the first of a four-part series that initially appeared on Ecosystem Marketplace. Click here to view the original.

18 March 2015 | Five young men are cutting their way through dense rainforest vegetation in the northernmost part of Colombia - forest that was already old-growth when the conquistadors first set foot on the continent five centuries ago. The silence is interrupted only by the sound of running water from the many streams dissecting the hilly terrain. It is midday, and the heat is intolerable even for the mosquitoes. Frazier Guisao, an ex-logger, heads the single-file line, slicing through the thick undergrowth with a machete to carve out a narrow tunnel. The crew is patrolling the forest to protect it from illicit clearing.

Old trees in this pristine forest reach as high as 10-story buildings, emerging well above the thick canopy, and the men sit for a rest at the buttress roots of a giant centennial almendro tree. Guisao examines the trunk and makes a quick calculation in his head.

"This wood is worth around three million pesos," he says. That's about $1,500 USD. As a former commercial logger, he knows it would have taken him about two hours to fell it with the chainsaw. The work they're doing now isn't nearly as lucrative in the short-term, but it's much more rewarding.

Preserving the Forest; Protecting the Future


Guisao and his team are wearing T-shirts with the bright colorful letters 'COCOMASUR', which, in Spanish, stands for Black Communities of the Tolo River and South Coast - the name of their small Afro-Colombian community organization. The national constitution grants land titles to traditional forest peoples, and the Tolo River inhabitants now collectively own 32,000 acres of rainforest in Chocó region, near Colombia's border with Panama. The patrol leader says it takes him four days to walk the entire perimeter.

 Frazier Guisao, member of the Tolo River forest patrol</p></div>

sitting at the edge of the community forest." src="http://anthropozine.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Frazier1-300x226.jpg" style="margin: 0; float: none;" />

Frazier Guisao, member of the Tolo River forest patrol

sitting at the edge of the community forest.