All four countries involved (Colombia, Ecuador, Perú, Venezuela) ratified the CBD. The proposed project fully incorporates the primary objectives of the GEF Operational Programs on Mountain Ecosystems (OP #4) and Arid and Semi-arid Ecosystems (OP #1) within the focal area of Biological Diversity. Threats to biodiversity of Paramo will be mitigated through implementation of in-situ biodiversity protection and sustainable land-use activities, both in protected areas and their buffer zones. Key to the Participatory Management Plans will be sustainable land use activities that reduce pressure on Paramo and the promotion of policy options and tools that support biodiversity conservation and provide local benefits to mountain communities. This will be supported by international and interdisciplinary capacity building and awareness raising programs. Public involvement in the project will be assured by an emphasis on participation of local stakeholders from mountain communities to national and international policy makers.
The project has been designed in accordance to Strategic Priorities #1, #2 and #4 in the Biodiversity Focal Area. The project will work on 9 critical Paramo sites. Six out of these nine sites are located within buffer zones of protected areas. This choice of sites follows a general threat to protected areas in Paramo, which is encroachment. The project will strengthen sustainable resource management in these sites thereby diminishing the pressure on the protected areas. By doing this, the project increases the overall sustainability of the network of protected areas in the Paramo ecosystem. The project is also consistent with SP # 2. The communities located alongside protected areas in Paramo can be considered as productive units in themselves. The project will introduce biodiversity concerns into the production systems of these communities by promoting resource use techniques best adapted to the Paramo conditions. These production techniques have the dual objective of protecting Paramo biodiversity while improving food security at the household level. Finally, following the objectives of SP 4, the project will provide means for the compilation and dissemination of best practices. Upscaling and outscaling of highest impact results is supported by mechanisms throughout the projects components, but mainly through component 5, specifically designed to implement a replication strategy and mechanism for the dissemination of lessons learned throughout project execution.
The project is fully consistent with the principles of COP guidance. Since Paramo is a border crossing ecosystem, with important biodiversity, hydrological, economical and cultural values, it forms an ecosystem par excellence to apply CBD’s ecosystem approach. The project also addresses issues of agrobiodiversity and mountain biodiversity which were endorsed as a GEF priority by the III Conference of the Parties in Buenos Aires (1996) and the VII Conference of the Parties in Kuala Lumpur (2004).
The project is fully in line with the “GEF Approach for Investments in the Conservation and Sustainable Use of the Biodiversity in the Paramo” (July 2002). In considering key strategic directions for the Paramo, the strategy stated that GEF would support projects that are complementary to national development programs and strategies that address the root causes of biodiversity loss in the Paramo. The projects themselves should, when nested within the development strategies, provide models for conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in the Paramo. Identified projects would focus on well-defined targeted areas of the Paramo, the conditions of which lend themselves to replication throughout the high altitude grasslands in the region. Interventions could occur at the national, regional, or trans-frontier level as circumstances demand and the project designs support.
In order to give cohesiveness and a higher profile to Paramo conservation strategies, it was agreed to highlight not only the biodiversity importance of the Paramo, but also one of the key environmental services provided by the Paramo: water. Given the importance of water to many stakeholders, this approach is one that was identified as a vehicle to mobilize governments (national, local) and private sector (flower industry, mining) support as well as a way to institutionalize Paramo planning conservation and sustainable use strategies as a national priority. Particular emphasis was given to (i) strengthen the national enabling environment; (ii) in-situ conservation; and (iii) demonstration activities dealing with sustainable use of natural resources. The FSP components and activities fully reflect the contents of the strategy and follow its objectives.
This project is a straightforward step to implement Decision 523 (D523) of the Andean Community (CAN), of which Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela are members) entitled "Regional Biodiversity Strategy for the Tropical Andean Countries". This unprecedented, officially binding resolution is based on national strategy documents from all Andean countries. D523 identifies the Paramo as a priority trans-boundary ecosystem that should be the subject of regional cooperation on biodiversity conservation and sustainable use. This project will apply the strategies derived from D523 to the entire Paramo ecosystem. CAN created the Environmental and Sustainable Development Ministry Council in July 2004, which will be in charge of coordinating the activities of the Andean Committee of Environment Authorities (CAAAM) and the Andean Committee of Genetic Resources, including D523. Through Decision 1070 (2004) the Andean Parliament created the Andean Biodiversity Institute (IAB; ratified by the Council of Andean presidents in Quito), which institutionalized an Andean approach in research and information management. CAN has formally endorsed this project, a letter of which is attached to this document, and committed to support the project objectives through its activities in the areas of (i) regional strategy for the conservation of biodiversity, (ii) the design of an Andean strategy on climate change, and (iii) integrate management of water resources.
All countries of CAN recognize the importance of water as an element that is integrated with the functioning of ecosystems. The role of Paramo in the regulation of hydrology, particularly within the megadiverse region of the eastern Andes (upper Amazon basin), is recognized not only by CAN but also by the countries participating in the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization (OTCA). Recently, OTCA has signed a memory of understanding with the Secretary General of CAN to develop a joint Amazon-Andes conservation strategy. CONDESAN will interact with CAN and OTCA to help constructing this vision.
There are several bilateral and multilateral bordercrossing conservation strategies among the countries of CAN. Four so-called Frontier Integration Zones (ZIF, Zonas de Integracion Fronteriza), have been established by Decision 501 (2001), to apply the frontier Development and Integration Community Policy. On the Colombia-Ecuador and the Ecuador-Perú borders, ZIF include Paramo and the project has selected intervention sites there. Important intergovernmental development programs are under implementation at the ZIF, financed with large donations and loans from North American and European countries. In both ZIFs bilateral governmental coordination commissions are in place.
National environmental plans and action plans that have been prepared in the framework of the Convention on Biological Diversity reflect a growing concern with the conservation of the Paramo. In 1993, Colombia's congress created the Ministry of the Environment (now Ministry of Environment, Housing, and Land Development, MAVDT) and organized the country’s environmental sector into a national environmental system (SINA - Sistema Nacional Ambiental). SINA is made up by national, regional and local authorities, NGOs, universities and research institutes among others. The MAVDT, responsible for providing policy guidelines to the SINA, has identified Paramo as one of Colombia’s key ecosystems. Policy documents such as the country’s biodiversity policy and corresponding action plan and the water conservation policy, highlight Paramo as a priority ecosystem. In 2002, MAVDT presented its program for sustainable management and restoration of Colombia’s high mountain ecosystem –Paramo, which was developed in a participatory manner with different stakeholders and presents strategies for Paramo management. A resolution of MAVDT (August 2002) invited the Regional Environment Authorities (CAR) to develop management plans for the Paramo within their jurisdiction and in 2004, a Paramo conservation law has been presented to the National Congress.
Ecuador's Ministry of Environment developed a Conservation Action Plan for Paramo Biodiversity (presented 26/4/2000) that includes ten policy recommendations highlighting the national significance of Paramo in terms of biodiversity and water. Ecuador's law for Forest and Conservation of Natural Areas and Wildlife and its regulations recognize Paramo values as a priority for biodiversity conservation. Two new legal instruments (Sustainable Forest Development Law and Conservation and Sustainable Use of Biodiversity Law) include specific Paramo-related directives and are currently under congressional discussion. In both, Paramo is declared a "special area" that receives particular regulations for their management. The Ecuadorian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Environment coordinate Ecuador's participation in the Convention to Combat Desertification, in which Ecuador has included the degradation of the Paramo landscape as a principal theme within the PAS-PUNA program. Governmental and non governmental organizations discuss Paramo issues in a national Paramo Working Group.
In Peru, CONAM released a document in 1999 entitled "Priorities in the Use and Conservation of Biodiversity for Sustainable Development" in which one of the focal areas is the Paramo/jalca/puna1 continuum. Also, under the leadership of the Peruvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a multisectoral committee has been established in 2001 to coordinate conservation and development projects in highland ecosystems such as the Paramo. The National Biodiversity Strategy (25/07/2001) identifies the need for an ecosystem perspective, especially in mountain ecosystems that constitute headwaters of the Amazon watershed. Local governments also recently started to implement more direct Paramo conservation initiatives, including environmental educations projects, the creation of ecological zones (Ayavaca, Cajamarca) and regional zoning (Cajamarca).
Venezuela's First Country Report on biodiversity conservation was published in June 2000 with GEF support and it defines the Paramo ecosystem as being of primary importance. The current emphasis of government policy on promoting endogenous urban and rural development provides opportunities for community based participative initiatives for sustainable agricultural production and conservation (e.g. rural centers with important Paramo areas such as the Rangel Municipality are currently considered “priority endogenous development centers”). Within this policy framework, FAO, together with the Ministries of the Enviroment (MARN) and Agriculture (MAT) established a program for integrated, sustainable potato production in the Venezuelan Andes. The National Law on Biological Diversity was issued in May 2000 resulting in the corresponding National Strategy and Action Plan (April 2001) which emphasizes the need for the participation of local communities, for training and for promotion of the sustainable use of biodiversity. The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MARN) is promoting the establishment of inter-institutional and multi-sectoral commissions for sustainable management of the most important Andean water catchments in Venezuela, with their headwaters in Paramo.