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Integrated Bird Elongation Management (IBEM) Taking Partner Actions From Appalachians towards Neotropical Andes for Migratory Birds: Developing market-based mechanisms while fostering forestry voluntary Carbon offsets and biodiversity stakeholder engagement

Interview made by the Research Wildlife Group at US Forest Service to Ecotropics CEO Arturo Restrepo Aristizabal


USFS: How does supporting environmental stewardship and environmental sustainability at coffee lands help you in achieving the goals in your organization´s business plan?

AR: If coffee growers are granted with a financial mechanism to ensure a fixed $USD 500 price year round for every sack (125 Kg) yield of dried coffee beans, either carbon credits or market itself will deal with ecological economics sustainability. Also, the shade-grown coffee and clean farming technology will likely be easy to adapt a conservation agriculture plan. The latter would be spurred by the voluntary Carbon credits to sustain the ecological economics by enhancing biological control, resilience to climate change, soil conservation, and landscape connectivity. The outcome, for small and medium farmers, is diverse as lower inputs of agrochemicals, fertilizers, plaguicides, likely a better coffee taste in flavor and body, more savings, and circular economics welfare. However to facilitate this process; we need a brief background about Colombia’s coffee sector. From the outlook of medium and small coffee growers, stewardship has always been made part of the business plan. The coffee growers have acted as commons in sensu Elinor Ostrom, which described the set of rules needed to keep a commons going as the way to grasp a better stewardship and environmental management. In fact, these growers act and react promptly and collectively to either the market responses or plagues infestation. They are also aware of shade-grown coffee, because they deal with the impact of climate change in non-resilient monoculture landscapes and the loss of ecological performance.

However, the reader should be acquainted with the coffee market history, the on and off try-outs of macro-economic models, the green revolution, and the “roya” (leaf rust) and “broca” outbreaks (coffee berry borer) Hypothenemus hampei of the coffee plantations, and its proposed management in order to embark in future agriculture conservation plans. In fact, for over 90 years coffee growers in Colombia have shown to be one of the most resilient agribusiness and high-quality coffee suppliers worldwide, but they need to do reengineering with its existing institutional capacity.

USFS: What is the value added to your team by participating in partnerships with other entities, such as corporations seeking practical solutions to environmental problems? What programs does your organization as a whole have that foster partnerships or offer opportunities for mutual benefit with private sectors ?

AR: At Applied Ecology for Tropical Resources Inc ECOTROPICS, the International Division approaches problems with holistic frameworks to develop applied agribusiness solutions. Ecotropics and partners organizations have a sound experience by integrating indigenous knowledge, business, ecotourism, communities, reforestation, and applied coherent ecology in The Americas. In July 2008, Ecotropics started the Carbon portfolio program to support reduced emission from deforestation and degradation (REDD) and Land Use and Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF). The blueprint of this program is chiefly to support focal ecosystems and its buffer zones, where Ecotropics mobilizes funding, to achieve longer financial and environmental sustainability after Ecotropics grant-making process is completed. The challenging task envisioning a practical solution is to widen scientific and socio-economic perspectives in order to fulfill several migrants birds Conservation Plans between Nearctics and Neotropics. This should be represented by Coffee and Extractives (From Appalachians towards the Andes) revenues and offsets, governments, and conservation interests. In aim of this goal, Ecotropics performs an integrated model Environmental System Analysis (ESA computer assisted) based on ground truth and remote sensing data, scientific published data and secondary sources aiming to develop an ecological economics model. The latter could run various scenarios to integrate the requirements of Migratory Birds and the stakeholders in Colombia. After all stakeholders involved agrees in the model representation, then implementation should be continued.

USFS: Conversely, from your perspective what are some examples of impediments to partnering with conservation entities seeking practical solutions to environmental issues, or what factors reduce the willingness of members of your industry to participate in collaborative partnerships around conservation issues?

AR: There are various factors that reduce willingness of different stakeholders to participate in conservation plans, before implementing a conservation project; they need to ensure that the community livelihood and business sectors are understood and covered. At Ecotropics, before removing barriers towards conservation planning and management, we identify the problem, causes, effects and potential solutions. In doing this, we establish common rules among stakeholders and avoid at maximum communication breakdowns. Integration of remote sensing information, local practices, and creativity (i.e. developing a sustainable project that works with the communities’ needs), are fundamental components of the work the non-profit sector will be doing with rural populations in tropical countries. Unfortunately, rural populations are the least understood, and they are usually treated indifferently. We assemble needed resources and then catalyze the cycle and management of projects. Thus, most services are secured through planning, log-frames, risk analysis, and socio-sustainable studies (i.e., cost-benefit, object oriented, and appraisal of valuable services at landscape level). Therefore, we could embrace three main integration support mechanisms to achieve conservation measurable goals: integrated and collective resources management using common pool resources methods (CPR); integration into the communities of environmental sound and locally appropriate technology; payment for ecosystem services and integration of multiscale markets to support the rural livelihood. There are many conservation projects in the tropics being carried out by a myriad of organizations.

Unfortunately, many of those organizations have not been successful in sustaining these activities. Instead, these organizations identify problems but do not initiate measures to sustain or follow-up with the projects. Just imagine running a balanced scorecard among these NGOs to test at any implemented project design, pertinence, sense of ownership, startegic communication, efficacy, efficiency and sustainability! As a result, poverty and decay of natural resources remains the same or even worse, frequently fluctuating in the geopolitical and economics agenda. We perform ground truth field work to tackle this challenge of hidden political ecologies, while sustaining project implementation in the long-term, in a global ecological economics 360 outlook.

Our target audience needs a combination of services, tools, and insights enabling sustainable agricultural practices in tropical rural communities. Usually projects from other organizations focus on a top-down approach to aid rural communities, they need a perfect ratio between top down and bottom up. This leaned top-down approach undermines communities because policy-making decisions do not provide or incorporate local conditions. Therefore, multilateral efforts to alleviate poverty may be doomed to costly failures. Instead, measurable goals, tools and services should be integrated with the native knowledge and local conditions of any community. When working with Latin American rural communities, projects should be modified and locally monitored, self arbitrated, and in some scenarios, work in public private partnerships. In addition, other activities like identifying leaders, training them whenever possible, fostering the ecological progress, and promoting cooperation mechanisms, will enable a community to take ownership of the project and maintain it in the long-term. The cornerstone to engage in a long term alliance between extractive industries and Coffee industries is defining semantics from two different business perspectives (i.e. coffee and extractive mining) before identifying them in a Conservation plan. In so doing, the mission in the next decade is to gain a coordinated mutual alliance between the coffee farmers and Appalachian’s extractive sector while using a hierarchical mitigation and biodiversity business offsets, along with governments, NGOs, and multilaterals to set measurable objectives for chartering a Conservation Plan with keystone metrics indicators. Let’s bear in mind that mutualism and symbiosis have scientifically been demonstrated as a key driver in evolutionary trends in ecological economics. From a participatory side, there will be several value added benefits in North and South American countries, such as:

fair trade,
ecological coffees,
better land reclamation practices after opoen pit mining,
environment-friendly labels,
mitigating climate change in resilient landscapes,
enhanced ecological performance of landscapes on both structure and function;
sustainable economic development.


USFS: How can your engagement in sustainability be an asset to the community where you operate, as well as to the environment where you operate, as exemplified by the bird community?

AR: As I mentioned before, we will be fostering manifold solutions such as Carbon offsets, green certifications, coffee farming knowledge, web-based information network, and Cerulean population monitoring on both fieldwork and remote sensing (i.e. tiny transmitters technology for small migratory bird monitoring and coupled along with tracking features through A-Train Depot NASA satellites)

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