The purpose of the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Addressing Biodiversity-Social Conflict in Latin America (ABC-LA) project was to address the adverse environmental and social impacts in the region associated with extractive activities, including direct and indirect threats to biodiversity and negative impacts on vulnerable groups.
Overview: Threats from both legal and illegal exploitation of natural resources have been exacerbated by the lack of state presence, will, or capacity to protect biologically significant areas (BSAs) and vulnerable communities. Unclear, conflicting policies and corrupt practices have hindered transparency and accountability and add perceived insult to pre-existing injury. When coupled with historical grievances, this situation fosters a powerful mix of resentment and serves as a fundamental driver of conflict and the conditions for social and other forms of conflict. Mistrust among key stakeholders—including the state, the private sector, and communities—undermines the basis for developing a shared vision and collaborative action to advance and optimize common aims, including the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and the well-being of vulnerable communities.
Goals and Objectives: The goal of ABC-LA was to improve enabling conditions for biodiversity conservation through enhanced natural resource governance and reduced socio-environmental conflict associated with extractive activities, contributing to the long-term impact of reducing degradation and contamination of biophysical conditions in the selected biologically BSAs of Peru and Colombia.
Strategic Planning and Approach: ABC-LA sought to achieve critical aims and end results in Peru and Colombia in a manner responsive to USAID and the project’s scope of work and corresponding theory of change.
Initial program assessments: Following mobilization, during the project’s initial outreach and engagement with field-based stakeholders, the team designed, developed, and conducted a series of scoping studies—initial program assessments (IPAs)—in selected areas of Peru and Colombia. The purposes of the IPAs were to better inform the definition and approach of critical tasks through a threats-based analysis of biodiversity conditions, including the impacts of extractive activities on BSAs, and to assess local dynamics such as power relations and the nature of social conflict in prospective focal areas. The IPA findings helped inform the project’s approach and key decisions made in consultation with USAID: site selection of ABC-LA’s focal areas, further development and refinement of ABC-LA’s situational analysis and theory of change, work-planning, early partnering efforts, and the design of programmatic interventions and activities.
Site selection of focal areas: ABC-LA, in consultation with USAID, selected the focal areas of the Puno and Ucayali regions of Peru and the departments of Caquetá and Santander in Colombia. Within these focal areas, programmatic priority during the base period centered on the area of influence of the Sierra del Divisor National Park and the Lower Amazon Basin in Ucayali and the Bahuaja Sonene National Park and surrounding areas of influence in the Upper Amazon Basin in Puno. Within the focal areas of Colombia, the project prioritized efforts in three key municipalities in the Amazon Piedmont and Lower Amazon Basin of Caquetá, and in the municipalities that border the ecologically important Santurban Paramo in the department of Santander.
ABC-LA incorporated the following thematic areas in accordance with the project’s design:
- Biodiversity – Interventions to support the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity were informed by an analysis of direct and indirect threats to BSAs, especially pressures associated with extractive activities.
- Social conflict – The project developed a conceptual and methodological framework for improving local capacities to better prevent and manage socio-environmental conflict in the selected focal areas. Programming focused on skills and tools development to enable local actors to better identify, analyze, and address sources and symptoms of current and emerging conflicts.
- Extractive activities – ABC-LA’s point of entry was at the local or provincial government levels in the focal areas of Peru and Colombia, where increasing levels of legal and illegal extractive activities pose challenges to the sustainable use and conservation of biodiversity and community well-being.
- Vulnerable groups – Project interventions prioritized assessment, engagement, and empowerment of vulnerable or historically marginalized populations, including indigenous communities, at risk or negatively affected by extractive activities and their associated impacts.
- Land use and property rights – ABC-LA identified alternative land-use planning mechanisms and tools to help local governments improve inclusive planning processes, with the aim of improving the sustainable use and conservation of biodiversity.
In addition to considerations of these core and complementary areas of programmatic focus within this final report, more detailed treatment is provided in the thematic issues papers included as Annex III.
Implementation: The project consisted of four distinct phases: start-up and mobilization; outreach, planning, and design; project activity implementation, management, and monitoring; and the final phase, including project close-down. ABC-LA designed, developed, and awarded or initiated 14 activities during the base period upon USAID’s November 2014 approval of the project’s updated work plan and theory of change.
Working with local stakeholders, ABC-LA and local partners provided technical assistance and implemented a range of activities in 17 municipalities and 58 indigenous communities in the focal areas to improve capacities and skills of institutions and people and provide access to tools and methods necessary to better address environmental and social challenges posed by extractive activities.
Results and Programmatic Highlights: ABC-LA generated a series of results over the base period as measured by performance indicators developed through its Situational Model and Theory of Change.