A group of artisanal fishermen in Bahía Solano, along Colombia’s Pacific coast, learned how to improve their livelihoods while mitigating overfishing through Emprende Pacífico, an initiative implemented by ACDI/VOCA and the Ministry of Labor, in 2016. They learned sustainable fishing techniques, such as ending the practice of dragging large nets that catch all sorts of marine life and limiting the size of fish they capture. The initiative helped reduce conflict, as fishing communities experienced better livelihoods and fewer incentives to turn to informal work, such as drug trafficking, illegal mining, and other illicit activities that continue the cycle of violence.
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Illegal alluvial gold mining in Colombia is a complex phenomenon that not only sweeps away vegetation but alters the balance of ecosystems through aggressive mechanical extraction methods that create deserts. In Antioquia, Colombia this has degraded over 45 thousand hectares of land, stripping away valuable trees that can absorb carbon dioxide (CO2), one of the main greenhouse gases. The USAID-Oro Legal Activity brought together indigenous and Afro Colombian communities, the private sector, and local and departmental governments to mitigate the environmental impact of uncontrolled mineral exploitation on more than one thousand hectares of degraded ex-mining land. Today 1,133,220 Acacia mangium trees and other native species are greening large tracts of land where just a few years ago only rocks and bare soil could be found.
A beneficiary from the Community of El Pato, Zaragoza, Antioquia. Caucasia, Antioquia, November 9, 2017. USAID-Oro Legal Activity. Partners: Beekeeping Associations, Mineros SA Foundation, Oleoductos of Colombia Foundation, Hacienda La Leyenda.
Photo Credit: Jorge Eliecer Martínez, USAID-Oro Legal Project.
One hundred and fifty single, women heads of household make up more than half of the beneficiaries of USAID's Legal Gold beekeeping activity in Antioquia, Colombia. Why is beekeeping in a gold mining project? Despite the commonly held view that everybody who is involved in gold mining is a millionaire, artisanal gold mining sustains tens of thousands of marginal families in Colombia. However, as the price of gold rises and mining activities become more intensive, miners at the lower echelons of the value chain, particularly women, find it ever harder to eke out a living; there is just not enough gold left for them to find. These same people lack another vital resource, land, and for that reason beekeeping provides an attractive economic alternative that allows women to undertake their multiple roles in the home and still make a decent living. They work tirelessly “like bees in a beehive” to make their apiaries a mainstay of the family economy. This initiative has been developed in five mining municipalities, providing almost 11,000 beehives for 300 families and producing 350 tons of honey a year; a number that will increase national honey production by 25%. Bees are dying off in record numbers throughout the world; Colombia is no exception. The project supports over 326 million bees roaming the region for nectar, pollinating plants and transforming the landscape. As an added bonus, the apiaries are installed on more than one thousand hectares of rehabilitated ex-mining land.