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Empowering Communities. The Only Way To Ensure The Conservation Of Nature And Communities Welfare


This best practice story is intended to show how, through Empowering 18 communities, the good governance became a reality. El Núcleo Endógeno de Desarrollo Socialista de Suruguapo (NUDESUR) is located in Portuguesa state, Venezuela. NUDESUR was created in 2006, by 34 joined villages, 18 from the foot hills and 16 from the mountains, with the favor of the Energy and Oil Ministry (MPPEP – Barinas), the financial support of the national oil company (PDVSA-División Boyacá Barinas), and connecting with 22 other Regional and National organizations. The aim of NUDESUR is to promote the sustainable development of rural communities through technical capacity building and community organization to work together towards achieving their goals. One of the most important success of NUDESUR is the declaration of the Ecological Reserve and Sustainable Touristic Area “Parque Natural y Zona de Reserva Ecológica de Interés Social y Ecoturistico NUDESUR”, to protect the tropical forest and water resources of the area, and recover the tradition of shaded coffee planting.

Problem, challenge or context: 

Portuguesa state is one of the main agricultural regions of Venezuela. Approximately million people live in rural areas, whose livelihoods are dependent on natural resources. Land-cover transformation is accelerating due to infrastructure development. Only 8% of forest cover remains. Due to historical deforestation activities water resources have been affected, threatening population centers and reducing agricultural production. NUDESUR is integrated by 6,000 people, occupying an extension of 840 km2 with a potential harvest of 35,000 coffee quintals/years. Because of water scarcity and encroachment of housing development and sun coffee plantations, people was in the need to protect the remaining forest in their area to prevent environmental degradation due to unsustainable agricultural practices that acidify soils.

Specific elements of components: 

This best practice addresses Goals 2. and 2.2. of the POWPA. The former, encourages countries to recognize and promote a broad set of protected area governance types with the aim of promoting equity and benefit sharing. While the latter relates to enhance and secure the involvement of indigenous and local communities and relevant stakeholders. Finally, it is important to mention that the work and success of NUDESUR also addresses Aichi Biodiversity Targets One and Seven. These targets state that by 2020 people are aware of the values of biodiversity and the steps they can take to conserve and use it sustainably, and that areas under agriculture, aquaculture and forestry are managed sustainably, ensuring conservation of biodiversity.

The action taken:
Other effective area-based conservation measures (OECMs): The Natural Park ¨Montaña Los Pozuelos¨, which is an area of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services for the Suruguapo sector, received municipal recognition in 2011. Since 2009, the villages close to the river watershed (approx. 525 citizens) proposed the designation of 2,538 ha as a key conservation area because of the social and agricultural importance of this water resource, and the touristic potential of an Andean forest relic in the area. This OECMs rise an altitude of ,800 m above sea level. Thus, it is also protecting evergreen and sub-humid forest, fragile soils, and represents a refuge for biodiversity. The community established a technical alliance with many organizations, such as: FONDOTURISMO, UNELLEZ, MPPA, Universidad Simón Bolívar, IMPARQUES, UBV, Universidad de Carabobo, Consultora Ambiental Cooperativa Llano extremo, Cooperativa de Ecoturismo Gayón, among others, to generate all the biological and environmental information. As a results of this cooperative work, it is known that the Natural Park has the potential to produce 8,580,000 M3 O2.d- and 60,000,000 M3 H2O.y- . This means oxygen and water for more than 10 million and 6,000 people, respectively. In addition, this could be a potential corridor for the Andean bear, a species that is vulnerable to extinction, according to the IUCN Red List of threatened species.

Key lessons learned: 
  • When technical advice is provided and political will exists, the interest of local communities in the conservation and sustainable development of their natural capital, that intent materializes in a short time and in an effective manner.
  • Grassroots organization is the only way to achieve temporal sustainability in environmental projects, best practices, and ultimately sustainable development.
Impacts and outcomes: 
  • Environmental characterization for best agricultural practices. With the aid of technical advisors, it was possible to assess soils, climate and best crops for the area surrounding the OECM. Through this characterization, zoning of the NUDESUR area was accomplished, identifying areas for: plantation with mechanized irrigation, livestock with and without irrigation, timber exploitation, water protection and a non-take reserve zone. Additionally, existing production at the time of the assessment was aimed to improve annual yields.
  • Community organization. Ten communal agricultural and one communal water team were created. Also, 35 villages integrated to work in the NUDESUR Action Plan, which incorporates the identification of community needs as well as the strategies and actions required to solve issues related to infrastructure, power supply, education centers, mobility and water resources. Outcomes: (1) The Action Plan and financial proposal for the municipality “PLANDISUR 2013”; (2) Communal environmental brigade; (3) Alliance with the university UNELLEZ-VPA Guanare for the ecology and environmental courses field work; (4) Workshops focused on relevant issues for the citizens; and (5)Development of a Programme for the protection of the Andean Bear.
  • Recovery of traditions. Development of 34 family plantations. Organization of the Cultural festival “La Paradura del Nino”, and other festivals.
  • Next milestones: (1) Recognition of the river-based ecological corridor for the protection of the “La María” river basin; (2) Zoning of the OECM for the development of sustainable tourism; (3) Development of a Biological Station to foster and strength alliances with education and research institutions, preserve the natural value of the area, and support decision making processes through the study of the biodiversity across organizational levels.
Contact details: 
Vilisa Moron Zambrano
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