Forest conservation and sustainable development goals in Colombia : assessment of projects in the AFOLU sector
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The achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the national level is a priority for the Colombian government. However, none of the Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use (AFOLU) carbon projects validated and/or verified in Colombia against international standards before 2018, have considered the identification of regional and project-specific determinants of performance in relation to the achievement of SGDs, and consequently the impacts of such projects on the SGDs are unknown. This is of particular importance given that these projects occupy more than 2 million hectares of the national territory and involve vulnerable areas of tropical and native forest along with the ecosystem and communities that depend on them. The findings of this research might be used by project developers interested in identifying the determinants that could potentially influence compliance with the SDGs. In total, nine impact variables directly associated with the SDGs were identified as being the most common variables targeted by the 24 AFOLU projects assessed in this research. Sixteen regional and project-specific determinants were associated with each one of them through the statistical associations of quantitative and qualitative data. A case study was also analyzed in order to argument the findings of the quantitative analysis. Six impact variables were impacted by regional determinants only: the type of working agreement offered to the workers was found associated with the occurrence of poverty and extreme poverty in the municipalities; the presence of indigenous peoples in the project area was impacted by the behavior of the deforestation rate by department; the proportion of women hired by the projects with the percentage of people with unsatisfied basic needs, and with access to basic infrastructure; the number of training sessions provided was associated with the school coverage in the municipalities; the destiny of the revenues from the carbon credits with the access to sewerage, and the improvement of the economic welfare with the school coverage as well. One impact variable was associated with the occurrence of project determinants only: job creation was impacted by the scope, objective and type of land tenure of the project area. On the other hand, the number of black communities hired by the project and the investments in road infrastructure were associated with regional and project specific determinants, including: access to basic infrastructure, the occurrence of poverty and extreme poverty, the rate of people with unsatisfied basic needs, the behavior of the GINI coefficient, the household size, and the project size, the emissions reduced and the percentage of area already intervened. Each impact variable was associated with the achievement of the SDGS number eight (promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all), ten (reduce inequality within and among countries), five (achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls), four (ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all) and one (end poverty in all its forms everywhere). Finally, the results of the case study show that the selected project can contribute to the achievement of the SDGs eight, ten, 15 (protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss) and 17 (strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development). Unfortunately, the results also show that the revenues of the project from the sale of carbon credits were not as expected, and that the lack of knowledge of the project owners, and of transparency from the intermediaries, can result in unexpected low returns that prevent the project from achieving its targets.