Climate Action

This Colombian project is using nature to tackle drought

nature based solutions, like this person planting a tree, are key in solving climate change

We need greater investment and innovation to tackle climate change problems. Image: Unsplash/Kasturi Laxmi Mohit

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  • La Mojana is particularly exposed to climate change, and many of its residents rely on the delta system for their daily lives and livelihoods.
  • Replantating wetlands, improved water use, and early-warning systems are being used to reduce strain on water resources and prevent damage to crops, homes and businesses.
  • Nature-based solutions are a crucial tool in tackling climate change, with University of Oxford scientists estimating it could limit global warming by up to 0.3°C.

As climate change increasingly makes itself felt with more extremes of temperature and weather, there is often talk of the need for greater investment and innovation to tackle the problems we will all more frequently face. And while this is true, one project in Colombia is also demonstrating how far we can take existing solutions provided to us by Mother Nature.

La Mojana, to the north of the country, is home to a complex delta system particularly exposed to the effects of climate change. The 400,000 inhabitants of the area are largely poor, and dependent on the water systems for their livelihoods.

Access to drinking water is a particular problem, and crops are being damaged by both droughts and floods, affecting the income and lives of many smallholders.

But through a $117-million project, which promotes sustainable ecosystem management, it is hoped communities will be better protected from floods and sustained dry periods.

Wetland protection

Much of the activity focuses on La Mojana’s crucial wetlands, which, in common with many other wetland areas around the world, have been degraded.

Deforestation and loss of these areas makes La Mojana more prone to flooding, and means vital water resources become scarce.

this man is planting a tree nursery
Tree nurseries are helping to reestablish wetlands and promote natural flood defences. Image: UNDP

Families have been supported to create nurseries that nurture native trees and plants. Huge replantation projects are helping restore the natural balance to ecosystems. And better local water management – undoing some of the damage caused by agriculture – is helping reconnect and replenish water systems.

Conservation organization, the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, says over a third of the world’s wetlands have disappeared since 1970, and 40% of the world’s species are reliant on these ecosystems in some way.

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Community-based initiatives like that at La Mojana are key to addressing water mismanagement at a grassroots level. Water scarcity already affects every continent and will become increasingly acute as population growth and urbanization places greater stress on resources.

The project will also promote the use of tools and technologies such as solar power and rainwater harvesting to help address long-term water supply problems. The drinking water supply has been made more secure through an upgraded system of micro-aqueducts which are more climate-resilient.

these people are working on a community reforestation project
Community reforestation projects are helping restore the natural ecosystem. Image: UNDP

The aim is also to grow a number of smaller-scale initiatives which will create early warning systems as a way of boosting climate resilience.

Nature has many of the answers

These so-called nature-based solutions, which pull on the ability of the natural environment to protect us from some of the effects of climate change, are seen as a crucial tool in helping us mitigate the worst effects of the climate crisis.

a diagram showing how the natural world can help boost climate change resilience
The natural world can help boost climate change resilience. Image: Springer, Nature-Based Solutions as a Tool in the New Circular Economic Model for Climate Change Adaptation

Recent research by a team at the University of Oxford found that nature-based solutions, including the large-scale restoration of ecosystems and improved land management, could cut peak global warming by between 0.1°C and 0.3°C.


What is the World Economic Forum doing on natural climate solutions?

These natural solutions could help remove as much as 10 gigatons of carbon dioxide per year from 2025 onwards – more than the global transportation sector’s annual emissions, the scientists say.

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