Colombian initiative receives international award

09 Mar 2011

Worker collects açaí berries at the award-winning
Colombian project "Bosque Húmedo Biodiverso"
(Photo: UNDP Colombia)

Bogota - Biodiverse Rain Forest, a community organization in Chocó, one of the poorest regions of Colombia, has won an international award for its entrepreneurial work to protect the fragile ecosystems of local rain forests.

The organization, known in Spanish as Bosque Húmedo Biodiverso, received the International SEED Award for Entrepreneurship on 25 February for its work with communities in the municipality of Atrato, in the west of the country.

The award-winning programme - the only Latin American project chosen alongside other programmes in Africa and Asia - promotes strengthening of the local food industry using non-timber products, thus helping to reduce loss of tropical rain forests.

"Local families benefit from the alternative sources of income and harvest of value-added products," said Helen Marquard, executive director of the SEED initiative, a partnership between the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Environment Programme and the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

The focus of the programme is production of oil from native palms and forest seeds and of natural colourings based on fruits from plants such as genipa, a plant of the Rubiaceae family, and the açaí palm. These natural products are used as ingredients in cosmetics.

"This is a route which all Colombian forests have to take so that communities can make economies grow at the same time as preserving our natural resources," said Nemecio Palacios, director of Bosque Húmedo Biodiverso, during the award ceremony which took place in Bogota.