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Story Publication logo February 8, 2022

What Carbon Credit Contracts Say That Divide Indigenous Communities in Vaupés (Spanish)


a man carries wood

A Colombian company that has appeared in several Amazonian Indigenous communities seeks to...


This story excerpt was translated from Spanish. To read the original story in full, visit Mongabay. You may also view the original story on the Rainforest Journalism Fund website here. Our website is available in English, Spanish, bahasa Indonesia, French, and Portuguese.

  • The Colombian company Waldrettung, which claims to be a subsidiary of an unregistered German firm, has proposed carbon bond contracts to eight large indigenous reserves in the Colombian Amazon.
  • The negotiations, in at least two cases, have created tensions within the communities. After a previous publication, the firm involved agreed to share the content of the contracts and provided additional information that allows us to expand and clarify their projects in this new report, especially the one they are promoting in the Gran Resguardo del Vaupés.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This report was originally published on May 19, 2022. This new version, republished on August 2, 2022, contains additional information provided by the company Waldrettung that allows a more detailed contrast of the facts narrated in this story and includes new findings made by the journalists of this alliance.

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Indigenous leaders and inhabitants of the Department of Vaupés tell that, at the end of 2019, employees of the company Waldrettung S.A.S., which presents itself as the Colombian subsidiary of a German multinational dedicated to projects for the sale of carbon credits, gathered dozens of captains from several communities of the Gran Resguardo of that department, the second largest resguardo, which translates from Spanish to a piece of land, in the country, in the coliseum of Mitú.

In that assembly, which took place on November 25, 2019, they began to discuss the conditions of the contract that had been signed by the company and the legal representative of the resguardo 10 months earlier, on January 17, 2019, even before the company existed under the name Waldrettung or Waldrättung, to implement the 30-year carbon market project that would allow them to receive income in that period in exchange for preserving the Amazon rainforest in their indigenous territory. The assembly of the indigenous resguardo's major government ended up approving and ratifying the project.

But not all the inhabitants were there, but 141 captains—as the leaders of each community are known—out of the 196 that the resguardo has. Six leaders—who are neither legal representatives nor authorities within the resguardo—told this journalistic alliance that the only thing they heard was what they could hear from outside the coliseum. They insist that they have not seen the contract that the captains approved that day with the company, whose representative is the Colombian lawyer Helmuth Gallego Sánchez. They are of the opinion -and they are concerned- that there is no clarity about the scope of the project.

"They arrived, they met and signed the agreement, we don't know for how many years. They have not gone to socialize in our area; only to collect signatures, but we are not even clear about what the people are signing," says a leader of an indigenous association in Vaupés, who asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue in his territory. These associations are organizations in which the communities near the urban center of Mitú are grouped and which are also part of the Gran Resguardo. In Colombia, resguardos are collective territorial entities owned and managed by indigenous communities.

The Waldrettung project—whose name means 'care of the forest' in German—covers a significant area of the resguardo which, in its totality, occupies 3.9 million hectares of forest (an area slightly smaller than that of Switzerland or the Netherlands), where 19 indigenous peoples such as the Desana, Tukano, Cubeo, Pisamira, Piratapuyo, Barasano, Wanano and Piapoco live together in a multi-ethnic mosaic. Seen on the map, the project occupies a significant area of the department, from the Papunaua River in the north to the border with Amazonas in the south. It includes the capital, Mitú, and Yavaraté, the sort of nose that juts into Brazilian territory.

Indigenous communities on the Vaupés river. Image by Juan Carlos Contreras/Mongabay. Colombia, 2022

The Tubay hill in Mitú is inhabited by 17 indigenous associations that make up the Great Resguardo of Vaupés. Image by Juan Carlos Contreras/Mongabay. Colombia, 2022

The Cmari community travels the rivers of the Great Vaupés Reservation. Image by Juan Carlos Contreras/Mongabay. Colombia, 2022

The Nukak community lives in extreme poverty in Guaviare. Image by Juan Carlos Contreras/Mongabay. Colombia, 2022

The forest of Puerta del Orion, in Guaviare, is part of the Nukak community's reserve. Image by Juan Carlos Contreras/Mongabay. Colombia, 2022