Training in Sustainable Enterprise Development to commercialize biodiversity products

DURATION: 2002-2004

PROJECT OBJECTIVES and DESCRIPTION: Faced with declining coffee prices and environmental degradation of its rich resource base, Colombia is tapping biodiversity to identify alternative products and promote community-based enterprises and sustainable management of natural resources.

In 2002, a partnership was established between the FAO Forestry Department and the Alexander von Humboldt Research Institute in order to integrate the Market Analysis and Development (MA&D) approach in their Bio Commerce Programme. The objective of the Programme was to create and foster mechanisms that enhance the investment in, and the trade of, biodiversity-based products and services to complement and support local and regional development efforts. In order to identify the appropriate products, the MA&D approach was pilot-tested in three areas of the Bio Commerce Programme.


  • The Alexander von Humboldt Research Institute
  • Village communities

ACTIVITIES: The three pilot areas were located in the Departments of la Guajira, Santander and Quindío, where local institutions and organizations were making efforts to provide alternative and sustainable income-generating resources to communities and incentives for them to protect the natural resource base.

ACHIEVEMENTS AND OUTCOMES: In Quindio Department, the National Park of los Nevados is considered a key area for the environmental balance of the region and an extremely important water reserve, thus the sustainable management of surrounding buffer zones is vital. The community-based enterprises involved the production and commercialization of five species of heliconiae flowers and three decorative leafy plants. The main results of the project in this department were: training of community members, selection of species and establishment of cultivations; training on post-harvest management and elaboration of the ornamental products; participatory business planning; formulation of projects and strategic alliances to obtain seed money.

In la Guajira Department, viable community-based enterprises involved alternative marine products such as the cultivation of algae in order to protect marine turtles. In this department, main achievements included: training of community members and establishment of 30 family farms equipped for cultivating and drying Eucheuma isiforme algae; definition of a minimum supply base to ensure the sustainability of the enterprise; establishment of labour distribution and cooperation among farmers; elaboration of a business plan.

In Santander Department, monoculture and cattle grazing have degraded the natural resource base, especially soils, water reserves and the oak Quercus humboltii forests. The identified non-wood forest products include aromatic plants and natural dyes. The latter is used to dye wool, which in turn is used to weave quality garments for the national market. In this department, main achievements included: cooperation with a private company to receive technical advice and a business agreement; soil analysis, definition, and establishment of pilot cultivation sites of valeriana officinalis and solanum melongena; pilot cultivations of forest species of interest to the company; sustainable management plan to harvest plants from the forest; training for improving weaving and dying techniques.
The main outputs of the project in the three areas included the formulation of a business strategy for selected products, including marketing and management plans, the development of an action plan, the financing of the activities according to the financial plan and priorities and the implementation of pilot community-based enterprises in agreement with local organizations.

The project was also able to achieve: a) the strengthening of local institutions through capacity-building in MA&D; b) the training of national, regional and local counterparts to implement and validate the methodology; c) the creation of strategic alliances with commercial partners and d) the definition of micro-credit mechanisms.


last updated:  Tuesday, July 29, 2014