In the remote San Lucas Mountains of Colombia, earning enough money to survive can be difficult. Many sadly turn to illegal activities such as farming coca to simply scratch out a living.

A cause like the “environment,” one might think, would be of low priority on most people’s list. However, such thinking would be wrong.

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A growing number of local citizens in the region are banding together to help protect this wild and exotic ecosystem from over abuse, and the results have been impressive.

The local organization spearheading this free market environmental initiative is called WebConserva. It is using a market-based approach that compensates farmers for pursuing a better, reasoned course in both making a living and protecting nature simultaneously.

Their program is simple. As explained in a recent feature story in Reuters:

“[The] environmental group WebConserva is leading a first-of-its kind project bringing together farmers in San Lucas and roasters across Colombia to produce coffee from plantations that build protective borders around forests to shield the biodiversity within.

So far the project includes 10 families farming some 400 hectares (988 acres) of coffee, which the environmental group covers at a cost of around $77,000 a year. WebConserva hopes eventually to include 200 families, which could protect 20,000 hectares (49,420 acres) or more of virgin forest.

In San Lucas, the families pledge not to fell trees to expand their crops or to hunt the animals that depend on the forests for survival. Depending on the quality of the product, they receive around $250 to $300 per 125 kilos (275 pounds) of coffee, an enviable return in a country where prices regularly dip below production costs.”

Colombia is home to some 50,000 species of rare animals and plants, including ocelots, pumas, speckled bears, and jaguars. Deforestation has been taking place at a rampant rate, with some 543,620 acres felled in 2017 alone.

While much of this is for needed economic development, which is a good thing, some of it is done with callous disregard for the environment. Thus, a program like that employed by WeConserva is an important one to help ensure at least some development occurs without harming endangered species, of which according to the International Union for Conservation says there are 1050 in Colombia alone.

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  • CFACT, founded in 1985 by Craig Rucker and the late (truly great) David Rothbard, examines the relationship between human freedom, and issues of energy, environment, climate, economics, civil rights and more.