A recent report released by the Convention on Biological Diversity takes a critical look at the extent of the damage to Colombia’s native forests, and the news isn’t good.

According to the Convention, 95% of the country’s land mass has been impacted by deforestation. In the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta alone, the devastation has reached 70%.

These statistics are particularly disturbing given that Colombia is the second most biodiverse country in the world, hosting 10% of the planet’s plant and animal life, as well as 314 different ecosystems.

The country also has the lowest budget allocation for environmental protection and preservation among member nations of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), amounting to just 0.5% of country’s GDP in 2010.

This explains why a majority of investment to protect the environment comes from abroad. The French non governmental organization Envol Vert, which also supports projects in Peru, Ecuador and Nicaragua, wants to make a difference in Colombia and believes local communities play a key role.

Daisy Tarrier, president and founder of Envol Vert, believes fighting for the preservation of Colombia’s natural richness is critical.

“Biodiversity is important because it gives us everything,” she said. “We cannot live without nature, from water, to sand, wood, medicine and paper.”

And as she says, it’s even more important to work directly on the ground, since environmental issues are not a priority for the government.

A considerable part of Colombia’s natural ecosystems have been transformed by agriculture, particularly in the Amazon, Caribbean and — more recently — the Andean region. To tackle this issue, Envol Vert during the past two years has worked with local farmers to develop new economic alternatives, such as crop rotation and the planting of the trees that can be harvested with greater profit to local communities, rather than cutting down native forests.

Envol Vert’s European and Colombian team of volunteers work closely with rural communities who have taken the challenge upon themselves to make a difference for their forests and improve the living standards of their families.

On such initiative is the planting of the Maya Nut tree in the highest coastal mountain range in the world — the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, which is home to the Kogi, Wiwa and Arhuaco peoples.

The Maya Nut tree is known for its exceptional nutritional value, and provides a protein-rich food for local wildlife such as the endangered cotton-top tamarin or tití monkey.

The plant is also a sustainable natural fertilizer in a tropical environment.

Envol Vert’s reforestation projects in the Sierra Nevada are a welcome economic alternative for farmers displaced from their land and some 500 illegal loggers working the Sierra Nevada.

To showcase the importance of preserving endangered habitats and celebrating this country’s rich, yet fragile, biodiversity, Envol Vert is hosting ColomBIOdiversidad, which launches in Bogotá and Medellín under the slogan “los ojos puestos en la biodiversidad” (eyes on biodiversity).

The 10-day event includes conferences, exhibitions, film screenings and workshops. The “Bio” festival concludes in both cities on May 22, the International Day for Biological Diversity.

For Daisy Tarrier, the success of the nationwide campaign depends not only on her organization’s reforestation efforts, but on planting seeds of awareness among Colombians.