Scaling up climate resilient water management practices for vulnerable communities in La Mojana, Colombia

UNDP Colombia
Published: 12 November 2021
Last edited: 21 February 2023
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Intense flooding and prolonged dry seasons due to shifts in precipitation patterns have caused significant impacts to the population in the La Mojana region with climate projections expecting these to become more frequent and intense. Impacts include loss of crops, changes to ecosystems and their capacity to provide water management services and adverse impacts from longer dry periods. These impacts provide additional pressures to overstressed water sources, affecting both supply and quality. The solution presented adopts a long-term climate change risk informed disaster risk reduction strategy for drought and flooding. It is based not solely on water supply infrastructure but also on restoring ecosystem services for adapted regional water management and enhancing the capacity for climate resilient and ecosystem compatible rural livelihoods with an impact on household food and water security.


South America
Scale of implementation
Freshwater ecosystems
Wetland (swamp, marsh, peatland)
Disaster risk reduction
Ecosystem services
Flood management
Local actors
Sustainable livelihoods
Traditional knowledge
Water provision and management
Urban and Disaster Risk Management
Resilience and disaster risk management
Increasing temperatures
Conflicting uses / cumulative impacts
Ecosystem loss
Lack of technical capacity
Lack of public and decision maker’s awareness
Lack of food security
Sustainable development goals
SDG 2 – Zero hunger
SDG 5 – Gender equality
SDG 6 – Clean water and sanitation
SDG 13 – Climate action
Aichi targets
Target 1: Awareness of biodiversity increased
Target 2: Biodiversity values integrated
Target 4: Sustainable production and consumption
Target 7: Sustainable agriculture, aquaculture and forestry
Target 10: Ecosystems vulnerable to climate change
Target 14: Ecosystem services
Target 15: Ecosystem restoration and resilience
Target 18: Traditional knowledge
Sendai Framework
Target 2: Reduce the number of affected people globally by 2030
Target 3: Reduce direct disaster economic loss in relation to GDP by 2030
Target 5: Increase the number of countries with national and local disaster risk reduction strategies by 2020
Target 7: Increase the availability of and access to multi-hazard early warning systems and disaster risk information and assessments to the people by 2030
Business engagement approach
Direct engagement with associations


Ayapel, Córdoba, Colombia | Municipalities of Ayapel, San Marcos, Caimito, Sen Benito Abad, Sucre, Majagual, Guaranda, San Jacinto del Cauca, Nechi, Aichi, Magangue


Climate projections state that most of La Mojana will see a reduction of total precipitation levels coupled with higher temperatures. Data shows that average dry periods (days with no rain) could be extended by 12-30 days.


La Mojana is extremely vulnerable to climate variability and highly sensitive to the impacts of floods and extended dry periods that have resulted in crop loss. Unsustainable agricultural activity affects the natural water flow dynamics in the region’s wetland ecosystem that provides services in the form of natural flood protection, water and sediment purification and water supply as well as their economic value through agroproductive use.


Climate change has increased the community’s reliance on these services as water has become scarcer due to prolonged dry periods that have overtaxed the existing water infrastructure. On the other hand, flooding will become more frequent, increasing the need for the wetlands to act as a buffer.


203, 918 people benefit directly through increased water supply, food security and enhanced livelihoods. Indirect beneficiaries include 201, 707 people benefiting from early warning alerts. A special focus was laid on women and indigenous populations.

How do the building blocks interact?

The building blocks address not only barriers but work throughout the key inputs for water management including information on the aquifer’s capacity for infiltration (building block 1), providing access to water supply (building block 2), adjusting agricultural production in line with climate projections in terms of drought (building block 4 and 5) and by restoring a main source of water management which is the wetland ecosystem itself (building block 3). More importantly it does so by empowering communities and local organizations for long term project sustainability. This is provided not only by access to improved climate information systems but also in capacity on how to use them for correct planning at various levels (local planning and productivity).


This allows the project to enhance resilience by working with the ecosystem (rather than against it) to manage climate impacts. This is an important departure from past risk approach mechanisms introduced in the region that looked to contain flooding rather than manage it as part of the region’s natural hydrological process. The work with community livelihoods has in a sense allowed communities to rescue traditional livelihoods that had been lost.


The project funded by the Green Climate Fund has already and will develop further impacts from its community and ecosystem-based approach to adaptation. To date the project has enhanced the capacities for local forecasting while providing climate information through agro alerts and bulletins. It has worked with indigenous communities to develop a rural extension training module with the support of indigenous universities. Project investments have provided  gardening kits and capacity training to establish agrodiverse home gardens and rain water harvesting systems while enhancing the water management capacity and institutional strengthening of local water boards. These initial investments allowed communities to better manage the COVID pandemic as well as recent flooding events.


Ultimately 40, 000 ha of wetlands will be restored through the productive landscape approach while 203, 918 people will benefit directly from this intervention through increased water supply access, food security and enhanced livelihoods. 201, 707 people will be indirectly benefited through early warning alerts. Impacts will include economic opportunities for people residing in the restoration areas through adapted livelihoods options and practices; locally appropriate research on adaptive productive techniques in the face of climate change for medium and small (household) producers.


UNDP Colombia

Luz Mary Ordoñez did not know what to expect when she learned about the Government of Colombia’s measures to deal with the COVID-19 crisis in a newscast. She was struck by the fear of uncertainty. This isn’t something new for Luz Mary. She has experienced this many times before. For many communities like Las Palmas, where Luz Mary lives, the future has been uncertain for years going from extreme flooding to profound water crisis as a result of extreme events. 


One of the strategies promoted by the project is the implementation of biodiverse agroecosystems to mitigate climate change in this region. The biodiverse agroecosystem approach integrates varied and sustainable crop use and incorporates risk management in the face of adverse climatic events, aiming to guarantee food supply for families throughout the year. Today, agroecosystem approaches adapted to the changing climate are reducing the impacts of COVID-19 on the communities of La Mojana. 


Thanks to the climate-resilient farming practices and enhanced production, they will have healthy and nutritious food for the coming months, along with extra emergency funds from surplus produce sold in local markets. These supports will also help protect these communities from the shocks of increasingly intense storms and floods. This way, when other crises hit, the families of La Mojana will not be forced to migrate or to lose their farms and their livelihoods.


“Through the project I have learned many things. One is how to take care of the agroecosystem. This has impacted my life, and thanks to this I have rediscovered my love for nature. Today we received the materials and supplies, and most of us did not know what to do during this quarantine, but now we are going to take advantage of the time since we are at home and working in the community agroecosystem to prepare for winter.   This helps us a lot and keeps the family united. We will plant our vegetables and crops, in addition to using the water tank that we need so much during this drought, and we are deeply committed to going forward and getting through this.”


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Montserrat Xilotl United Nations Development Programme

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UNDP Colombia