The Universidad Los Andes and HTW Berlin with their project partners: Autoridad Nacional de Acuicultura y Pesca (AUNAP), Fundación Calidris, Torqeedo, WWF Colombia, with strong support from local communities of the Consejo Comunitario Esfuerzo Pescador in Iscuandé, Nariño are implementing pilots with Piangüeras as part of the InnoPiangua project, which is co-financed by INNPULSA, Colombia and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), Germany. Stefan Sorge, who is a scientific assistant at the HTW Berlin and the University for Sustainable Development Eberswalde, used the opportunity to test the analysis framework from the InnoForESt project under real-world conditions.

The analysis framework, with the current complex project title, is the Socio-Ecological-Technical-Forest-Innovation Analysis Framework – short SETFIS. It was developed and is currently under further development within the Horizon 2020 Project InnoForESt. Factors for upgrading, upscaling and transferring innovations have been identified during the project and translated into questions. Those questions have been asked to stakeholders of the project in Colombia, where a governance innovation is currently emerging. The governance innovation within this project is represented by co-management of ecosystem services of the mangrove forests and the possibility for a compensation scheme for maintaining the mangroves by the local community. First adjustments of the framework were identified, such as redundancies, wording and the structure of the questionnaire, besides others. The remaining material from the field trip will be analysed soon, in order to further develop the analysis framework.

The project in Colombia combines the dimensions of the provision of the sustainable provision of ecosystem services to local communities, besides nautical e-mobility, and innovative supply chain solutions. The project approach is holistic, and scalable to other sites in Colombia and the Latin American region and potentially transferable to other sectors reliant on small scale waterborne mobility (e.g. ecotourism).

Introduction to the project:

In many remote regions of Colombia – as well as in neighbouring countries – coastal waters and rivers along the mangrove forests are the main transport medium for people and goods. Ecosystem services as artisanal fishing, tourism, agriculture and aquaculture are sectors for which nautical mobility plays a key role. Moreover, in such remote areas, availability of fuel for the local population is often limited, due to elevated prices. In regions with high density of motorised nautical activities, the use of fossil fuels not only causes emissions, but also pollutes water, beaches and mangroves, and generates noise pollution. This can have negative effects on the provision of various ecosystem services through current “methods/ways” of economic activities.

The project´s pilot site, the small fishing village of Santa Barbara de Iscuandé, belongs to the Nariño Department on the Pacific coast of Colombia. The livelihoods of the region with coastal mangrove forest are highly dependent on traditional fishing concepts. An emblematic activity in the region is collecting Pianguas, a mollusc that lives under the mudflats of the mangroves. Women are overrepresented in this economic activity, because it requires relatively few operating expenses and women have limited access to financial resources, e.g. credits. Demand for Pianguas and fish from the region is increasing, the main market being Ecuador and the Colombian Pacific coast. The access to the whole Colombian market especially to the metropolitan regions in the interior such as Medellin and Bogotá, is still limited, due to high logistics costs and lack of cold supply chain integration. Local prices for seafood and fish are low, but operating costs are elevated and driven by high fuel prices. Therefore, the local fishermen and women are driven to increase harvesting efforts to an ecologically critical level in order to obtain a minimum salary.

Climate change and the decline of Pianguas in recent years threaten local livelihoods of the communities. These communities and the mangrove forests are highly vulnerable from climate change, deforestation and rising water temperatures and sea levels (IUCN, 2010). Therefore, the communities depend on the conservation of mangroves, which is closely connected to assuring sustainability of various ecosystem services, such as Pianguas and other local seafood and fishing resources. Local projects on the Pacific coast of Colombia support reforestation of the mangrove forests but are not sufficient to tackle existing problems. The multitude of risks has direct impact on the economic stability and development of these coastal communities.


The video gives impressions from the nautical e-mobility pilots currently taking place in the region. The goal of these activities are evaluating the technical feasibility, cultural adaptation as well as environmental and social benefits in order to construct alternative operating and business models combined with a sustainable provision of ecosystem services in mangrove forests.

Links of interest:

HTW Campus Story: Nariño for future (German)

Picture and video credits: N. Atuesta, J.C. Guiterrez, S. Sorge, L. Timcke, D.L. Trujillo, G. Wilmsmeier


By: Stefan Sorge

    PhD Student

    HNEE – Eberswalde University for Sustainable Development