Existing legal frameworks in many user countries lack clear definitions of sustainable use rights by rural communities, and often fail to provide well-defined pathways for enabling the use of wildmeat at sustainable levels to meet legitimate needs. In Colombia, more flexible regulatory bases for the sustainable use of natural resources were included in the 1991 Constitution, recognizing the sovereignty of indigenous communities and their right to regulate the use of their natural capital. Under the Colombian law, subsistence hunting may be carried out throughout the national territory, but only for own consumption. Under the current definition of subsistence hunting the trade of game to cover other basic needs e.g. house rents, health, education, or to acquire commercially available food items, is considered commercial hunting, and is therefore forbidden. Rural hunters are in principle able to sell wildmeat if they obtain a legal permit issued by the Regional Environmental authority under complex requirements. However, there are no operational frameworks under the regulations in place that adequately respond to the specific realities of rural communities within the ecosystems concerned. Notwithstanding the current illegality of the trade, studies undertaken in different regions of the country clearly indicate the existence of trade networks and the importance of wild meat in the nutrition, culture and economy of urban and rural people. In a recent workshop organized in Leticia (Amazonas), Colombia has taken an unprecedented step in providing technical recommendations to adapt the national legal framework on wildmeat trade to the realities of rural communities in different eco-regions of the country. In particular, there is a tacit acknowledgement of the need for a flexible regulatory framework that allows an adaptive management and participatory process approach, at multiple scales, to develop management rules that are relevant and realistic in local contexts in order to enable improved sustainability and better livelihoods without pushing people into illegality. If translated into concrete policy changes, these recommendations will open a variety of innovative pathways for the sustainable use of wildlife, and create Colombian leadership in a problem that exists in many tropical forest countries around the world.
Nathalie van Vliet