Inclusive and Sustainable Territories and Landscapes Platform


The Colombian Government has identified the following main obstacles to the country’s development: productivity stagnation over the last decade, an increase in illegal economies and the absence of the State, major regional disparities (particularly in rural Colombia), the high degree of informality in the labor market, and vulnerability to natural disaster risk and climate change, among others. Furthermore, rural monetary poverty in Colombia is at 36% (DANE, 2018) of the total national population. 

The internal conflict that began in the mid 1960s, driven by profound economic and social inequalities and the large amount of land in the hands of a small minority, led to unbalanced growth between rural and urban areas, increased internal migration and forced the displacement of 7.3 million people. At least 8 million hectares of land were abandoned or taken by force. Additionally, land use and land tenure further aggravated environmental damage, especially in the areas plagued by conflict. The Peace Agreement (2016) put an end to the conflict and proposed a territorial approach framework in the Comprehensive Rural Reform (RRI according to its acronym in Spanish, Chapter 1 of the Peace Agreement). Since then, the Colombian Government has made rural development a priority, as well as reducing poverty in rural areas and eliminating the gap between urban and rural environments.

FAO supports five areas with a territorial approach: (1) food and the fight against malnutrition; (2) land-use planning, conservation and sustainable, efficient use of natural resources and biodiversity, (3) social and technological innovation for sustainable agri-food systems and reducing urban-rural gaps, (4) social and economic inclusion in family farming, and (5) risk management and building resilience in vulnerable communities. 

Relevant public institutions

The National Planning Department (DNP in Spanish) promotes the country’s strategic vision and coordinates the formulation of National Development Plans (PND in Spanish) with the participation of departmental authorities, the private sector and civil society. An intensive institutional reform was initiated as part of the new rural post-conflict agenda and three new execution agencies were created, which have been key to applying integrated development approaches: the National Land Agency (ANT in Spanish), the Rural Development Agency (ADR in Spanish); and the Territory Renewal Agency (ART in Spanish). The Department of Ethnic Affairs of the ANT plays an important role in the settlement and development of indigenous and black communities. Also worthy of mention is the National Network of Local Development Agencies of Colombia (ADELCO network), and the Municipal Rural Development Councils.   

The National Environmental System (Minambiente) executes general environmental principles. Autonomous Regional Corporations (CAR according to its acronym in Spanish) are public corporate entities created by law, integrated by the territorial entities that geographically constitute the same ecosystem. The National System of Protected Areas (SINAP in Spanish) and National Natural Parks (PNN in Spanish) include all the areas protected by public, private and community governance. As a response to climate variability phenomena, the National Natural Disaster Risk Management System and the Adaptation Fund were created.



Political and Legal Framework

The Mission for the Transformation of the Countryside (MTC, 2016), the Peace Agreement (2016) and the PND 2014-2018 “Everyone for a New Country” configured the new model of development for the post-conflict era. The Peace Agreement RRI established an ambitious program for rural agriculture and development with a territorial approach, as well as structural, social, economic and civic changes in the rural sector, giving priority to areas whose development and productivity have been adversely affected by violence. The PND 2014-2018 advocated for a territorial development approach to reduce major territorial inequalities and included national reforms to improve land management and territorial planning, and to improve the efficiency of resource allocation and project execution on a subnational level.

Development Plans with a Territorial Approach (PDETs) are strategic tools for promoting the vision of territorial development, which the previous government developed as part of the Peace Agreement framework for assistance to the most marginalized territories. They establish structures for a 15-year period, accounting for 30% of the country’s geographic area (including protected and vulnerable areas) and benefitting 3 million people. Their implementation could provide solutions to the major urban-rural gap in the country. The PDETs also include the creation of the Strategic Ally Network to favor dialogs and cooperation, among others.  

In accordance with the PND 2014-2018, the Policy for the adoption and implementation of a multipurpose rural-urban cadaster (National Council of Economic and Social policy of the Republic of Colombia – CONPES, 2016) proposes an 8-year action plan (2016-2023) that considers structural changes in methodological, technical, institutional, technological, and operational aspects of the current cadaster model.  

Although the territorial approach has made noteworthy contributions to the social and economic spheres, we mustn’t forget the importance of the environment as an essential element for sustainable development. This environmental aspect is framed within the Comprehensive Strategy for Green Growth, incorporated in the PND 2014-2018, which includes instruments that integrate environmental and climate issues in agricultural production.  

The PND 2018-2022 “Pact for Colombia, Pact for equality and the Territorial Stabilization Policy called ‘Peace with Legality’” strives for equal opportunities and includes elements such as: an increase in productivity led by agroindustry, connecting small and medium-sized producers; a modern family-focused social policy that connects the poor, vulnerable population to the markets; and making the most of territorial potential by connecting regions, governments and populations. For the formulation of Territorial Development Plans (PDTs) in 2020, the DNP has designed the “Territorial Kit,” which includes planning, financial management, administrative, monitoring and evaluation, and citizen participation elements. 

Farmer Reserve Zones: the objective is to promote and stabilize the farmers’ economy, overcome the causes of the social conflicts that affect them and, in general, create adequate conditions for achieving peace and social justice in these areas.  

Budget patterns and public spending

In accordance with the Multi-annual Investment Plan (PPI) of the PND 2018-2022, the estimated investments for the next four years total at $1,096 billion Colombian pesos (or 26% GDP). There are two ways of looking at these investments: (i) through major sectoral and transversal initiatives (ii) through the agreement structure. From a sectoral perspective, the policies that receive a greater budget allocation are: education (20% of the budget) and health (14%). The following sectors receive smaller allocations: social inclusion and reconciliation (4%), agriculture and rural development (2%), and the environment and sustainable development (1%), despite their importance in territorial development. 

The investment sources that finance the PPI include: (i) 32% General National Budget, (ii) 15% General System of Contributions (transfers made by the Central Government to territorial entities to cover the expenses associated with education, health, drinking water, and basic sanitation, according to the current legal provisions, (iii) 11% Resources of the territorial entities (for co-financing projects that have an impact on the socioeconomic development of their communities), (iv) 5% Industrial and Commercial State Companies (territorial companies of the State are included in these resources), (v) 3% General Royalty System (for projects with a regional impact that contribute to continue improving the territories’ social indicators), (vi) 33% Private Sector Resources, which permit leveraging public investments with an multiplier effect on the economy, and 0.4 % International Cooperation Resources, in peace-related areas. 



Main programs and projects backing territorial and landscape approaches

Following is a list of the main agreements for grants and recent programs with elements of territorial development and/or landscape approaches, signed by the government with different BMDs, cooperation agencies and specialized organizations.  

A) Programs with a territorial development approach  

Financing of Colombia’s Territorial Development Policy through budget support totaling USD 800 million (2016) and 500 million (2018) from the World Bank, to strengthen the institutions in charge of land management and implementing policies on a subnational level that permit improving finances and prioritizing investments throughout all the regions of Colombia.   

Colombia’s Multi-purpose Cadaster (World Bank USD 100 million and IDB USD 50 million) is a tool with lots of potential for the territorial development and landscape approaches, as they promote the interoperability and integration of different administrative registers and, consequently, inter-institutional coordination and organization among different actors and levels of government.  

The Contract for Sectoral Reforms for Strategic Territorial Competitiveness in Colombia (budget support totaling EUR 36.51 million, financed by the EU from 2016 to 2021) promotes local economic development processes and sustainable trade. This initiative supports the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Tourism and the Colombian National Network of Local Development Agencies (ADELCO network).  

Other: Development Program for Rural Entrepreneurial Capacity: Confidence and Opportunities (70 million USD from 2012 – 2020); 100 Territories Free of Hunger (FAO-RLC initiative)  

B) Programs with a landscape approach 

Colombian Orinoquia Sustainable Integrated Landscapes (USD 36 million from the BioCarbon Fund Initiative for Sustainable Forest Landscapes, from 2019 to 2024) is led by “Climate Focus” in alliance with the Center for Studies of the Orinoquia of the University of the Andes. The project uses the "mosaic conservation" approach. 

Contributing to the integrated management of the biodiversity of the Colombian Pacific for peace consolidation (USD 39.1 million, including the GEF donation of USD 7.5 million) is led by FAO and executed by Minambiente, PNN, SIRAP Pacifico (IIAP, CARs). Through the provision of ecosystem services in vulnerable landscapes, the project will generate global and local environmental benefits. 

Connectivity and conservation of biodiversity in the Colombian Amazon (USD 128.2 million, including the GEF donation of USD 21 million), led by the World Bank and UNDP and executed by Minambiente and the Nature Heritage Fund for Biodiversity and Protected Areas, is intended to improve governance and promote sustainable land use activities  in order to decrease deforestation and conserve biodiversity (World Bank), and strengthen local institutions and organizations in order to ensure the comprehensive management of reduced carbon emissions and peace building (UNDP). 

The Sustainable Colombia Program (USD 100 million financed by the IDB from 2018 to 2022) is intended to promote environmental and socio-economic sustainability in priority post-conflict areas in Colombia. Under the umbrella of value enhancement and conservation of natural capital, activities will be financed in Protected Areas and Strategic Ecosystems of the National System of Protected Areas (SINAP), selected based on their representativeness and importance in terms of the conservation of biodiversity and ecosystem services.  

Other: Budget Support “Local Sustainable Development in Protected Areas” (20.8 million EUR financed by the EU from 2016 to 2019), Protecting biodiversity in the largest national park in Colombia (under the 20X20 initiative)  



Obstacles for actions with territorial and Landscape approaches

Colombia faces major challenges to its territorial development associated with connectivity and regional economic integration, recognition of urban development as a supramunicipal phenomenon, disarticulation of territorial planning between municipalities, strengthening institutional capacities and the levels of coordination in urban agglomerations-city systems (DNP 2014).   

In regard to the application of RRI with a territorial development approach, the main problem identified in the Peace Agreement framework is the absence of effective decentralization: the institutions are dependent on the central government and are limited in resources, human capital and occasionally infrastructure. Land tenure also serves as an obstacle for the country: it is disorganized, informal and lacks planning.  

The instrumentalization of the implementation of the PND 2018-2022 requires technical tools, methodological orientations and capacity building for the technical teams of these government institutions along various different lines in order to bring territorial concepts and a territorial approach closer and specifically develop what is addressed in this approach.  


Territorial and landscape approaches have been adopted in Colombia for peace building processes, eliminating poverty and inequality gaps, climate change adaptation, restoration and conservation of strategic ecosystems, and rehabilitation of areas that have been destroyed by natural disasters (the coffee belt, among others). 

These two approaches are considered to be convergent, depending on the point of view or starting point. The landscape approach has a lesser degree of multisectorality, as it is often driven from the environmental sector. The cases with a territorial approach usually incorporate numerous sectors in a more comprehensive manner, although their integration of environmental aspects is weaker. On the other hand, the functional units of each approach (territorial and landscape) are diverse, which has consequences on their application (the unit that determines a specific ecological connectivity has nothing to do with the unit of short territorial supply markets). 

The unresolved challenges hindering advances made with these approaches in Colombia include: strengthening governance (in practice, the country is a long way from achieving real open spaces built on trust; giving priority to the territories’ bottom-up proposals); capacity development in local environments subject to high civil service staff turnover and poor access to training opportunities; the implementation of a results-based monitoring system (featuring the availability of quality information and the development of evaluation methodologies); resource mobilization in conjunction with the coordination of planning cycles and budget figures; the involvement of the private sector in initiatives; the balance between ecological demands of property and restrictions of use between large and small producers; and the urban-rural connection.  

CASE STUDY: Development Programs with a Territorial Approach: the Caldono experience.

Caldono is located in Southwestern Colombia and is part of the 170 municipalities prioritized in the strategy of Development Programs with a Territorial Approach (PDET according to its acronym in Spanish), which Colombia adopted as part of the Peace Agreement framework (2016). Caldono faces serious problems related to armed conflict, land access conflicts between the indigenous people and farmers, poor road infrastructure in rural areas, low levels of education, and high levels of poverty. Accordingly, it was prioritized to be part of the first actions for economic reactivation and structural transformation of the countryside. 

Since July 2017, the Territory Renewal Agency (ART) has been conducting participatory meetings in municipal territorial subdivisions known as “veredas” in the PDET sub-regions, materializing the government’s goal of guiding rural development and investments in public goods through participatory processes. This way, over 220,000 people in the 170 municipalities have been consulted to identify their investment priorities. In Caldono, the following productive lines were identified as intervention priorities: coffee, panela sugar cane, blackberry, and fique.  

Within this framework and through an agreement with ART, FAO Colombia is executing an intervention as part of the PDET in six municipalities, including Caldono. The project “Implementation of economic, environmental and productive development activities in rural areas affected by the conflict and prioritized by the national government” has an execution period of 30 months (June 2017 - December 2019).  

Over the course of two years, Caldono has received an investment of 3.72 million USD, affecting approximately 5,000 families, through (i) strengthening 7 producer organizations using an instrument developed by FAO (Measuring Rural Entrepreneurship); and (ii) the implementation of 10 comprehensive productive entrepreneurships (technical, commercial, social, and environmental). Associations of producers were successfully formed between traditionally conflicted ethnic groups and groups that had no effective cooperation relationships, which were integrated into a second-level organization based on the identification of common interests. Furthermore, the human right to food has been promoted for ethnic peoples and communities through Territorial Indigenous Entities, which are configured as institutional markets based on the authorities’ capacities to manage investments and recruitment.  

In conclusion, the public policies of territorial approach in Colombia are being implemented through the PDETs. The participatory processes of these plans are perceived as forms of governance because they encourage the community participation in the conception and planning of their own territorial development. Although this participation is “bottom-up”, the strategic response to the demands and their budget is determined from the institutional framework (Ministry of Stabilization and ART), responsible of articulating between levels and sectors. The challenge presented is to ensure community participation in the implementation process that begins after the subscription of the 16 Action Plans (PATR). 

The change of local leaders taking place on January 1, 2020 has been conceived as an opportunity to involve new political wills in this process. Within this framework, the ART’s Institutional Territorial Strengthening Strategy facilitates coordination with new leaders (2020 – 2023) and support for the formulation of Territorial Development Plans (2020-2023) and Land-Use Planning Tools (2005). The guarantee for resources to finance the PDET’s activities corresponds to this government and the next three governments, and must be coordinated with territorial governments, the private sector and international cooperation.  

CASE STUDY: Implementation of agroecological production models in the Wetland Complex of the Lower Sinú and its area of influence

The Sinú River Basin is located in the northeast area of Colombia, in the Caribbean region. The Wetland Complex of the Lower Sinú complex (CCBS, in English abbreviations) formed in the Lower Sinú alluvial valley consists of a wetlands system that plays a very important role in the water regulation of the river basin. The ecosystem is rich in fauna, with a high level of biodiversity conservation, and has been declared a Protected Area in the Integrated Management Regional District category and an Important Bird Area due to its level of conservation.  

Three well-defined activities in the region are worthy of mention: extensive livestock production (80% of the entire territory), commercial agriculture, especially banana crops (which occupies about 9% of the cultivated land), and subsistence agriculture systems (5%). The rest of the territory is covered in stubble (areas of fallow land), intervened forests, and natural and artificial wetlands. Land occupation processes in flood areas within the complex are associated with land tenure issues, which have had a serious impact on the deterioration of the lagoon ecosystem.  

Considering this issue, the project objective of “Implementing the Socio-Ecosystem Connectivity Approach to Conserve and Sustainable Use Biodiversity in the Caribbean Region of Colombia” (USD 6 million financed by the GEF from 2015 – 2020) is to provide support for actions, primarily transversal, which improve the territory’s resilience in the face of climate change-related problems (droughts, floods, temperature increases, and salt wedge penetration. The project is executed by FAO in cooperation with a secondary level grassroots organization: The Association of Fishers, Farmers, Indigenous People and People of African Descent for the Community Development of the Grand Wetlands of the Lower Sinú (ASPROCIG) in strategic areas in 5 departments.  

Through this initiative, connectivity strategies have been developed between the Paramillo National Park and the Lower Sinú, which includes training activities for grassroots organizations and their producers in collective leadership processes as actors in the territory, and access to and connection with the market, including association processes for these purposes.  

The most important instruments in execution include: the design of Agroecological Systems in High Dam Areas (collective and family), Biodiverse Family Agroecosystems, and the Restoration of Gallery Forests.  

The anticipated benefits include the recovery of the ecological structure of the Colombian Caribbean, in order to improve the capacity of the ecosystems and provide indispensable services for regional development and the well-being of the communities in the region. Moreover, the approach is rooted in indigenous ancestry and is projected through cultural models of the multiethnic Caribbean farmers that inhabit the wetlands complex. 

The CCBS case has managed to integrate landscape and territory approaches significantly, although multisectoral integration is weaker. It responds to a bottom-up approach; and transcends its objectives from conservation to production and ecosystem services. The fundamental articulator is the ASPROCIG second grade organization, which energizes and accesses the different sectors and levels.  

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