Colombian dry regions encompass a wide variety of ecosystems ranging from moors in the highest (above 3,000 m a.s.l.) parts of the mountain ranges to mangroves in the Caribbean coast, savannah ecosystems, tropical dry forests, floodplains, riparian or gallery forests, among others.

Dry areas cover 245,342 km² or approximately 21.5% of the country, mainly in the Orinoquía and Caribbean regions (94,096 and 91,522 km², respectively). Dry areas in the Andean region occur mainly in valleys and canyons in its rain shadow.

Dry areas in the Orinoquía region include the Sabanas del Vichada, Casanare, and Arauca. Dry areas in the Caribbean region are mainly found in savannahs, swamps, gallery forests and mangroves, and much of the mountainous region of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.

About 40% of Colombian soils showed some degree of erosion in 2019, 3% showed severe erosion. Over 40% of the country is susceptible to soil degradation due to salinization, and an estimated 11.6% already has some degree of salinization, 1.5% with severe or very severe salinization.


Deforestation, land use change, and poor farming practices are the main causes of soil degradation in Colombia. Low precipitation and high temperatures exacerbate soil degradation in dry areas, particularly where vegetation cover is scarce.


Key policies and governance approach

The main policy instrument to address desertification and land degradation issues is the National Action Plan to Combat Desertification. The plan sets guidelines to halt soil degradation and its consequences along the environmental, social, and economic dimensions.

As a party to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), Colombia has submitted six reports on implementation and the state of the country's dry zones regarding processes of desertification and degradation.

IDEAM supports the program for monitoring and tracking degradation of soils and lands in Colombia, establishing baselines for monitoring soil quality, to inform decision-making for the integrated, sustainable management of soil resources and evaluating soil erosion and salinization, and desertification.


Initiatives and Development Plans

IDEAM conducted a national, 1:100,000 scale, study of soil degradation by erosion. The study set Colombia’s base line of degradation of soils by erosion, on which the evolution of the state of soils will be monitored as a tool for their sustainable management.


Goals and Ambitions

Colombia has committed to, by 2030:

  • Restore 9,000 ha of soils in the Caribbean region and improve 9,000 ha of forest productive systems.
  • Implement improved agroforestry production systems in the Caribbean and Andean regions.
  • Conserve at least 22,000 ha of dry forests.
  • Improve the quality of natural vegetation by planting forest species.
  • Fully integrate environmental criteria into land redistribution and agrarian reform policies.
  • Formulate and implement land-use plans, particularly in rural areas, coastal zones and river basins.
  • Mitigate and combat desertification by promoting the restoration of degraded soil and implementing agroforestry schemes in dry areas using local and heat tolerant species.