Located in the northwest of South America, Columbia borders Panama, Venezuela, Brazil, Peru and Ecuador, and has coastlines on both the Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean. The population is just under 50 million (2018), and the majority of Colombians live in the north and west of the country. 81% of the population live in urban areas, and this is increasing as the rural population is declining by 0.9% per year. An upper middle-income country, GDP per capita was US$14,400 in 2017. The services sector makes up the majority of the economy, 58% of GDP in 2017; Colombia is very reliant on exports of energy, minerals and agricultural products.
Colombia’s recent history brings several key land issues: one is the unequal holding of agricultural land, a consequence of Colombia’s colonial and post-colonial past. More than half of Colombia’s best rural land is owned by less than 1% of the population, leaving the remaining rural inhabitants with very small parcels. Secondly, conflict has caused substantial internal displacement which has driven rapid urbanization. This has resulted in large informal settlements around many cities. Past attempts at land reform have been ineffective. However, the peace process may be changing this.
Although, legislation protects women’s rights to land, these are often breached. Women are the most susceptible to forced displacement and female-headed households are more likely to live in informal settlements.