Colombia: Climate protection at the mercy of politics

21 Feb 2022

A new study reveals why deforestation has been increasing in Colombia in recent times.

An Afro-Colombian worker checks the amount of rough sawn timbers, extracted from the Pacific rainforest. | © picture alliance / Jan Sochor

South America furnishes some vivid illustrations of the strong influence of politics on climate change. We can see it in Brazil, where deforestation of the rainforest has reached record heights since President Jair Bolsonaro entered office. And we can see it in Colombia, where the dynamics of forest loss change according to the political circumstances.

A new paper in the journal Frontiers in Environmental Science – one of the authors of which is Raphael Ganzenmüller, doctoral candidate at the Chair of Physical Geography and Land Use Systems – describes the relationship between deforestation, political conflict, and peace-building in the period from 2001 to 2018. Over the past few years, deforestation has increased overall in Colombia. This is a phenomenon we see frequently in the tropics when countries affected by conflicts transition to peace. What may seem at first glance to be an unwanted side effect of domestic peace has several causes: As the study shows, the cultivation of coca crops and cattle ranching are decisive factors for explaining deforestation dynamics in Colombia. However, the leading causes vary significantly depending on the municipality area and region. Cattle ranching, for example, is the main predictor in the Amazon region, whereas coca farming predominates in the Andes.

The scientists emphasize the importance of taking these differences into account for the development of more effective strategies to protect the forests. Moreover, they hope that their study will contribute to a situation whereby greater thought is given to climate protection and biodiversity within peace-building programs in the future.


Raphael Ganzenmüller, Janelle M. Sylvester, and Augusto Castro-Nunez: What Peace Means for Deforestation: An Analysis of Local Deforestation Dynamics in Times of Conflict and Peace in Colombia. In: Frontiers in Environmental Science 2022 doi: 10.3389/fenvs.2022.803368

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