Seedbeds of Land and Territory: Participatory Land Reform in Colombia

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General Issues
Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing & Mining Industries
Planning & Development
Specific Topics
Land Use
Scope of Influence
Start Date
Time Limited or Repeated?
Repeated over time
Develop the civic capacities of individuals, communities, and/or civil society organizations
Co-production in form of partnership and/or contract with government and/or public bodies
Leadership development
Spectrum of Public Participation
Open to All or Limited to Some?
Limited to Only Some Groups or Individuals
Recruitment Method for Limited Subset of Population
Targeted Demographics
Racial/Ethnic Groups
Low-Income Earners
Face-to-Face, Online, or Both
Types of Interaction Among Participants
Discussion, Dialogue, or Deliberation
Information & Learning Resources
Expert Presentations
Participant Presentations
Decision Methods
General Agreement/Consensus
National Land Agency
Evidence of Impact

The Seedbeds of Land and Territory is a participatory strategy developed by the National Land Agency in Colombia. Its purpose is to support the sustainability and maintenance of land policies and to contribute to the deepening of democracy at the territorial level.

Problems and Purpose

The Seedbeds of Land and Territory was developed by the National Land Agency (NLA) as a participatory strategy. Its purpose is to contribute to the deepening of democracy at the territorial level, adjust land-related public policy to territorial dynamics, promote an effective community participation within institutional spaces, promote the voice and visibility of people with special constitutional protection, and support the sustainability and maintenance of land policies. [1]

The NLA was born in 2015 as part of the process of institutional transformation of the rural sector, aimed at closing the poverty gaps in the countryside and honoring the commitments set forth in the final agreement for the termination of the conflict and construction of a stable and lasting peace, reached between the government of Colombia and the FARC guerrilla.

The Integral Rural Reform, as one of the main points of the agreement, lays the foundation for the structural transformation of rural areas and stablishes the improvement of life quality and wellbeing of rural population as a fundamental aspect for peace building. In this sense, both parties are considered indispensable to the incorporation of a territorial approach, the recognition of local realities, and the participation of communities in the implementation of the agreement. [2]

Background History and Context

One of the main problems on land in Colombia has been the lack of up-to-date information on land tenure. For example, the cadaster ( an official register showing details of ownership, boundaries, and value of real property in a district, made for taxation purposes) formed in Colombia is outdated in approximately 64% of the country and about 28% do not have cadastral information [3]. Such information is fundamental to enable state planning and intervention, not only from the central level, but also from a territorial approach in accordance with the realities of each community.

In 2015, the NLA was created as the highest land authority in the country. Its mission is to improve the living conditions of the Colombian rural population through the consolidation and maintenance of rural property policies. These policies are aimed at recognizing the rights of use and property, and the various relationships existing with the land, in order to create the necessary legal conditions for those who exercise legitimate relationships on land. [4]

In this scenario, the voice of the communities and their active participation in the process became crucial to understanding the importance of territories and life histories behind rural properties, as well as the expectations and particular characteristics of those who inhabit them. In this regard, the ANT proposes the Seedbeds as a participatory strategy, which seeks to create a community network, by linking inhabitants that support it, and by promoting and stimulating these public policies. The Seedbeds are designed to create a sense of how multiplication of knowledge works. They also assume a “do no harm” imperative and a differentiated and gender-sensitive approach. [5]

Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities

The Seedbeds strategy is implemented in the territory through agreements with the World Bank, the International Organization for Migration, the Comitato Internazionale per lo Sviluppo dei Popoli, and the United Nations Development Program.

Participant Recruitment and Selection

The Seedbed works to include new leaderships, therefore social leaders that reside in the community, as well as people under special constitutional protection [6] can participate in the strategy, they must want to support the NLA land policies and express their willingness to participate in the reunions. Also in accordance with the guidelines of the "Community Participation Strategy" [7], each Seedbed must be conformed of a minimum of 70 people and a maximum of 100. [8]

Criteria selection:

Differentiated and gender-sensitive approach: Active participation of people under special constitutional protection: women, people with different gender orientations and identities, children-adolescents, young people, elderly people, people with disabilities, victims of armed conflict and people belonging to indigenous communities or black communities. It must be ensured that there is a quota of all these populations that historically have been excluded. In the same way, actions must be taken to promote a minimum participation rate of 30% for women. It is also necessary to make differentiated socializations for each ethnic group, respecting their decision to participate or not in the Seedbed. 

Geographic representation: The selection also takes into account that there is a quota of participation of inhabitants of all of the different townships of the municipality. The Seedbed can be formed only in municipal instances, one per municipality. The conformation and expansion of each Seedbed is carried out gradually and progressively in three scenarios: community approach, municipal social cartographies, and rural cartographies in each community. 

Methods and Tools Used

The Seedbeds are a participatory space that requires the commitment of its members to attend the meetings and take on the role of multiplying and disseminating the information about NLA land policies. Participation has no cost and no economic rewards are allocated to its members. The process of formation and consolidation of each Seedbed is led by a tutor who has the role of facilitator, who must articulate with the different institutional actors in the municipality. Each session is designed for approximately six hours and has a document that contains a thematic script of support, with pedagogical dynamics, audiovisual aids, among other elements, that direct the tutor in the session development. [9]

The Seedbed strategy is designed to get through twelve sessions, where topics related to land policies are presented in a pedagogical way, it has three main phases: eight sessions in the phase of Formulation, three in the Implementation phase, and one final in the Maintenance phase. In the same way, Seedbed members must elaborate three work plans, and each one should guide the actions to be carried out in the three phases.

The collectively constructed work plans must include: Identification of the specific needs of each community; The strategy for the multiplication of acquired knowledge and the diffusion of key messages of the process; The identification of work zones; The schedule of meetings; Recommendations and aspects to be strengthened; As well as the advances, evaluation mechanisms and updating of the land public policies.

What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation

Through the different sessions, participation in the public land policy is promoted; feedback is given on the actions carried out up to now. The members of each Seedbed must have good dialogue skills in order to collaborate with institutions, and should be aware that they are the overseers of the institutional adjustments that are required to maintain the local land policies.

In the framework of one of the sessions of the Municipal Land Table, Seedbed spokespersons can present the work plan and the proposals they have regarding territorial conflicts. This session involves the execution of two spaces: a plenary where the entire Seedbed work to build the presentation and the key messages that they want to transmit to the institutions; and another with the Municipal Land Table where only Seedbed spokespeople attend.

Additionally, national and regional meetings of the Seedbed strategy are held, which are thought as spaces for analysis, discussion and exchange of experiences that strengthen community strategies, and promote agency in the different regions where the public policy is implemented.

Influence, Outcomes and Effects

As an outcome, members of the Seedbed must be informed about policies concerning land and territory issues, be multipliers of their knowledge, facilitators of local development processes, and a community reference for the land public policies. 

There’s a land public policy plan for each Seedbed that is the main expected participatory result, and is defined as: a planning instrument through which the NLA organizes its institutional action, in areas targeted for the development of programs, projects and actions aimed at promoting equitable distribution, access to land and the security of rural property, promoting its use in compliance with the social and ecological function. These plans are developed through processes of community and institutional participation materialized in each Seedbed, to guarantee efficient and effective intervention according to territorial needs. [10]

After the preparation of these plans, the NLA is expected to title and make public the property information of the municipality. Both the preparation process and the planning and implementation of the policy should be carried out in permanent agreement with the communities, especially with the leaders of the Seedbed consolidated in each municipality, and in permanent communication with the NLA, that is in charge of coordinating the efforts with local, regional and national level institutions.

Analysis and Lessons Learned

Throughout community participation, one of the aims is to identify conflicts over the territory that can be related with different issues: ethnic conflicts (between ethnic communities or individuals); state property conflicts (anomalous adjudications, unresolved procedures, among others), conflicts among individuals (conflicts due to inheritance, boundaries, among others); land use conflicts (existence of illicit crops, legal or illegal mining). Likewise, it is possible to identify in which places there are legal and illegal armed groups, antipersonnel mines, among other aspects, according to the information provided by the community.

The historical breach in land issues to poor peasants, in addition to the constant uncertainty about the political context due to changes in government, has caused communities to generate resistance against state policies. The importance in the implementation of this strategy is that the community can demand the local authorities to fulfill their promises, regardless of who is in the government in office. A strategy designed from above, from the institutional framework, in this case also ends up providing spaces for community decision making from below.

Finally, it is important to mention that although many social movements have strengthened their demands for their rights despite the adversity of the political context, many of the participatory processes have been interrupted by the systematic murder of social leaders, which has fractured the social networks in the communities and disarticulated the popular alliances in many areas of the country.

See Also


Political Representation


[1] See Seedbed operative document.

[2] Final agreement for the termination of the conflict and the construction of a stable and lasting peace (2017).

[3] See Decreto 2363 of 2015

[4] See document CONPES 3859.

[5] See Resolution 740 of 2017

[6] Political Constitution of Colombia. Article 13. All persons are born free and equal before the law, will receive the same protection and treatment from the authorities and will enjoy the same rights, freedoms and opportunities, without any discrimination based on sex, race, language, national or family origin, political, or philosophical religion.

[7] See document "Community Participation Strategy “

[8] Taking into account that the average number of townships is 45, for each of the 43 intervened municipalities, the number of participants in each Seedbed was established considering the participation of two leaders per township.

[9] The tutors are responsible for preparing a document that systematizes the processes, procedures and mechanisms essential to sustain the land public policy, which must be presented and delivered to each Seedbed.

[10] See Resolution 740 of 2017

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