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Resguardo El Duya, Colombia


Our people, the Sali’a, are made up of approximately 1,535 inhabitants and we live across the departments of Vichada and Casanare in the central eastern region of Colombia. There are eight reservations located in the department of Casanare and the municipality of Orocué, which are El Duya, the Council, Paravare, San Juanito, El Saladillo, El Suspiro, Médano and Macucuna. The El Duya reservation is the largest of these reservations, covering an area of 11,785 hectares, with a population of 542 people. Our grandparents tell us that the Sáli'a come from a territory that is known today as Venezuela. Our history is full of migration and unsolved paradigms that remain in our memory. Our culture survives in our traditions, territory, language and spirituality.

In our recent history, contact with other populations has made us assimilate values, principles and economic activities characteristic of peasant farmers. However, we have been raising awareness and implementing programs to strengthen our educational spaces, our governance and our spirituality. For the Sali’a, all the natural elements that make up Mother Earth have spirit. They are a living being and, like any living being, they are treated with respect and devotion. That is why all bodies of water, all ecosystems, and the biodiversity found within them, are considered sacred to the indigenous community of El Duya.


The El Duya reservation has been legally constituted. An authority has been recognised under Colombian law and has autonomy in governance and administration of the territory. Our community is governed by the Cabildo, who are elected representatives of the community led by a governor. The Cabildo represents us and monitors topics of interest to the community as well as directing the community members in the various activities that take place. Decision-making in the territory is decided through voting, and whichever activity gets the most votes wins. We regularly hold general assemblies in which the entire community participates. Here, we learn and reflect on issues related to the use and management of natural resources. We identify the main threats present in the territory as well as discuss and propose collective solutions to the problems.

Monitoring the reservation

In our reserve, we are seeking mechanisms to bring new generations closer to our history, language and culture as well as bring awareness to the importance of protecting and conserving our territory. We have an environmental monitoring group who have identified threats and problems in the territory.

The changes we are seeing in our territory are accelerating because of external impacts, including climate change, exploitation by oil and other companies as well as land degradation from livestock farming. For example, the rice industry is putting pressure on the ecosystem of the ancestral territories of our people. We have also detected changes and modifications in the territory due to its proximity to infrastructure and oil industries, which has caused multiple territorial conflicts. The general assemblies described above are an opportunity for representatives of oil companies to consult the community on their projects in the territory. There have been incidents where companies have manipulated prior consultation, for example by hiring and co-opting community members. This has caused internal fragmentation in the community. We are also experiencing threats from settlers invading the reservation, occupying areas, installing fences and burning and cutting down sacred trees. This is a violation of our right to autonomy in the territory. It has also caused environmental damage and a reduction of our flora and fauna species. In defence of our territory, we began a legal process to prevent repeated violations by the settler. Despite this, construction has continued and encounters and conflicts between the settler and the community are constant.

As a result of external impacts, we have been forced to require legal services on multiple occasions, but we do not currently have any trained attorneys to represent us appropriately. In Colombia, lawyers specialised in ethnic legislation are scarce and expensive, and the lawyers we can get access to usually evaluate cases in the context of ordinary law, placing us at a disadvantage, or delaying the resolution of the process for many years.

What’s next

We have a particular need in the community for the training of environmental professionals who can help us to evaluate and develop strategies to help to restore our territory. Currently, the resources available to the community to address the problem are very limited. There is a pressing need for reforestation and conservation of our native species because of these external impacts. We consider the ICCA strategy a shield and a support in our fight for the conservation and protection of the territory.

Registration Process

In the Duya reservation we carried out a process of self-recognition of our territory. This was with the help of ASAISOC (Asociación de Autoridades Indígenas Sáliba de Orocué-Casanare) and USAID, within the framework of their “Colombia Riqueza Natural” program. In this program they work with communities to support enhancing protection of territories using a multi-age and gender-inclusive process, bringing elders closer to young populations.

During this process we conducted tours to cultural locations for the community, and we identified the natural resources that we protect in our territory and assessed their current status. We also developed conservation strategies to protect and recover these resources. Over the course of a year most of the population participated in these various activities, and the values of our culture and important aspects of our territory were highlighted, including highlighting our roles as indigenous people in terms of care, tenure, governance and environmental protection.

This case study was originally published by UN Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) on December 2021. The content was provided by the custodians of this ICCA. ICCA is self-declared and has gone through a peer review process to verify its status. More details on this process can be found here. The content of this website does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the United Nations Environment Program or WCMC.