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Resguardo El Médano, Colombia


Our people, the Sali’a, migrated from the Orinoco area in Venezuela as a result of the impacts of Hispanic colonisation. Our reservation, El Médano, is located in the municipality of Orocué in Colombia and covers an area of 1,763 hectares (and will include another 200 hectares once expanded), with a population of 179 inhabitants and 21 families. We respect and know the natural cycles of Mother Earth. We have created ecological calendars that define when we carry out our construction, planting, hunting or fishing activities according to the season. For us, the natural elements that make up Mother Earth have spirits, they are living beings, and like all other living beings, they are treated with respect and devotion. That is why all bodies of water, all ecosystems and all the biodiversity found within them, are considered sacred to the indigenous people of El Médano.


Our territory is made up mainly of the following natural habitats:

  • Stationary humid savanna – this ecosystem is characterized by being flooded from April to November. The savannas have an important ecological and cultural value for the community as they supply and regulate water in the territory.
  • Estuaries – these are semi-permanent flood areas that are located on the margins of rivers, streams, ravines or in open savannahs. They are natural water filters and house a lot of biodiversity. The extraction of fish and birds is allowed in estuaries as well as livestock grazing.
  • Morichales – these are strips of forests located in the flood savannas where the predominant species is the moriche palm (Mauritia flexuosa). As well as being a source for food and habitat for fauna, historically they provide a protective source of water. The moriche palm is important to the community, culturally and spiritually, as the fruit is used in traditional foods, and the palm is used to make handicrafts typical of the Sáli’a people.
  • Gallery forest – these are extensive areas of native vegetation.


We have a Participatory Monitoring group who carried out a series of assessments to identify the threats and problems present in the territory.

External threats to the territory include the pressure of the rice industry and other agro-industrial activities on the ecosystem of the ancestral territories of the Sáli’a people. Another threat is its proximity to infrastructure and oil industries. The presence of hydrocarbon projects, seismic explorations and agro-industrial activities have directly affected the nature and governance of our ICCA. In recent years, they have been adopting non-proprietary practices such as burning to clear land and intensive livestock farming that triggers environmental imbalances.

In the reservation, we have farms that provide food for the reservation and we can commercialise some of our food resources. One challenge we are facing is that we are lacking technical and administrative knowledge of farming. We want to train ourselves to be more productive whilst also respecting and conserving our territory. On the other hand, our cultural traditions have been disappearing due to a lack of interest from the new generations. Therefore, we want to generate strategies of cultural engagement for young people.

Climate change is also threatening our reservation. Our rainy and drought seasons are increasing in length, which is affecting our food production.

What’s next

We recognise the importance of our ecosystem remaining healthy and intact, which is why we want to put mechanisms in place for the protection and conservation of the territory, recover our sustainable environmental practices and strengthen our knowledge about our territorial rights. We want to improve agricultural and livestock production without disturbing the existing forest in our territories and we want to allow space for reforestation.

Registration Process

In the Médano 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 UNEP-WCMC in December 2021. The content was provided by the custodians of this ICCA. The ICCA has been self-declared and has been through a peer-review process to verify its status. More details on this process can be found here. The contents of this website do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of UN Environment Programme or WCMC.