2023- 2024
cauca, colombia

A study to ascertain whether sugar cane is illegally cultivated near rivers, an analysis of the supply chain of the sugar to determine its destination.

The Cauca Valley stands as Colombia's primary sugarcane-producing region, fueling a significant portion of the nation's economy.

However, the expansion of large-scale intensive sugarcane plantations has given rise to a multitude of environmental and social challenges, including concerns regarding water pollution and land grabbing.

To safeguard water resources, the Colombian government enacted legislation defining a riparian buffer zone, known as "ronda hidrica", and implementing conservation measures, including a prohibition on planting within its boundaries.
However, claims from local communities suggest widespread disregard for regulatory measures.

Map of the current extention of sugarcane cultivation in some Municipalities in Cauca Region.
Orange-coloured areas: sugarcane cultivations in 2023.


Source International, in collaboration with Forest Peoples Programme conducted an investigation spanning seven municipalities within the Cauca department to quantify the encroachment of sugarcane plantations into riparian buffer zones.

Leveraging very high spatial resolution planet imagery made available by Norway's International Climate and Forest Initiative (NICFI), we employed classification techniques to map the current extent of sugarcane cultivation. We then used these crop maps to estimate the percentage of sugarcane crop infringing upon riparian buffer zones.


Our analysis revealed that approximately 22% of the riparian buffer zones surveyed had been encroached upon by sugarcane plantations. These findings underscore the urgent need for effective enforcement of existing regulations to preserve water resources and mitigate further environmental degradation.

Zoom Map of the current extention of sugarcane cultivation in some Municipalities in Cauca Region.
Pink-coloured areas: the riparian buffer zones encroached upon by sugarcane plantations.

The documented evidence provided by our study serves as a resource for local communities and non-governmental organizations in their advocacy efforts, equipping them with actionable data to pursue legal channels and promote sustainable land management practices.

Read the complete report (spanish)