Colombia Geography

Colombia Geography and Population

Colombia – geography

A large part of Colombia’s population and the country’s economic activity are concentrated in a limited area between the Andes’ chains. A large part of the country’s coffee is grown here, and here is the capital Bogotá.


Colombia’s population is very composed; about 20 percent are white, 4 percent black, and 1 percent indigenous people of many different tribes. The remaining majority are mixtures of these three groups. This majority, along with the whites, inhabit the most densely populated western parts of the country.

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The blacks live mainly on the coastal plains towards the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. They are descendants of the approximately 150,000 slaves, who were introduced to mining and plantation work in the 16th and 1800’s. A few managed to escape and form small independent communities, palenques. The most famous, the Palenque de San Basilio, withstood several military attacks. Here the Creole language is preserved, a mixture of Spanish and African languages.

The indigenous peoples make up the majority of the population in the sparsely populated eastern jungle areas, but also on the northern tip of the country and in certain areas in the southwest. Several of the more than 60 different tribes have retained their own language, and neighboring tribes often have to communicate with each other in Spanish. Nearly 200 tribes have disappeared since Spanish colonization.

Population growth is moderate (1.46 per cent per year; 2006) and declining, but there is a large difference between the different population groups. Among the indigenous peoples and the blacks, the birth rate is still high; this also applies to the poor and uneducated women in the cities.

Colombia has experienced a sharp migration from country to city since the 1950’s. More than 1/4 live in the four million cities: Bogota, Cali (2.4m.), Medellin (2.2m.) And Barranquilla (1.4 m.), And up to 3/4 in the cities of all. There is a marked difference in living conditions in the cities and in the countryside, but also within the big cities there is a strong social division, which not least characterizes the health and education sector, and access to facilities such as water supply and sewerage.


Agriculture is concentrated in the central and western areas, primarily the river valleys around Cauca and the upper reaches of Magdalena. Since the 1950’s, potential agricultural areas in the lowlands have been colonized, often in conflict with the scattered indigenous peoples there. Clearing rainforest areas has caused ecological problems and since the 1980’s also problems with guerrilla groups and drug barons, whose coca fields and laboratories are located in the rugged jungle areas.

Agriculture has evolved from a traditional self-sufficient agriculture towards more commercial and export-oriented production. The medium-sized farms tend to increase in size and provide better conditions for the peasants; over half of the 2 million farms are, however, self-sufficient, unmechanized small farms under 3 ha. The main crop coffee occupies 18 percent of the approximately 5.3 million ha, which is cultivated. Colombia provider 1/6 of the world market coffee. Prices in this market are very volatile, but the national coffee fund, Fondo Nacional de Café, has succeeded, to ensure producers a stable or even increasing earnings. The fund collects capital during periods of high prices and compensates in times of recession for low prices. The coffee is mainly grown on volcanic soils at an altitude of 1200-1800 m, and in the traditional unmechanized uses it is often grown together with other crops such as beans, corn, yucca, bananas and citrus fruits. Production is constantly being modernized, and Colombian coffee is generally competitive in the world market.

Bananas are another important export crop, just as the cultivation of maize, rice, sugar cane and sorghum is of great importance. In addition, a large number of other crops are grown under the country’s varying climatic conditions. A specialty crop such as flowers, especially cloves, is increasingly grown for export.

In the lowlands both along the coasts and in the eastern rainforest areas, many millions. have been involved in grazing. Here are large farms with extensive cattle breeding for meat production. Around the larger cities in the highlands, there are intensive cattle farms with both meat and milk production, and milk production is increasing.

Forestry. Half of Colombia is covered by forest; the majority is made up of the hard-to-reach and ecologically vulnerable Amazon forest. It is especially the forest areas on the west coast that are exploited; here there are good transport options along rivers and country roads. Conservation of the Colombian forest was initiated as early as 1959, but the forest area is slowly declining; replanting comprises only a few percent of the utilized area.

Mining. Gold mining has been of great importance until the end of the 19th century, when reserves dwindled, but Colombia remains among the world’s ten largest gold producers. Mining, which also includes platinum, nickel and silver, has mainly taken place in the central mountain area, but new gold deposits have been found near the border with Brazil. Colombia is the world’s largest producer of green emeralds, which is mainly mined around Boyacá. This part of the mining takes place in informal forms and with little use of modern technology, and a large part of the production is marketed through unofficial channels.

Coal production is rising sharply, and a large part is exported. During the boycott of South Africa, the Danish power plants were one of the main buyers of production. Since the mid-1980’s, Colombia has also become a net exporter of oil; new fields are being developed and production is increasing.

The hydropower potential is enormous, and hydroelectricity covers 70 percent of the country’s electricity production. During a period of drought in 1992-1993, electricity rationing was introduced, but many believed that the problems were due to corruption and careless handling of public funds rather than drought. The rationing led many business owners to procure petrol generators, which increased both air and noise pollution in many urban areas.

The industry is concentrated in the major population centers and the northern highlands and is dominated by the food industry. The chemical industry with oil and plastic industry is growing as well as the manufacture of machinery, electrical appliances and cars. Industry contributes more than a third of GDP, the share is rising and has long since overtaken the contribution of agriculture.


The road and rail network is concentrated in the highlands and is virtually non-existent in the great eastern lowlands and on the Pacific coast. In the first half of the 20th century, rail traffic played a major role, for coffee and sugar cultivation and several industries, but the grid is worn out, and in the early 1990’s railways accounted for less than 3 per cent of freight transport and even less of passenger traffic. The transports have been taken over by the road network, but in areas where this is poorly developed, river transport is also important. Air transport handles almost 20 percent of passenger traffic in the large country. There are over 20 airlines and 500 airports and landing sites, and especially in the hard-to-reach rainforest areas, air traffic is crucial.

Natural conditions

The Andes Mountains run in three parallel chains, Cordillerer, which to the north level out towards the plains. On the Caribbean coast, a very high massif rises steeply as a continuation of the Andes: Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. The highest, snow-capped peaks lie here and in the middle of the three Duck Chains. Several of them are volcanoes, and volcanic eruptions have caused great devastation in densely populated mountain areas. In 1985, more than 20,000 people died in meltwater and mudslides when the snow-covered Ruíz erupted.

Between the Western and Central Cordilleras runs the river Cauca and between the Central and Eastern Cordilleras the river Magdalena. Both are navigable on long stretches and end in the Caribbean Sea. The climate of the Highlands region varies with altitude, but here close to the equator, temperatures are constant all year round. The region has vast valleys and plateaus; the capital Bogotá is located on one of them at 2600 m altitude.

The narrow rainforest area between the Western Cordilleras and the Pacific Ocean is one of the rainiest places in the world. Around the rivers Atrato and San Juan, it falls over 9000 mm a year, and days without rain are rare.

The great lowlands below the Eastern Cordilleras can be divided into two regions: the southern rainforest area, which is drained by the Amazon system, and the northern, periodically flooded plains, which are drained to Orinoco. The plains, which are characterized by extensive cattle farming, have been considered natural, but from old Spanish accounts it appears that they have been forested. The region receives abundant rainfall (2000-4000 mm per year), mostly in the south.

Colombia has over 40 national parks, which together occupy 5 percent of the area. They include all types of nature, from the lowland rainforest to the highest mountain peaks. The species richness is overwhelming for both animals and plants. Remarkable are several thousand orchid species, especially in Antioquia, a slightly smaller number of bird species and mammals such as ozelot, jaguar and tapir.

Colombia – language

The official language is Spanish. 1.5% of the population also speak one of the many Native American languages. The most important are guajiro, also called wayuu, spoken by approximately 135,000 (1995) on the NE coast towards the Caribbean Sea, and paez spoken by approximately 80,000 (2000) in the western parts of the country. On the islands of San Andrés and Providencia, an English-based Creole language is spoken.

Colombia – religion

Catholic mission took place from 1500-t. With the Constitution of 1886, the Catholic Church became the state church, but in 1973, church and state were separated. approximately 95% of the population are Catholics. For culture and traditions of Colombia, please check calculatorinc.

The Latin American Episcopal Council, CELAM, held a landmark meeting in Medellín in 1968, and the organization’s general secretariat is based in Bogotá.

Colombia Geography