Colombia is the third most populous country in Latin America, with an estimated 44 million people. While Colombia is considered a middle-income country, 21 million Colombians are poor and 6 million live below the level of extreme poverty (WFP 2012). Economic growth has been hampered by a decades-long conflict that has threatened infrastructure, displaced populations, and generated large debts.

Colombia has one of the world’s highest rates of internally displaced people; this population suffers from high levels of poverty and hunger. The average monthly income of an internally displaced family in Colombia is a little over 41 percent of the country’s official minimum wage, or about US$63 (International Committee of the Red Cross/WFP). Displaced families spend 58 percent of their monthly income on food.

Colombia’s poverty is concentrated in rural areas, where 25 percent of the country’s population lives. About 64 percent of rural women and men are classified as poor, and 29 percent of them live in extreme poverty. There are also large discrepancies in standards of living among regions. Sixty per cent of the population in the departments of Boyacá, Cauca, Chocó, Córdoba, Huila, Nariño, Sucre and Tolima are poor (IFAD). Large landholders control vast areas of underutilized land, and an estimated 2 million hectares of land belonging to small farmers and indigenous communities have been illegally occupied over the past 15 years. More than 1.3 million rural families are now landless; half are employed by large farms, while the rest are employed in non-agricultural activities such as microenterprises. In addition to a lack of land, rural households face limited access to irrigation, education, and markets.
Poverty in Colombia was complicated in late 2010 when a series of widespread floods devastated agricultural production in the country. The 2012 maize crop is expected to be 8 percent above 2011 levels, following an increase in area sown in response to production incentives provided by the Government through the “Plan País−Maíz”, the Maize Country Program, which began in 2011 (FAO/GIEWS). Despite this, however, the country remains heavily dependent on cereals imports. Maize imports are expected to remain at about 3.1 million tonnes in 2012/13 (July/June) due to increasing demand from the animal feed industry. Wheat imports are forecast at around 1.4 million tonnes in 2012/13.