During the mid-1990s one of the most ambitious land reforms of recent decades took place in Colombia. The objective was to recognize collective rights over land to the Afro-descendants in the Pacific coast of the country to improve their livelihoods and to preserve valuable ecosystems. This titling process began after the writing of the 1991 Colombian Constitution and was formalized with the enactment of Law 70 in 1993. The first land title was issued in 1996 and up to 2014 the Colombian government has titled around 5.3 million hectares to 168 Afro-Colombian groups in six regions of the country. We study the impact of such collective land titling program in forest cover in territories inhabited by Afro-descendent communities. The main objective is to estimate the impact of titling on deforestation by comparing deforestation rates in communities that have receive their title with a credible estimate of what would have happen in the counterfactual scenario using difference in difference (DID) with matching estimates.
Our results will contribute to the ongoing debate about how to distribute the costs of conservation and suggest important policy lessons for the development of collective land titling programs in the developing world. These results provide key insights for policy makers aiming to design incentive based programs (such as REDD+ and local payment for ecosystem services) by providing information on threaten areas and current management regimes.