Land: Culture and conflict

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PBI Colombia December 2017

ISSN 1908 - 3489 - #23

LAND Culture and conflict


Land: culture and conflict


Land: So much in the hands of so few



Colombian law


Land and peace


The dark history of stolen land


Land: accumulated and badly used


Defending the land: a dangerous activity




The dignity of campesina women


Small acts of big resistance: Identity and the defence of territory

Urabá: a contemporary history of violence and territory In peripheral areas, where violence has been the main method used to resolve conflicts, the communities have found ingenious ways to resist in their territories.


Starting over in La Europa


“I am also called Magdalena” An account of the first meeting of women from the Campesino Reserve Zone in the Cimitarra River Valley


The Jiw and Sikuani fight for their ancestral lands


Defending territory across the world The struggle of the forest guardians in Kenya and other stories from Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico.

















Land is part of the identity and culture of all communities the world over, and at the same time land lies at the root of many conflicts, because of the varying interests that surround it. We therefore understand that land lies at the centre of many of the issues facing the people accompanied by PBI. By telling their stories, we aim to shed light on their struggles and encourage international solidarity to advocate for their protection. The struggle for land brings a new challenge each day, with communities surrounded by armed actors who seek territorial control to exploit natural resources without restriction. Many communities have been through decades of bureaucracy, pressure and threats and they are still awaiting the restitution of their lands. PBI accompanies community resistance processes and also lawyers’ collectives and organisations that defend human rights, who represent communities in the defence of their territories. What unites them all is their love for their land, the connection they feel to their territory and a deep belief in social justice, fairness and the search for truly peaceful societies. PBI highlights the fundamental


work carried out by each person who is dedicated, in one way or another, to the defence of land, territory and human rights; these are people who face increasingly complex security situations with courage and dignity, all because of the fundamental work they carry out. This publication is a homage to these individuals and collectives who continue, in spite of everything, to defend nature, their culture and heritage, for future generations. We illustrate the issue of the unequal land ownership and its excessive exploitation in Colombia, with specific examples of people and organisations that we accompany in several regions of the country, highlighting the challenges they face in their work day after day. We contextualise this panorama with examples from other PBI projects in Latin America and in the African continent. We are convinced that a thorough understanding of the issues surrounding land and territory will guide us in the design and creation of fairer societies, and also inform us on how to develop holistic protection measures for those who defend land, water and life.


Photo: Bianca Bauer

6 Photo: Adrian Johanson

Land: culture and conflict 7

Land: So much in the hands of so few


mmersed in numerous social, economic and cultural conflicts which are expressed through the politically motivated violence throughout the nation, Colombia is a hugely unequal country. Wealth and land are highly concentrated in the hands of a small elite, while much of the country is completely neglected by the

Colombian State.1 A report by Oxfam International shows that 1% of the population holds 80% of the land, leaving just 20% of the land distributed amongst the remaining 99% of the population.2 Oxfam concludes that Colombia is the most unequal country in Latin America in terms of land distribution, and that this inequality and the concentration of land ownership in the hands of so few, has increased in recent decades.3 Inequality is a proven driver of conflict, and the inability to address its structural causes has been at the heart of the drawn out violence Colombia has experienced for decades. Land is at the centre of many conflicts in Colombia. Despite an increase in its urban populations, a result of years of armed conflict and dispossession on a massive scale, 23% of the population still lives in rural areas, living directly off the land through agricultural activities.4 The small-scale farmers produce food for the ever-increasing city populations and for the growing export markets, which Colombia has developed 8

thanks to the 16 Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) signed in recent years.5 FTAs have a huge impact in the countryside, incentivising changes in production methods as imported products are saturating the internal markets. Despite Colombia’s high capacity for food production due to its rich soil and varied climates, 28% of the food consumed by its population is imported.6 The protective clauses for foreign investment contained in the FTAs limit the Colombian State’s sovereignty over how to use its land and regulate the domestic agricultural markets, because it cannot negatively affect the economic projections set out in the agreements.7 The economic model promoted by the Colombian Government in recent decades has been largely focused on natural resource extraction and large scale agro-industry, meaning that territorial conflict over land distribution and use occurs both above and below ground.8 The model promoted by the State, from its capital Bogota, often contradicts the regional perspective of










what the communities themselves want for their territory, illustrated by the recent popular consultations held in several regions across the country where communities reject large scale mining operations installed in their territories.9 For rural communities, particularly ethnic communities, land is not just a material resource for satisfying human consumption, but has a spiritual significance that generates a profound connection between communities and their land or “territory”, forming part of their historical, spiritual and cultural identity. In many Latin American cosmovisions, land is depicted as a mother who not only produces for her flock, but deserves respect and conservation for future generations. This relationship with the land is particularly visible in indigenous cultures which see themselves as part of the land and guardians of the ecosystems. It is no coincidence that indigenous communities have settlements in the most biodiverse parts of the world and have successfully preserved it for centuries. In the territories occupied 10

by ethnic groups in Colombia, 90.8% of the land is covered by forest, compared to the 6.9% used for agricultural production. This highlights the important role that ethnic groups play in environmental protection.10 Colombia is internationally recognised for its high levels of biodiversity, with 314 different ecosystems coexisting throughout the country.11 Since the signing of the Peace Agreement between the Colombian Government and the FARC in September 2016, 88 new species have been discovered in Colombia in areas that were previously seen as too dangerous to enter for research purposes.12 A number of important cases have recently been heard in Colombian courts to protect these delicate ecosystems, for example the Constitutional Court’s sentence prohibiting mining operations in the paramos (high altitude wetlands) as they are important sources of water for the Colombian population,13 and another sentence from the same Court which concluded that the Atrato River in the department of Choco itself is a subject of rights, underlining the




54.871 SPECIES





importance and urgency of protecting it given how polluted this water source has become.14 New conflicts are emerging between people who are trying to protect the environment and those who see the wealth of these ecosystems, not in terms of their natural importance, but of the minerals that can be extracted from them.15 In a country as resource-rich as Colombia, access to land is power. Colombia is a producing country and has produced goods for the rest of the world´s consumption since colonial times. This model continues today with a vast amount of Colombia´s produce headed for the export market which drives the demand, whether that be palm oil, gold, bananas, petrol, chocolate, coffee, sugar or most infamously, cocaine.16 These products are either extracted from the land or farmed upon it, meaning that access to land is at the heart of any economic project aimed at producing for the global market. In Colombia there is an absence of effective environmental legislation, which has a severe impact on different ecosystems throughout the country and creates significant confusion over which model to apply to which territories, given the varying perspectives and interests.17 This has become evident in recent national deforestation figures which indicate that it is on the increase. Colombia went from having 64,417,000 hectares of forest in 1990 to 58,501,000 in 2015, which means nearly six million hectares were lost in the last 25 years. Between 2015 and 2016, deforestation in Colombia increased by 44%.18 This, combined with legislation that favours foreign investment, and the power asymmetry between transnational corporations and rural communities, generates tensions between different actors and interests over the territory, which fuels conflict around the issue of land.


Photo: Bianca Bauer

The economic model promoted by the Colombian State is largely focused on natural resource extraction and large-scale agricultural projects, which means that conflicts over land take place both above and below ground. Photo taken in Casanare.


Photo: Bianca Bauer More than three million rural inhabitants do not have access to drinking water in Colombia. Pedro spends several hours each day bringing water from the closest springs. Photo taken in Sucre.

Colombian law


The legislation that regulates the use, access to and distribution of land in Colombia is complex and difficult to navigate, not just for people from the countryside but also for the judges within the system given the different interpretations of the law and how it should be applied. In general, there is a marked poliarisation in perspectives on Colombia’s territory; one which recognises the rights of small-scale farmers to the land they cultivate, and the other that favours the concentration of land in the hands of a few through private property titles.19 Current Colombian norms reflect these two visions and generate confusion as well as judicial and social tensions when it comes to applying the law.20 Compared to other Latin American countries, Colombia has never been through a real process of agrarian reform, despite various attempts over the years.21 This has generated significant uncertainty about land tenure on a national scale, feeding high levels of corruption and chipping away at the rights of people who live in rural areas under the gaze of geo-strategic interests. In the Colombian context, the issue of land stems from a historical and social debt that the State has with ethnic and farming communities in the country who have been affected by the armed conflict and by the absence of protection guarantees in rural territories. Therefore, integrated public policy is needed that recognises the reality in rural areas, and seeks equilibrium between the different positions and interests.22

Law 160 of 1994 is an emblematic example of an attempt to mix two opposing visions in the law to promote rural development by creating the Campesino Reserve Zones, whilst at the same time letting the State off the hook from its obligation of carrying out full agrarian reform by allowing it to further implement its neo-liberal vision, a model that expects all issues to be resolved by the forces of the free market.23 Camilo Sanchez, expert on land issues in Colombia, describes the law as “a sad languishing of agrarian reform in Colombia”.24 The law stipulates that what are known as unoccupied lands, “baldíos”, of the State could be granted to farmers who have no land to cultivate. In principle, every municipality is responsible for developing its own Territorial Organisational Plan (POT) which sets out the norms for territorial usage and cohabitation between the different actors and interests that exist.25 More than 20 years have passed since the Law was created and most of the Plans have yet to be drawn up, partly because of the insecurity produced by the armed conflict in the territories, and also because of the lack of systematic and up to date information about the national territory with accurate details of how much unoccupied land is available.26 Law 1776 of 2016, known as the Zidres Law, changes the rationale behind the use of unoccupied land under Law 160.27 The State can now grant its unoccupied lands to companies, on the understanding that 15


these lands are remote and of low productivity.28 This law has been widely criticised because it favours large scale capital investment over protecting the rights of the farming communities and environmental conservation; for now, the Constitutional Court has approved the law whilst it examines a claim of unconstitutionality put before it.29 These laws interact with Law 1448 of 2011, known as the Victims’ Law.30 This law was presented with the aim of repairing the victims of the armed conflict and responding to one of the country’s many historic injustices.31 The law includes a part on Land Restitution for people whose territories have been forcibly dispossessed during the armed conflict. This Law only applies to people whose lands have been formally recognised; those who have no access to property titles for whatever reason cannot benefit from it. Despite numerous difficulties, more than 3,000 requests have been resolved by the Land Restitution Unit with around 2,000 hearings held in the last six years, which represents about 25% of the requests received by the entity. However there are only four years left to process the rest of the requests, because the law is due to terminate in 2021. There has been a lot of criticism about the application of Law 1448, mostly because of its slow and bureaucratic processes which can take years to resolve.32 The persistence of the armed conflict has prevented many victims from making applications, because of the high risks faced by people 16

who reclaim their land.33 Every case is studied individually and exhaustively depending on the circumstances of the people who apply, meaning collective and community requests are harder to process. This means that rural communities who have been forcibly displaced have to get over yet another hurdle to request the community’s land restitution within the system.34 In addition, the high degree of informal land tenure means that many displaced people have not been able to access the Land Restitution system because their titles have not been formalised.35 Women are particularly vulnerable in this regard, often widowed by the conflict, with no land title documentation, in a country where land titles have historically been the prerogative of men. Despite the achievements of the Land Restitution Law and the opportunities presented by the current peace process between the Government and the FARC, there are still several obstacles to implementing a legal system that is able to apply justice with regards to the use, access and distribution of land in Colombia. As well as these there are bodies of law that protect ethnic groups and contain measures for territorial protection, and the body of law on environmental protection as applied to land. These articulate themselves within the tensions between the rights of communities versus the prioritisation of economic interests, which demonstrates the complexity of the topic and the need to understand the roots of the problem.


Photo: Caldwell Manners/ECAP

Photo: Bianca Bauer The El Cocuy National Park is one of 56 national parks in Colombia, and is situated between the departments of Boyacรก and Arauca.

Land and peace


Since the signing of the Peace Agreement between the Government and the FARC in September 2016, expectations have been high for rural reform and new policies on land distribution, as some of the historic causes of the conflict have been promised to be addressed. The first point of the Peace Agreement mentions detailed plans to build security and food sovereignty in rural areas most deeply affected by the armed conflict.36 According to Point 1.1.1. of the Peace Agreement, a “Land Bank” will be created and through that, three million hectares of land will be redistributed and given back to the population that has been forcibly displaced, in an attempt to deal with the accumulation of land whilst compensating those who have been impacted by the violence of the war.37 It also promises to formalise seven million hectares of rural land en masse, including small and medium sized plots already occupied by farmers with no property titles, whilst simultaneously creating a special agrarian jurisdiction in the legal system and an up to date register with detailed information about land ownership. Overall ten million hectares of land should be distributed throughout the next twelve years.38 The Agreement also contemplates carrying out a multi-purpose census to bring together all the different territorial registers in order to have an up to date and complete database detailing the state of use, access and distribution of land in Colombia.39 It is an attempt to bring together information from the communities on the ground with official statistics managed by the State. After carrying out the census, the Agreement proposes the design of Territorially Focused Development Plans (PDET) for how the territories will be organised, with broad and genuine participation by all sectors and actors present.40 These two parts are important steps for improving Colombia’s present situation, but are not particularly novel on the legal front and do not represent new

commitments by the State. The problem is that, for a number of reasons, these commitments have never been fulfilled in the country’s history.41 The State has committed to creating and promoting integrated rural development plans which include infrastructure, health and education projects, as well as projects to increase food security within the Peace Agreements, and also to show its commitment to rural populations who have traditionally been neglected.42 There are still a lot of concerns about how this system will function, specifically in terms of the collective territories claimed by ethnic communities. As explained above, the Colombian legal system is particularly slanted towards individuals and rarely considers the needs of entire collectives.43 In the context of land restitution this is a particularly difficult obstacle because most of the communities were collectively forced to flee their territories, and therefore claim their rights as a collective rather than a group of individuals. Many abandoned lands were occupied at some point in the conflict by communities forced out of other regions; these lands are now under question, and may be used to provide land for the Land Bank.44 People who defend land rights have expressed concern because they consider that this could result in the re-victimisation of the communities who have resisted and remained on their lands but who possess no formal title to it,45 and another wave of forced displacement could be provoked. Since the signing of the Peace Agreement between the Government and the FARC, conflicts relating to illicit crops have been increasingly visible, especially with regards to coca.46 According to Point 4 of the Peace Agreement, the Government committed to starting voluntary crop substitution programmes for coca farmers.47 These are agreements where the coca farmer substitutes their crop and the Government com19

mits to improving rural conditions to guarantee access to markets for their products.48 The communities, however, have spoken out about the Government’s failure to comply with the agreements made by its institutions to guarantee the farmer’s means to feed themselves, and at the same time the Colombian Army, and on several occasions the ESMAD Anti-Riot Squad, have been carrying out forceful eradication of the coca crops, leading to violent confrontations between the security forces and farmers in different parts of the country.49 The peace process with the ELN that began in early 2017 represents an even bigger challenge, because the guerrilla group wants their negotiations to be centred on the country’s economic model, which includes resource extraction and land distribution.50 The model for participation is yet to be defined, but the objective is to include as many sectors of Colombian society as possible to broaden the debate and discuss the roots of inequality in the country. The subjects of land distribution and land use are at the centre of the negotiation process which could add to the complexity of the issue in the country. Colombia is living through an historic moment, with two peace processes underway with the FARC and ELN guerrilla groups, which represent an opportunity for building a more equitable nation, with policies for structural changes that go to the root cause of the country’s conflicts. Many challenges still remain, especially in terms of enacting and implementing what was agreed at the negotiation table, including the issue of land. New political and social dynamics in the country are creating new conflict scenarios which could hinder the good intentions surrounding both processes and the initiatives to bring change to Colombia.


Photo: Florian Zeidler

In the Colombian context, the State has a historical and social responsibility to solve the problem of land for ethnic and small-scale farming communities in the country. These communities have been affected by the armed conflict and by the absence of protection guarantees in their territories. Photo taken in the Magdalena Medio region.


LAND CONFLICTS 1910 - 1940


















Photo: Adrian Johanson As communities and individuals reclaim the land they lost during decades of conflict, the panorama becomes more and more complex.

The dark history of stolen land


Throughout over fifty years of armed conflict and many other social, political and cultural conflicts, internal displacement continues to be a systematic violation of human rights in the Colombian context. With approximately 7.7 million internally displaced people, Colombia is the second country in the world after Syria (with 12 million) with the most victims of this phenomenon. After Colombia comes Afghanistan with 4.7 million and Iraq, with 4.2 million.51 After years of violence being perpetrated in rural areas of the country, entire communities have been forcibly displaced from their lands, some of them repeatedly, and have come to occupy new lands as refugees in their own country. Of the more than eight million victims in the armed conflict, 90% of them have been forcibly displaced.52 Most of the victims in Colombia come from indigenous and Afro-descendant communities.53 This phenomenon is related to the arrival of national or transnational companies that have, in numerous cases, bought plots of land and set up economic projects in conflict areas that were previously subjected to forced displacement, and where the rural communities’ rights to the land were never legally recognised.54 This process has frequently been facilitated by the State itself.55 Human rights organisations have repeatedly reported how many of the national and transnational companies have had close ties to paramilitary and/or guerrilla groups in order to guarantee their territorial control; in 2007 for example, the US company Chiquita Brands International Inc. admitted to funding the Colombian Self-Defence

Forces (AUC) after accepting that between 1997 and 2004 it paid a total of 1.7 million dollars to the paramilitary group.56 The funding enabled a whole series of crimes against humanity including massacres, forced disappearances and the violent occupation of community lands in Uraba, so that they could be taken over by the company and exploited for economic gain.57 This case is not an exception, there are at least 15,700 formal investigations into business, political and military leaders alleged to be the promoters, funders or beneficiaries of paramilitarism, based on information provided in testimonies given by paramilitaries under the Justice and Peace Law (Law 975 of 2005); in the last ten years, however, there has been a complete lack of any significant progress in clarifying these facts.58 As communities and individuals have gone about reclaiming their lost lands during decades of conflict, the panorama becomes ever more complex.59 Armed actors continue to displace communities from their lands in different areas around the country, as has been reported by those affected by the violence perpetrated by neo-paramilitary groups that continue to coerce them to leave their properties.60 The number of displacements recorded in 2017 is more than in 2016, despite the signing of the Peace Agreement between the Government and the FARC.61 The process of communities returning to their land is complex and carries with it high levels of risk, due to the absence of guarantees for their security and the reconfiguration of the armed actors in many of these areas.62 25


These events unfold in the political context of the 2014-2018 National Development Plan of President Juan Manuel Santos, whose founding paradigm is resource extraction as the driver for development, including strong incentives for national and transnational corporate interests63 in a country known for being the second most biodiverse on the planet.64 The State, however, lacks real mechanisms of control and enforcement to guarantee the preservation of Colombia’s ecosystems. Colombian legislation on environmental protection historically has not been autonomous,65 and has adapted in order to facilitate the presence of extractive projects financed by foreign capital.66 The National Authority of Environmental Licences (ANLA), together with Regional Corporations, is the entity in charge of carrying out environmental evaluations, and establishing national norms and regulations to protect and conserve the environment. A 2014 study by Universidad de los Andes, showed that only 7% of environmental licences granted by the entity to companies had met the mentioned national standards.67 According to the Environmental Justice Atlas, in 2016 there were 125 environmental conflicts registered in Colombia, most of them linked to oil and gas exploration or extraction, and 80% of them taking place 26

in rural areas.68 The conflicts demonstrate that resource extraction in rural territories carries with it a risk of violating the constitutional rights of the communities who live nearby.69 Alongside the expansion of the mining and energy production economy, the Government has been increasingly militarising the territories that have been prioritised for large scale mining projects. The battalions specifically designated for protecting economic investments (Energy, Mining and Highway Battalions) now represent 30% of the country’s Armed Forces.70 Because the problems of land distribution and usage have been at the heart of the conflict for decades, if not centuries, the growing pressure in the “post-agreement” era will definitely generate negative effects in rural territories, particularly with the increased military presence evident in many parts of the country.71 For these reasons the return processes for internally displaced people should be accompanied by national authorities with a clear protection plan and under international observation, to guarantee the security of returned communities and the sustainability of the returning process.




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Photo: Bianca Bauer Indigenous women from the Wounaan Nonam People resist in their lands in the Valle del Cauca region, despite terror and violence.



Photo: Caldwell Manners/ECAP In Las Pavas (Magdalena department), the small-scale farmers prepare the land ready for the planting season in Spring.

Land: accumulated and badly used


Land in Colombia is concentrated in the hands of a few, and the recent evidence from Oxfam International shows that this tendency is on the increase.72 Some actors have accumulated disproportionately large swathes of land which means that genuine conversations about agrarian reform have not taken place.73 The large-scale landowners, “terratenientes”, have titles over vast areas of land and their monopoly over the country’s productive agriculture is growing.74 In terms of how these accumulated lands are used, of the 43 million hectares currently used in Colombia for agricultural purposes, 34.4 million (80%) are destined for cattle farming, leaving just 20% for crop production.75 According to Oxfam´s analysis, most of the land currently being used for cattle farming could be put to better use to produce food or for environmental conservation projects, and in fact the land assessed as adequate for cattle farming is half of that currently being used.76 75% of land used in Colombia for producing crops is used for agricultural production for export and for large scale agro-industry.77 This production has slowly displaced food production for internal consumption, which means that every year Colombia imports more basic foods that used to be produced in the country. Intensive agriculture techniques have resulted in greater use of fertilisers, which in turn generates greater dependency on the large agribusinesses that produce these chemicals, less crop rotation and a deterioration of soil quality.78 These practices represent a loss of food sovereignty and an adherence to

a global tendency towards privatised food systems, a trend that can be observed in many Latin American Countries. As well as agricultural production, the economy is focused on extractive industries, with coal production nearly doubling in between 2000 and 2010, and mining concessions being approved at an extremely fast rate.79 As previously mentioned, both periods of Juan Manuel Santos’ administration have made mining concessions the driver of development, as laid down in the National Development Plans.80 In 2016 there were a total of 8,971 mining titles in the country, which represent 4,432,789 hectares.81 Bearing in mind the statistics on land use, the 150,000 hectares destined for coca leaf production seems relatively small.82 And yet national and international attention remains focused on coca and it dominates foreign policy towards Colombia, whereas there are few policies focused on the reduction of land used for cattle farming, for example, a policy that could have a greater impact in ensuring a more equitable distribution of land. Land in Colombia is so fertile that a wide range of crops can be produced on it due to the high concentration of minerals in the earth. The presence of these minerals means that the land is also full of natural resources, which are in high demand in the rest of the world. This richness is at the centre of tensions between different interests over land usage and is the fuel that generates the many different conflicts identified in the country.











Photo: Bianca Bauer


“There is a profound crisis linked to the imposition of models of development that seem to favour shortterm profits and commodification over the needs and aspirations of local populations.�

United Nations Special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst, 2017

Photo: Caldwell Manners/ECAP

Photo: Caldwell Manners/ECAP Photo taken in Antioquia.

DEFORESTATION INCREASES Colombia went from 64,417,900 hectares of forest in 1990 to 58,501,700 in 2015 which means a loss of almost six million hectares in 25 years. Between 2015 and the 2016 deforestation in Colombia rose 44%. 36

Photo: Eduardo Acosta Ulloa Photo taken in Chocó.

THE CURSE OF AFRICAN PALM OIL With the constant rise in demand for biofuels, Colombia had been converted into a country where African palm covers huge territories. “Some of the specific constraints faced by defenders working in the sphere of business include the immense disproportionality between the legal, logistical, defensive and financial resources available to defenders compared with those of companies”, says United Nations Special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst, 2017. 37

Photo: Bianca Bauer Photo taken in Boyacá.

PROTECTING THE PÁRAMOS The páramos (high altitude wetlands) are considered one of Colombia’s most vulnerable ecosystems. Recently there have been several legal interventions attempting to protect these delicate habitats, such as the Constitutional Court sentence that prohibits mining activity in the páramos, given that they are important water sources for the Colombian population. However, mining still continues to threaten these ecosystems. 38

Photo: Alejandro González Photo taken in Boyacá.

PROTECTING THE LAND “The work of human rights defenders in the field of business and human rights is crucial to protecting the land and the environment, securing just and safe conditions of work, combating corruption, respecting indigenous cultures and rights and achieving sustainable development”, says United Nations Special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst, 2017. 39

Photo: Caldwell Manners/ECAP EfraĂ­n Alvear rides his faithful mule across the land that his son used to cultivate, but which he eventually lost after a violent land grab by an palm oil company. Photo taken in the Magdalena department.

Defending the land: a dangerous activity


Land rights defenders are “those individuals, groups or institutions who seek to promote and protect land-related human rights, in particular through peacefully confronting adverse impacts of investment projects. Individually or collectively, they stand up against attempts of land grabbing and claim respect for land-related human rights, through peaceful means protected under international law, such as legal actions, public campaigns, protests or demonstrations”. 83 Recent years have seen an increase in attacks against people who defend their land, territory and environment from economic interests and multinational enterprises. Approximately 200 land and environmental rights defenders were killed in the world in 2016, which is the year with the highest number of deaths ever recorded.84 According to Global Witness, the phenomenon of attacks against environmental rights defenders is not only increasing, but also becoming more widespread, with murders being registered in 24 countries in 2016, compared to 16 in 2015. Most of the killings were related to mining and oil extraction.85 The work of environmental defenders is centred on legal activity that exposes environmental harm and human rights violations caused by large scale economic projects, usually in the mining sector but also with regards to hydroelectric dams, construction, development and agro-industrial projects. 60% of activists who lost their lives in 2016 were Latin Americans, murdered for protecting land, indigenous and environmental rights.86

This tendency is particularly alarming in Latin America, which according to Global Witness is the most dangerous region in the world to be a land and environmental rights defender, with Colombia the second most dangerous place to be involved in these activities after Brazil.87 In 2016, 37 land and environmental rights defenders were killed in Colombia.88 The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst, indicated in his 2016 annual report that the fundamental causes of attacks against environmental rights defenders are exclusion and power imbalance, the “commodification” and “financialization” of the environment, corruption and impunity.89 Traditionally, members of social movements in Colombia have been stigmatised as the “political wing” of the guerrilla groups, which in many cases has led to the arrest and detention of social leaders falsely accused of having links to the FARC or the ELN. This stigma has put social leaders and people who defend land rights at risk, and requires a counter-narrative that supports and raises the profile of the work they do in order to protect them.90 In other contexts around the world we see how environmental rights defenders are often stigmatised as being “anti-development”, and allegedly “anti-progress” in rural territories, especially in relation to extractive industries.91 As well as murdering and stigmatising land rights defenders, other tactics have included threats, attacks, sexual violence, baseless prosecutions and the criminalisa41


tion of peaceful demonstration to repress activism.92 In the Colombian context there are laws prohibiting certain activities related to social protest, such as blocking highways, which means that people who take part in these activities can be arrested.93 During manifestations, the ESMAD Anti-Riot Squad has often been used to respond to peaceful protests and has done so with the use of violence, to such an extent that the unit is currently under investigation for abuse of power, including the 168 individual complaints arising over its actions during the civic strike in Buenanventura in the middle of 2017.94 The Colombian Government’s strategy during the “post-agreement” phase is to open up the country even further to business, inviting international investment and promoting the extractive model focused on short term economic gain and benefits for wealthy land owners and large multinationals, over and above the rights of communities to their land and a clean environment.95 Most of the land that for decades was under FARC control is now being liberated for investment by transnational corporations.96 It is therefore expected that conflicts over land and territory will increase in the months and years to come, which 42

means that attacks against land rights defenders will also increase.97 Effective investigation and sentencing of the material and intellectual authors of attacks against environmental or land rights defenders are a fundamental safeguard for satisfying the rights of environmental defenders and guarantees of non-repetition.98 On the issue of asymmetries between transnational corporations and rural communities, generalised impunity and favourable legislation for large scale projects in the territories aggravates the vulnerability of rural communities even further, and while they continue their work of protecting their land, they run extremely high risks. In addition, there are difficulties for accessing justice and taking part in the decision making mechanisms of extractive projects, corruption and the absence of civilian State institutions in regions affected by these conflicts.99 The Business and Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC) recorded over 400 cases of attacks in Latin America against people who work on corporate accountability in 2015 and 2016 alone.100 According to its database, the sector with the greatest number of alleged abuses against defenders is the energy sector.101












Photo: Tom Laffay / CCAJAR Julia Figueroa is President of the Luís Carlos Pérez Lawyers’ Collective (CCALCP).

Transforming fragility to strength


Julia is a woman that commands respect through her dignified presence and authoritative manner. She is the president of the Luis Carlos Perez Lawyers Collective (CCALCP), and a beacon of hope for many communities in the Magdalena Medio region as well as Santander and North Santander. Her fierce demeanor could fool you into thinking she was invincible, that nothing could break through her determination to defend the rights of the most vulnerable. But having accompanied Julia personally, I feel I see through her exterior to the heart of a woman who is undeniably strong and defiant, but also acutely aware of the risk her work implies. Julia, alongside her colleagues in Ccalcp, is a lawyer committed to the application of the rule of law in the territories traditionally abandoned by the State, where economic interests have always overruled the rights of communities. She presents legal actions against companies who have systematically denied the communities their constitutional rights to be consulted before an economic project is initiated and to participate in its development. Julia is the voice of suppressed populations who seek nothing more than to remain on their territory and exercise their right to self determination.

Seeing her in action addressing crowds of campesinos with rousing words that motivate and inspire, or in workshops as she diligently explains complex parts of national mining legislation to communities at risk of being forced from their land, displaced by economic projects, I watch her in admiration, proud to accompany her and support her in any way I can. The communities respect her and look up to her, as leader and ally. For this brave and seldom-recognised work, Julia lives in a state of constant vigilance and paranoia which derives from her experience over recent years of threats, persecution, intimidation and stigmatisation. Building a relationship of trust with Julia is not easy as this constant persecution has forced her to be suspicious of anyone and everyone. Yet once you have gained her trust, Julia is an exceptionally loyal and reliable friend. Julia brims with a wealth of information, amusing anecdotes and wry analysis. It is a privilege to be in her company and to stand beside her as she takes on the Goliaths and defends the Davids. She has sacrificed a lot for the work she does, but she wouldn´t have it any other way. Her commitment and solidarity shine victorious over the challenges and difficulties she faces. An inspiring woman that will never give up her fight for social justice. 45

These are some of the faces of the brave people who continue to defend life and territory. Their resistance and love for their land are an inspiration and a source of motivation to continue the struggle despite the difficulties.

Resistance Despite this bleak panorama, we observe a lot of different and inspiring examples of civil resistance in Colombia, where communities have developed innovative strategies to protect their land and their way of life. Sowing seeds and planting crops in Colombia’s fertile land becomes an act of resistance in areas where rural subsistence is at risk due to

Photo: Caldwell Manners/ECAP

economic interests prevailing in the territories.

Photo: Caldwell Manners/ECAP Salvador AlcĂĄntara, a leader from the El Garzal community process (BolĂ­var department) calms a young cow during the morning milking session.

CAMPESINO RESERVE ZONES: A PROPOSAL FOR PEACE The Campesino Reserve Zones (ZRC) are an example of community based resistance which were formalised through Law 160 of 1994.102 The purpose of these Zones is to provide land for the farming population to develop its own economic models which promote food security and sustainable agriculture, and challenge models based on natural resource extraction and large scale exploitation of land through agro-industry. 50

Photo: Charlotte Kesl Photo taken in Chocรณ.

HUMANITARIAN AND BIODIVERSITY ZONES Biodiversity Zones, like Humanitarian Zones or Humanitarian Spaces in urban contexts, are mechanisms used by communities in Colombia to protect their fundamental rights and the territory they live in. Humanitarian Zones are areas exclusively reserved for the civilian population during armed conflict, as are Biodiversity Zones, but these are also defined areas that recognise the importance of ecosystems, recovering native seeds and traditional crops. They represent a commitment to protect the environment and live in harmony with nature, and they are a means for communities to protect their ways of life from the threat of outside interests in their territories. 51

Photo: Damien Fellous / Libre arbitre Members of the Indigenous Guard during a demonstration in the Plaza de Bolívar in Bogotá.

INDIGENOUS GUARD The Indigenous Guard is an ancestral entity and an instrument of resistance, unity and autonomy for protecting territory and indigenous communities’ self-determination or life-projects. It is a mechanism of humanitarian and civil resistance which seeks to protect indigenous territories, disseminate their ancestral culture and exercise their rights. Its mandate is derived from the assemblies, and it therefore answers directly to the indigenous authorities. It was born of the need to protect themselves from all the actors who attack indigenous peoples, but all they carry to defend themselves with is the “chonta” or baston of command, which impresses a symbolic value on the Guard. 52

Photo: Leonardo Villamizar “Water yes, gold no”, shout protesters in Bucaramanga (Santander), calling for a gold mining licence to be denied in the Páramo de Santurbán high moorland area.

POPULAR CONSULTATIONS Popular consultations are a way for people to decide on issues of national, departmental or municipal interest. In other words, they define the fate of the territory where they live. Although the executive powers at each level are in charge of convoking consultations, they can also be proposed through citizen initiatives supported by a petition of signatures. The question formulated for the consultation is also examined for its constitutionality by the judiciary. In consultations by the inhabitants of Tauramena in Casanare they voted against oil exploration on their land. Since then a wave of similar consultations prospered in five other municipalities around the country. All of them asked about the development of mining and energy projects. Not one of them voted in favour.103 53


Photo: Bianca Bauer

Photo: Alejandro Gonzรกalez

STRATEGIC LITIGATION Strategic litigation is an instrument for preventing abuses and protecting human rights. It is a strategy of selecting, analysing and litigating cases on behalf of communities and can have a significant effect on public policy, legislation and civil society. Strategic litigation has had a positive impact on the land rights of indigenous people, and it combines legal action, political advocacy and social communication, capacity development and mobilisation. The U’wa indigenous people took action against the preliminary oil exploration licence in the Samore Bloque by Compañía Occidental de Colombia (OXY) on its territory, and the Constitutional Court in Sentence SU-039 of 1997, upheld their fundamental right to prior consultation, set out the parameters for the process and ordered the authorities to carry it out. The U’wa case yielded important lessons for litigation to defend indigenous peoples. The Embera indigenous peoples and Afro-Colombian communities of Antioquia and Choco were affected by a mining concession that granted Muriel Mining First photo: U’wa indigenous community in Casanare; second photo: Emberá indigenous community in Chocó.

Corporation Company permission for a copper, gold and molybdenum mine. In a historic judgment, the Colombian Constitutional Court in Sentence T-769 of 2009, ordered the project to be halted because the legitimate authorities did not attend the meeting and there hadn’t been sufficient information provided.104 55


Photo: Bianca Bauer

Photo: Julian Montoni

TRAINING NEW LEADERS Creating new leadership that is capable of driving resistance processes and confronting the threats from economic interests is an important action for territorial protection. This capacity building is the work of many of the organisations that PBI accompanies, that have become references for the social movement. The Peoples’ Intercultural University was created from social processes and debates within communities over the lack of access to education, because graduate level education is unheard of in most of the territories in Colombia. The initiative was created by the Association for Social Research and Action (Nomadesc) as a tool for resolving the internal armed conflict. Its aim is to facilitate research and education for communities “for themselves, and for the transformations that their territories need” explains Berenice Celeyta of Nomadesc. The Peoples’ Intercultural University is innovative, and its courses are ambulant, outside classrooms and conventional buildings, they are journeys through territories which bring theory together with its practical applications, and attach importance to the knowledge and traditions of the participants and their peoples.105 The School of Environmental and Popular Research was inaugurated in 2015 in memory of Daniel Abril Fuentes, farmer, environmentalist and social leader who was murdered. It is a space of resistance where leaders who have been victims of the resource First photo: Berenice Celeyta; second photo: indigenous people from all over the country march for their rights in Bogotá.

exploitation and State crimes can meet and fight to protect their natural resources, their food sovereignty and their forms of production. This initiative is driven by the Social Corporation for Community Advisory and Training (COS-PACC). 57

Photo: Bianca Bauer


CUERPOS GRAMATICALES: SOWING THE SEEDS OF RESISTANCE Cuerpos Gramaticales was born during the commemoration of twelve years since Operation Orion, in which 95 people were forcibly disappeared in the 13th Commune in MedellĂ­n. In the collective cathartic performances the members plant themselves in earth, using the symbolism of the land for the remembrance of the fallen loved ones and recognising the power of connection through it, sowing the seed of resistance through their bodies. 59

Indigenous Peoples 3.4% of Colombians (1.3 million people) identify as indigenous. Colombia has 102 different indigenous communities. The majority live in isolated areas. Indigenous people are in the midst of a critical situation; their territories have been invaded by settlers, landowners and de drug traffickers; descripciĂłn la foto / texto and many have been forcibly complementario displaced by the conarmed la fotografĂ­a conflict.

Photo: Bianca Bauer

Under the constitutional reform that took place in 1991, indigenous people received significant legal and political recognition. Nowadays, 28% of the Colombian national territory contains 768 legally-recognised indigenous territories, totalling 30 million hectares. Indigenous peoples’ territories are among the best preserved regions with the greatest biodiversity in the country. This is not due to chance: traditional practices are more favourable for conservation than business activities aimed at obtaining profits. The Wayúu are the largest of the indigenous peoples in the country.

Photo: Bianca Bauer

The Wayúu People are seriously affected by the extraction of natural resources. They live in the vicinity of El Cerrejón, the largest opencast mine in the world, which produces 32 million tonnes of coal annually for export. Many children suffer from respiratory diseases and the community has launched a campaign to draw attention to their situation, with the support of the José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers Collective (CCAJAR). For indigenous peoples, the claim to their territory is not simply a matter of property, but is part of their cosmology in which humans exist in deep union with nature, something which lies outside of Western logic.

Photos: Bianca Bauer

“Perpetrators develop a range of actions that often seek to disarticulate collective struggles through “divide and rule” strategies, which can be particularly difficult for indigenous defenders.”

United Nations Special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst, 2017

Photo: Bianca Bauer

Footnotes 1. El País: “Habitantes del Pacífico han sufrido el abandono estatal”: Iglesia Católica, 21 May 2017 2. Oxfam: Radiografía de la Desigualdad: Lo que nos dice el último censo agropecuario sobre la distribución de la tierra en Colombia, July 2017 3. Oxfam: Radiografía de la desigualdad: distribución de la tierra en Colombia, 4 July 2017 4. Banco Mundial: Población rural (% de la población total), 2016 5. Mincomercio, Industria y Turismo: Acuerdos Vigentes, 2017 6. El País: Colombia importa el 28% de sus alimentos: presidente de la SAC, 25 May 2015 7. Legis, TLC: Las Nuevas Reglas en Arbitraje de Inversión Extranjera 8. Departamento Nacional de Planeación: Consulte el Plan Nacional de Desarrollo, 2014-2018 9. Business and Human Rights Resource Centre: Colombia: Jesús María rechaza en consulta popular la minería a cielo abierto o la explotación petrolera, en defensa del agua, 18 September 2017 10. Oxfam: Colombia’s challenge: addressing land inequality and consolidating peace, July 2017 11. Colciencias: Colombia, el segundo país más biodiverso del mundo, 11 September 2016 12. The Conversation: Colombia faces challenge to build peace without sacrificing its famed biodiversity, 21 August 2017 13. Corte Constitucional de Colombia: Sentencia C-035/16 14. Corte Constitucional de Colombia: Sentencia T-622/16 15. Global Witness: Defender la Tierra, 13 July 2017 16. DANE: Información Estratégica, Exportaciones, 2017 17. Semana Sostenible: ANLA: una crisis de autoridad, 3 April 2016 18. Semana: Deforestación en Colombia aumentó un 44% entre 2015 y 2016, 6 July 2017 19. Interview with Camilo Sánchez, Centro de Estudios de Derecho, Justicia y Sociedad – Dejusticia, 18 October 2017 20. Ibid., Interview with Camilo Sánchez 21. Centro de Memoria Histórica: La política de reforma agraria y tierras en Colombia. Esbozo de una memoria institucional, 2013 22. Op. cit., Interview with Camilo Sánchez 23. Secretaría Senado: Ley 160 / 1994 24. Op. cit., Interview with Camilo Sánchez 25. Cámara de Comercio de Bogotá: Plan de Ordenamiento Territorial 26. Op. cit., Entrevista a Camilo Sánchez 27. Presidencia: Ley 1776 / 29 enero 2016 28. Op. cit., Interview with Camilo Sánchez 29. El Espectador: Corte Constitucional deja en firme ley Zidres, 8 de febrero de 2017 30. Secretaría Senado: Ley 1448 / 2011 31. Op. cit., Interview with Camilo Sánchez 32. Amnesty International: A title is not enough : ensuring sustainable land restitution in Colombia, 2014 33. Op. Cit., Restitución de tierras, política de vivienda y proyectos productivos: Ideas para el pos-acuerdo 34. Interview with Germán Romero, DH Colombia, 6 October 2017


35. Op. Cit., Restitución de tierras, política de vivienda y proyectos productivos: Ideas para el pos-acuerdo 36. Alto Comisionado para la Paz: Acuerdo Final para la Terminación del Conflicto y la Construcción de una Paz Estable y Duradera, 24 November 2016 37. IbId., Acuerdo Final para la Terminación del Conflicto y la Construcción de una Paz Estable y Duradera 38. Oxfam: Colombia’s challenge: addressing land inequality and consolidating peace, July 2017 39. Op. cit., Interview with Camilo Sánchez 40. Presidencia de la República: Decreto 893, 28 May 2017 41. Op. cit., Interview with Camilo Sánchez 42. Ministerio de Agricultura: Plan de Desarrollo 2014-2018: Todos por un nuevo país, 2014 43. Op. cit., Interview with Germán Romero 44. Ibid., Interview with Germán Romero 45. Interview with Germán Graciano, Comunidad de Paz de San José de Apartado, 6 October 2017 46. El País: Acuerdo de paz con las FARC contribuyó al aumento de coca: Canciller, 12 March 2017 47. Alto Comisionado para la Paz: Acuerdo Final para la Terminación del Conflicto y la Construcción de una Paz Estable y Duradera, 24 November 2016 48. Point 4 of the Alto Comisionado para la Paz: Acuerdo Final para la Terminación del Conflicto y la Construcción de una Paz Estable y Duradera, 24 November 2016 49. Coccam: Comunicado a la Opinión Pública: “ESMAD debe frenar acciones violentas contra las comunidades campesinas del país”, October 2017 50. erdad Abierta: Negociaciones con el ELN, en un laberinto sin salida, 28 November 2017 51. El Espectador: Colombia sigue siendo el país con más desplazados internos: 7,4 millones, 18 June 2017 52. Semana: ¿Por qué se disparó el desplazamiento en Colombia en época de postconflicto?, 20 August 2017 53. El Tiempo: Preocupación por persistencia de desplazamiento masivo en el país, 22 June 2017 54. OIDHACO: Tierra en Colombia Entre despojo y negocio: Presentación de la situación actual de una problemática al centro del conflicto, March 2013 55. Op. cit., Interview Camilo Sánchez 56. IHRC, FIDH and CCAJAR: La contribución de ejecutivos de Chiquita en la comisión de crímenes de lesa humanidad en Colombia 57. Caracol: Financiación de bananeros a paramilitares es declarada delito de lesa humanidad, 2 February 2017; Ccajar: Piden a la CPI investigar el rol de ejecutivos de Chiquita por crímenes de lesa humanidad, 18 May 2017 58. CCEEUU: Informe 2017, p. 2. 59. El Universal: Estas son las empresas que han sido condenadas a restituir tierras, 2 November 2016 60. Semana: ¿Por qué se disparó el desplazamiento en Colombia en época de postconflicto?, 20 August 2017 61. El Tiempo: Preocupación por persistencia de desplazamiento masivo en el país, 22 June 2017 62. PBI: Grave aumento de asesinatos de quienes defienden los derechos humanos en Colombia, 21 March 2017 63. Comisión Internacional de Juristas: El Quimbo:

megaproyectos, derechos económicos, sociales y culturales y protesta social en Colombia, 2016 64. Sibcolombia: Datos del Sistema de Información sobre Biodiversidad en Colombia, 2017 65. Guhl Nannetti: Ernesto; Leyva, Pablo: La gestión ambiental en Colombia, 1994 – 2004: ¿Un esfuerzo insostenible? Bogotá, July 2015 66. Comisión Internacional de Juristas: 2016, p. 44. 67. Universidad de los Andes, Centro Interdisciplinario de Estudios sobre Desarrollo (Cider): Insumos para el desarrollo del Plan Nacional de Ordenamiento Minero, 2014 68. Environmental Justice Atlas: Colombia Profile 69. CCAJAR, Observatorio para la protección de los Defensores de Derechos Humanos: Defender: El Territorio y el Ambiente en Contextos de Actividad de Empresas Extractivas, October 2017 70. Ministerio de Defensa: El Sector Defensa comprometido: Infraestructura: una oportunidad para otros sectores, 2015 71. Fondos de Acción Urgente: Extractivismo en Latinoamérica: Impacto en la Vida de las Mujeres y Propuestas de Defensa del Territorio, September 2016 72. Oxfam: Radiografía de la Desigualdad: Lo que nos dice el último censo agropecuario sobre la distribución de la tierra en Colombia, July 2017 73. Interview Camilo Sánchez, 18 October 2017 74. Op. Cit. Oxfam: Radiografía de la Desigualdad: Lo que nos dice el último censo agropecuario sobre la distribución de la tierra en Colombia 75. Ibid. Radiografía de la Desigualdad: Lo que nos dice el último censo agropecuario sobre la distribución de la tierra en Colombia 76. Ibid. Radiografía de la Desigualdad: Lo que nos dice el último censo agropecuario sobre la distribución de la tierra en Colombia 77. Ibid. Radiografía de la Desigualdad: Lo que nos dice el último censo agropecuario sobre la distribución de la tierra en Colombia 78. Jaskiran Chohan: Charla sobre Cumplimiento y Resistencia al Régimen Global de Alimentos en Colombia: Zonas de Reserva Campesina como propuestas para la soberanía alimentaria, 9 October 2017 79. Article 19: A Deadly Shade of Green Threats to Environmental Human Rights Defenders in Latin America, 2016 80. Departamento Nacional de Planeación, Consulte el Plan Nacional de Desarrollo, 2014-2018 81. CCAJAR: Observatorio para la protección de los Defensores de Derechos Humanos, Defender: El Territorio y el Ambiente en Contextos de Actividad de Empresas Extractivas, octubre de 2017 82. El Tiempo: Entre 145.000 y 150.000 hectáreas tendrían

cultivos de coca en el país, 10 July 2017 83. Observatorio para la Protección de los Defensores de Derechos Humanos (Omct-Fidh): “No tenemos miedo”, Defensores del derecho a la tierra: atacados por enfrentarse al desarrollo desenfrenado, Annual Report 2014, p. 8 84. Global Witness: Defender la Tierra, 13 July 2017 85. Ibid., Defender la Tierra 86. Ibid. Defender la Tierra 87. Ibid., Defender la Tierra 88. Ibíd. Defender la Tierra 89. UN Special Rapporteur Michel Forst: United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders: they spoke truth to power and were murdered in cold blood, analysis on the situation of environmental human rights defenders and concrete recommendations to better protect them, 2016 90. Informe De Riesgo No 010-17 A.I 91. Defender la Tierra, 13 July 2017 92. PBI: Criminalización de la protesta social, 22 August 2016 93. Policía Nacional: Código Nacional de Policía y Convivencia, 29 July 2016 94. Comisión veeduría de Derechos Humanos Paro Cívico: boletín 06, boletín 05, boletín 04, boletín 03, boletín 02, boletín 01; Colombia Plural: La “respuesta militar” del Gobierno a Buenaventura: 300 heridos, 10 con arma de fuego, 1 June 2017 95. Expansión: “Colombia necesita inversiones para consolidar el proceso de paz”, 25 June 2017 96. BBC: Los grupos armados que están ocupando los territorios abandonados por las FARC en Colombia, 20 July 2017 97. Defensoría del Pueblo: Informe De Riesgo N° 010-17 A.I., 30 March2017 98. UNHCHR Annual Report: 2016, p. 11 99. Puerta giratoria 100. Centro de Información sobre Empresas y Derechos Humanos (Ciedh): Empresas, Libertades Civiles y Defensores y Defensoras de los Derechos Humanos, 2017 101. Centro de Información sobre Empresas y Derechos Humanos (Ciedh): Informe de Latinoamérica. Foco sobre Defensores/as de Derechos Humanos bajo amenazas y ataques, January 2017 102. Secretaría Senado: Ley 160 / 1994 103. Semana: La consulta popular: se la explicamos en tres pasos, 1 August 2017 104. Vniversitas: El concepto de litigio estratégico en América Latina: 1990-2010, Bogotá, N° 121: 49-76, JulyDecember 2010 105. Movice: El doloroso asesinato del líder del Casanare Daniel Abril, 16 November 2015



Photo: Caldwell Manners/ECAP

The dignity of campesina women 71


t is around eight in the evening when you start to feel hungry. You wander into the kitchen, open the fridge and take out a tomato, you wash it and cut it in half and… you notice that one part of it is a bit soft, so you squeeze it a little and the juice squirts out and hits you in the eye –the tomato’s revenge. You think it smells a bit

off, so you take another look just to make sure and then you quickly reject it, throwing it into the bin without further thought. Tomorrow it will be collected by the bin men who call by your house early everyThursday morning to take the bag of organic waste to some landfill site or other –maybe the one called Doña Juanita1- on the outskirts of Bogotá, where the pungent aroma of the rubbish doesn’t bother anyone. And so the squidgy tomato half will become food for the birds, worms and dogs or maybe it will just decompose, marking the end of a long and somewhat unknown production chain that starts in the countryside and ends in the city. But how did this tomato get here, what is its reverse journey from the city to the countryside where its life began? Let’s press rewind: you bought that tomato from the supermarket nearest to your house. The night before, it made a twelvehour road journey in a fruit and vegetable lorry from somewhere in the Sur de Bolívar region, together with lots of other tomatoes, and who knows, maybe lots of other 72

vegetables. The previous day Manuela, a dark-skinned, weather-beaten woman, collected the produce, these crops that she has been growing with her husband for more than 18 years. On that day, the day that Manuela and her husband harvested the tomato that you decided to eat two evenings later, the half that was too soft and that you threw into the bin was fresh as a daisy. Sometimes, when I open the fridge, I think about the journey that food makes from the countryside to the city and I imagine the detailed story told in the documentary Ilha das Flores.2 I wonder whose hands picked this fruit or that vegetable and how many kilometres it travelled to get to me. It is always women’s hands that come to mind, hands like the hands of Manuela, Diana, Carmen, Flora and Sabina. Campesina (small-scale farmer) Women I have met at one time or another in different areas of Colombia. All rural areas. All agricultural. And I think about these campesina women from my perspective as an urban woman trying to establish some kind of

feminist, practical relationship with these women farmers at this moment in history, so that we can understand each other from our different perspectives in the knowledge that, deep down, we are not so different after all. Many women say that “Life in the countryside is difficult.” Not because of the daily grind of working with the land, but rather because although we city-dwellers romanticise the countryside (with its clean air, nature, freedom, silence, contact with the earth, freshly picked produce from the vegetable patch...) the reality for small-scale farmers is full of difficulties, violations and discriminations, all of them silenced but ever so clear. And the psychological, physical and economic violence suffered by campesina women, for the simple fact of being rural women, is made worse due to discrimination in access to land and productive resources, as well as in decision-making, as highlighted in the Declaration on the Rights of Small-Scale Farmers.3 In Colombia, the Peace Agreement4 signed between the Government and the FARC - an agreement that involves all citizens, not only those who signed it - reflects many of the current challenges to implementing what is known as the gender and differential approach. “The agreement managed to shift that way of seeing and explaining the world, by recognising gender, difference and territory and by placing a focus on the human rights of the victims,” explains Girlandrey Sandoval, a feminist activist who is part of the Colombian women’s social movement. She knows that these victims are for the most part female, and she makes it clear that this progress could not have been achieved without the efforts of the women’s movement that has been striving for peace in Colombia for many years. One of the serious problems that rural women have been protesting about for a long time is the lack of ownership or titles they have over the land on which they tirelessly work. Historically, it has been men who have had the right to be land owners,

to own and decide how to manage plots of land, even though land titles are scarce in Colombia for small-scale farmers and most of the land is controlled by big landowners. However, let’s get back to the differences between men and women, and to the countryside in particular where gender inequality is so evident. “Women do not own the land, they do not inherit it, they do not have land titles, they do not make decisions about what is sown and where, or what is done with rural property. Today there are many women who are presidents of Community Action Boards (Juntas de Acción Comunal - JACS) and have broadened their horizons out towards community organisation, but even so there is no awareness of sexual difference, something basic in almost every consciousness-raising process”, Sandoval explains with some indignation. Maybe that is why the Peace Agreement offers some hope for those who have never seen their name on a land title, because its first point, entitled Towards a New Colombian Countryside: Comprehensive Rural Reform, addresses the promise of free land re-distribution, as well as the formalisation of land occupied or owned by the rural population in Colombia. Nevertheless, “the lack of compliance with what is set out in the agreement in the year since it started to be implemented has led to more concern than joy for small-scale farmers”. Carmenza Gómez, President of the National Association of Small-Farming Reserve Areas (Asociación Nacional de Zonas de Reserva Campesina - Anzorc), says in Bogotá about the frustrated hopes that are flooding in from the most peripheral areas. Fortunately, in these places, where the State almost never complies with its obligations, the small-scale farmers have become accustomed to taking charge of their own development and well-being. That is why women´s organisations in rural territories have been working on a consolidated political position. They are the ones who have stopped extractive and agrofuel 73

projects, large-scale road projects, mining, intensive farming and agro-forestry that “only bring us problems”, Carmenza sighs, because of the pollution they bring with them, the social dynamics that they create in communities and the breakdown of the social fabric that they cause. “Campesina women have taken initiative in the struggle for land, territory, and respect for natural resources...everything that has to do with the conservation of our environment”, explains the farmer from the Valle del Cauca region, emphasising the women’s feminist struggle that she has been leading for years. The recovery of traditional seeds is another of the activities that rural women should be recognised for. They work to preserve traditional customs, not only in relation to the food they have always cultivated, but also agricultural, social and cultural activities. Under the model of capitalist and free market development, small-farming ancestral knowledge has been lost, either because cities have become attractive magnets encouraging rural peoples leaving the countryside or because traditional productive and harvesting processes have been absorbed by capitalist processes, leading to other much more industrialized, highly-processed and at times artificial procedures, that have turned food into mere merchandise, which has paradoxically caused more hunger in the world. In addition to the loss of these practices, we must recognise that the ancestral knowledge of small-scale farmers has been made invisible, as if those who work the land do not have a due right to a healthy environment, as the indigenous and Afro-descendent communities put it. The activities carried out by rural women could ensure food sovereignty, although it appears to be difficult for us to think of these women as active protagonists in the rescue and conservation of seeds. “Why else are women not represented in decision-making processes in their families, communities and organisations?” Sandoval asks, describing the way in which women contribute to and sustain rural life, yet do not hold any power or authority, as there are still many inequalities between women and men who work the land and maintain special, direct links with nature. 74

WOMEN COCA LEAF GROWERS I still remember the journey that Diana Morales has to make every time she wants to go down to Florencia (Caquetá) from her farm in the mountains. There, high up, far from the goings on below, she farms some 500 hectares, a fifth of which is sown with plantain, yucca and coca leaf. She has been working this land for many years now. Her children, three young men who take up to three hours to get to school, have never known another way of life. This has been the only produce that has allowed them to make a living “because we have no other choice”, she told me with justification two Novembers ago. The remoteness of their land has prevented them from producing and marketing other crops due to the difficulties of travelling the few miles on horseback to reach La Unión Tejada and from there taking a bus, if they manage to work out the timetable for when it passes through on its way to the city. Just the other day I remembered Diana and her journey every time she needs to go to the doctor, or buy what she can’t get in the countryside, or attend meetings of the Regional Women’s Commission, of which she is a member. I remembered how she and all the Dianas in Colombia have achieved legal recognition under point four of the Peace Agreement: Solution to the problem of illicit drugs. This point recognises the role of rural women who are part of the chain of coca leaf collection and production. It also recognises that this activity is carried out as a result of the lack of implementation of state plans for the voluntary, comprehensive and concerted substitution of crops for illicit use. In addition, the people who farm coca leaf in Colombia defend the ritual, ancestral, medicinal and industrial uses of this plant, the alternative marijuana and poppy industry, and the need for drug addiction and consumption to be considered a public health issue.5 As a result of all their peace building work, women coca growers have become more visible, but the question now is whether they will achieve total respect as smallscale farmers. If the peace agreements are not totally fulfilled, as many experts are predicting and as shown by the aggressive


eradication activities that are taking place in some parts of Colombia which have even led to murder,6 violence against these women may increase, including physical, sexual, economic and social violence. Carmenza says that there is an easy way to prevent this situation from occurring: “there must be guarantees for coca substitution processes. If the government does not comply, people won´t be able to change,” she laments with a grimace that shows her uncertainty about the future.

THESE WOMEN ARE THE FUTURE Despite the hope that the Peace Agreement has brought not only to campesina women but to society in general, with each new day a new pessimism is beginning to take over in different Colombian scenarios. There are many voices saying that the signing of the peace agreement has opened up the country to a more uncontrolled neo-liberal model that can already be seen in some of the most remote Colombian territories. That is why the struggle for land in Colombia, which caused the social and armed conflict in the 1950s, seems to have no end. For Girlandrey it is all about establishing policies which can be used to make progress towards higher standards in gender equality, which means more social mobilisation, more scenarios for reconciliation and more peace culture. She also believes that “it is fundamental that people understand that a society that cares for its women

and that grants relevance to the feminine in the world is a society undergoing transformation,” she explains, convinced of her arguments. Girlandrey’s words remind me of the tomato and the soft part that was thrown into the bin with no afterthought for the journey it made from Manuela’s farm. And I think of the many Manuelas in Colombia and how it is still fundamental that we recognise these small-scale farmers both socially and politically, and not only because their plots of land and territories offer alternatives to the current development model, but because, and let’s not forget this, the people who reside and build life in the countryside play an essential role in urban stability in cities and are synonymous with the future and with dignity.

Footnotes 1. Doña Juana landfill site: Wikipedia 2. Jorge Furtado: La Ilha de las Flores, 1989 3. Vía Campesina: Declaración de los Derechos de las Campesinas y Campesinos, March 2009 4. High Commissioner for Peace: Final Agreement to End Conflict and Build Stable and Lasting Peace, 24 November 2016 5. Prensa Rural: Lanzamiento de la Coordinadora de Cultivadores de Coca, Amapola y Marihuana Coccam, 28 January 2017 6. Tele Sur: Defensoría de Colombia señala a la Policía por masacre en Tumaco, 8 October 2017


“Women human rights defenders are often at the forefront of human rights battles, partly because they are directly affected by human rights violations and because they challenge companies’ power and deeply rooted patriarchy.� United Nations Special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst, 2017

Photo: Bianca Bauer

78 Photo: Bianca Bauer

Small acts of big resistance Identity and the defence of territory


We don´t always name clean water and nourishment for our communities and families as acts of resistance, because they seem so everyday… but these are an indispensable part of defending our territories, and part of defending life.” These were the words of Miriam

Teresa Vidal Camayo in the Escuelas de la Memoria para la no Repeticion in Cauca, a popular education initiative organized by the Colectivo de Abogados Jose Alvear Restrepo in several regions all over Colombia to inform and discuss the peace accords with FARC, historical memory of the armed conflict, and to support the work of local movements in defence of land and the environment. The schools reflect not only a political history of the conflict, but also engage communities in analysing the effects of the violence on their territories, and on the health and psychosocial wellbeing of their communities. After a morning of group study and individual reflection, we gathered for lunch, and Miriam, an Afro-Colombian woman who specializes in traditional cuisine and is a local environmental rights defender, invited us to consider and cherish this most integral link to the land: The food that we eat. Harvesting and preparing traditional foods, like so many seemingly every day work and actions that sustain communities 80

and families, are also actions that sustain Colombia´s diverse and historically excluded cultures, and are powerfully symbolic of their close ties to the land. Ancestral territories have cultural significance for Afro-colombian, indigenous, and campesino communities and these same communities have played a key historical role in defending land and environmental rights in Colombia. Many spiritual and healing practices are connected to the land, such as music and dances, traditional medicine, traditional foods, and seed exchanging and saving. For communities faced with possible eviction, displacement, or co-optation of lands, these practices recuperate the cultural connection to the land and help to reconstruct the social fabric. In short, they become acts of resistance. The presence and control of armed actors over traditional territories puts communities at great risk not just in terms of loss of economic livelihood, displacement, and violence, but also emotional and cultural risks—the loss of traditional rituals


connected to the land, the loss of community cohesion, and the division of resistance movements have both immediate and intergenerational health, psychological, and social consequences. Not having the right to protect the land can result in contamination of rivers and food sources, and the upheaval of culture and traditional economies. As caregivers, healers, midwives, and rights defenders, women are often at the forefront of efforts to protect the land. They are often first to come in contact with the physical and mental health impacts of pollution, violence, and displacement in their families, and in charge of recuperating and supporting the consequences of violence and trauma in their families. Armed control of their territories often worsens already existing gender, social, and cultural inequalities as well as gender-based violence. Women defending the land often face a double risk, in part for resisting armed actors and interests, and in part because they are women: They may face stigma or pressure based on gender stereotypes that label them as “promiscuous,” “unfeminine,” or as abandoning their families. They may also work from within social structures where women face exclusion in political participation, and be additionally marginalized if they are part of campesino, afro-colombian or indigenous cultures. Women who are defending the land in these communities are not only resisting these threats, but often by

resisting mega-projects and industry, are advocating a new, more sustainable way of understanding development, one that respects the environment, traditional ways of knowing, and the health of communities. The threats against the land and the communities who live from it are at the root of the political violence that continues in spite of the peace process, and disproportionately affect women as well as Colombia´s historically most marginalized peoples. Participation and land rights for these communities are indispensable in the peace process, including respect for traditional territories and cultures. In the words of Miriam, “Sometimes we overlook everyday cultural tasks like preparing food, and caring for others. We do it in a hurry, we dismiss it. Historically, it was ´woman´s work´. But we must defend traditional nourishment and caregiving are part of what connects us to our territory, to our communities. They are necessary for a life with dignity, and key for a lasting, sustainable peace.”1 Footnote 1. Asociación para los derechos de las mujeres y el desarrollo: Defensoras de derechos humanos confrontando a las industrias extractivas: Un panorama de los riesgos críticos y las obligaciones en materia de derechos humanos, 2017; Corporación AVRE: Suroccidente colombiano: Identidad cultural y género en el acompañamiento psicosocial y en salud mental, 2009


Photo: Eduardo Acosta Ulloa


a contemporary history of violence and territory

iv er R A tr at o





er Atrato Riv



Photo: Bianca Bauer A girl mills rice by hand in Jiguamiandรณ (Chocรณ department). As well as being a cultural tradition, many believe that milling the rice in this way conserves its nutritional properties.




rabá is always thought of as something of a lawless region, marked by endemic violence and fought over by the armed groups in the conflict. In order to comprehend the violence in Urabá we must first of all understand the dynamics of a territory still being

constructed, born out of successive colonisations. The region was a refuge area during the period known as “La Violencia” - a conflict between the two main political parties in the 1950s, an area of natural resources to be exploited and, at the same time, an area on the far margins of the country.1 PBI has been accompanying organisations and communities in Urabá since 1997 during which time we have witnessed the violence and structural problems in the region.


for a section of the Pan-American Highway, which would pass through Urabá via the famous Darién Gap.2 The region’s deep jungles, rivers, swamps, mangroves and mountain ranges have provided the ideal environment for illegal activities. Urabá has been a smuggling area since the nineteenth century; it is not so strange therefore that it has been the scene of activities related to drug and arms trafficking and illegal armed groups.



Urabá is a sub-region of north-western Colombia bordering Panama, extending around the Gulf of Panama, a natural port on the Caribbean Sea. The region is of important geo-strategic interest due to its proximity to the Panama Canal and its natural resources. Megaprojects have been an issue for some time, especially connective projects, such as the construction plan

The lands in the department of Chocó are exceptionally fertile and yet at the same time, are some of the most affected by deforestation, according to a report by the Institute for Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies (IDEAM), which lists the causes for this deforestation as land grabbing, illicit crop production, large-scale livestock farming and mining.3

THE BANANA BOOM AND LARGE-SCALE COLONISATION Large-scale colonisation dates back to the 1960s when the main road between Medellín and Turbo was built. This wave of migration increased during the boom in the banana trade. Three hundred banana plantations were created by the Frutera de Sevilla (a subsidiary of the United Fruit Company).4 Tens of thousands of migrants settled in the region attracted by labour prospects on the banana plantations, but also by the promise of untouched virgin forests to colonise.

VIOLENCE USED TO RESOLVE CONFLICTS Faced with this unprecedented wave of migration, there was insufficient infrastructure, public services and institutional presence in the region to respond to the need to regulate the distribution of resources and cover basic needs (water, sewerage and electricity).5 The way that resources were appropriated, particularly land, has been the source of much litigation.6 Academic studies point to two fundamental patterns in the region: on the one hand, the concentration of land using legitimate and illicit investments for intensive single-crop farming or extensive cattle-raising,7 and on the other hand, opposition by small-scale farming movements to this land concentration, including protests involving land occupation and land recovery after eviction. There have been a significant number of lawsuits since the 1950s that show irregularities, such as forced purchase and selling under threat, falsification of signatures and official documents, and various pressures ranging from threats to physical aggression, which have led to the murder or displacement of the legitimate owners of the land. This context has produced a situation of chronic violence in the region, which can be partly analysed as a consequence of the absence of an effective judicial power.8 Indeed, since the demographic explosion caused by the banana boom, there has been a general consolidation of private justice systems,9 very often monopolised by the illegal armed actors. The annual rate of homicides tripled

between the 1970s and 1990s, coinciding with the appearance and strengthening of organised armed movements (FARC, EPL, paramilitary groups, State Security Forces), who were fighting for socio-political control.10 According to several investigations, it is clear today that forced displacement does not respond only to the dynamics of war, it is also associated with economic interests.11 Between 1996 and 1997 unprecedented displacements took place in the Bajo Atrato area, when paramilitary groups with the alleged participation of the National Army carried out counterinsurgency activities in the region.12 Operations with names like “Operation Genesis” and “Black September” left a trail of deaths, disappearances, looting, burning of property and thousands of displaced people along the way. The majority of the inhabitants lived, for many years, as displaced persons, in shelters or with relatives in other regions of Antioquia and Chocó.13 The return of displaced families to the area began in 1999 in Jiguamiandó,14 2000 in Cacarica and from 2006 in Curbaradó15 amid persistent armed conflict in the region.

RESISTING IN THEIR TERRITORIES When the families returned to their homes in Curbaradó and Jiguamiandó, they found that the lands seized by the paramilitaries had been converted into gigantic palm oil plantations.16 Those who returned to Cacarica found their lands surrounded by armed actors. They found a way to stay in their homes despite the siege of the armed conflict, by creating Humanitarian Zones. They delimited and enclosed small plots of land with barbed wire and made them visible with a large sign, which inform all who pass that entry is prohibited to any illegal or legal armed actor. And that is how they have lived their lives since then. They built homes, schools and community classrooms. They went out in large groups to plant, harvest, fish and hunt. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights has supported the creation of Humanitarian Zones as “a positive mechanism for the protection of the civilian population faced with the actions of the different armed groups in the area.”17 87

Photo: Bianca Bauer

Instead of joining the thousands of displaced people, in 1997 the small-farming population created a pioneering project: the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, a community that declared itself neutral in the face of the armed conflict and rejected the presence of all armed groups in its territory. In the twenty years since then the community has faced overwhelming violence: 320 people killed, 350 death threats, 100 cases of torture, and 50 displacements.18

COLLECTIVE LAND Much of the land in Urabá forms part of the collective property that Law 70 of 1993 granted to people of African descent, because their ancestors had lived in these territories since the eighteenth century, when as descendants of slaves brought centuries ago from Africa, they opted to live according to their African heritage (cimarronismo) and they took refuge in the deep jungles. According to this law, the lands are non-transferable, imprescriptible and guaranteed against seizure, since collective property is recognised as inherent to Afro-descendent people’s ethnic and cultur88

al identity. Nevertheless, in many cases it is still necessary to formalise the lands or restore them to their owners. In 1999 the Colombian Institute of Agrarian Reform (INCORA) awarded 103,000 hectares of land to the communities of Cacarica and in 2000 awarded 46,000 to the Community Council of Curbaradó, 55,000 to the Council of Jiguamiandó and 48,000 to the Council of Pedeguita y Mancilla.19

LAND THEFT AND PUNISHMENT Despite being a collective territory where land cannot be bought or sold, when the paramilitaries displaced the communities, many plots of land were occupied and used to grow palm oil and keep livestock. The Superintendence of Notaries and Registry, a Colombian State body, concluded in 2011 that 17,720 hectares that belonged to the ancestral communities in the Curbaradó and Jiguamiandó areas had been illegally purchased by third parties. Irregularities include the alleged signing of contracts by people who had already died, the multiplication of hectares sold, the falsification of documents, coercion and direct threat to

Photo: Bianca Bauer

the population in order to force them to sell their properties.20 In 2014, a court found 16 businessmen guilty of forming an alliance with the paramilitaries to develop a palm oil agro-industrial project in Chocó.21 In 2017, a High Court sentenced businessman Antonio Nel Zúñiga Caballero to ten years in prison for crimes of aggravated conspiracy, forced displacement and invasion of the collective territory of Curbaradó and Jiguamiandó.22 Zúñiga Caballero was the majority shareholder of the Urapalma and Palmura companies that belonged to the paramilitary commander Vicente Castaño. Together Castaño and Zúñiga Caballero ran palm oil businesses in a number of regions.

LAND CLAIMANTS Land claimants live in fear for their lives due to threats and killings used to intimidate and terrorise them. According to the Popular Training Institute (IPC), since 2008, 73 land claimants in Urabá have been murdered.23 The Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office reports that there has been a resurgence of

conflict in this region: until its demobilisation, the 57th Front of the FARC guerrilla operated in Urabá. The ELN guerrilla arrived at the end of 2015; the group had not been present in this area for the previous two decades. Since 2014, hundreds of fighters from the Gaitanista Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (AGC) have also gathered in the area and since 2015, the Ombudsman’s Office has been alerting the authorities about the group’s expansion. The armed dispute between the AGC and the ELN for territorial control has also led to a humanitarian crisis. Both the Ombudsman’s Office and the Inter-Church Justice and Peace Commission (CIJP) have continuously reported forced recruitment, confinement, forced displacement, accusations and threats against leaders, land claimants and ethnic authorities.24




1996 - 1997












Cacarica; 103,024 h.a La Larga Tumarado; 107,064 h.a Pedeguita y Mancilla; 46,971 h.a Curbaradó; 46.084 h.a Jiguamiandó; 54.973 h.a
































1997 - 2017



Photo: Charlotte Kesl María Ligia Chaverra.

“This war has been the most difficult part of my whole life”


Photo: Bianca Bauer

I arrived here to these lands with my husband in 1959 when I was seventeen. Around here it was all jungle, there were wild pigs, armadillos, agoutis and tortoises; there were no neighbours to say hello to and the mosquitoes were killing people. Today there aren’t even any butterflies left. In the 1970s we started to hear rumours that the war was coming. This war has been the most difficult part of my whole life. My god! I don’t like remembering the displacement in 1997. We ran and ran for six months in the mountains, in all weather, and we slept under the trees. Whenever we heard gunshots we moved on again. Women had to give birth in the mountains throughout the whole war. When we heard shots, my neighbour’s daughter would take my hand and we would run together, and when she heard the shots she would say “Mum, they’re coming”. I didn’t know that you needed a blanket to sleep at the foot of the trees.

We had no idea beforehand what it would be like to live like that and that is why we were afraid, we were really afraid. We were not guerrilla fighters, we were just farmers. We didn’t know why they had forced us out. When we came back to our lands there was no jungle left any more, it was all planted with African palm, all the land had been taken over by other people. The government promised to clear the land and give it back to us, its real owners, but they have not yet fulfilled their promise. Here the paramilitaries come and go exactly as they please. We are really scared; I don’t go out into the fields any more. Where would we run to this time, now there is no jungle to hide in? Where can we seek refuge? I am 77 years old and I have always fought and I keep fighting now for my grandchildren. María Ligia Chaverra


Photo: Bianca Bauer At first light Enrique Cabezas milks his cows.

Hope: like the winter sun in Norway


Every day Enrique Cabezas is thankful that he and his family are still alive. He is probably one of the most threatened land rights leaders in the Curbaradó river basin. This year, members of the Gaitanista Self Defence Forces of Colombia (AGC) once again threatened him.25 The AGC had already shown that they act on their threats, because just few months earlier they murdered Duberney Gómez, son of land claimant RafaelTruaquero,26 only three kilometres from Enrique’s farm. In 2012, neo-paramilitaries also murdered land claimant Manuel Ruíz and his son Samir, also near to where Enrique lives. The risk is real and since 2014 Enrique has been accompanied 24 hours a day by two armed escorts assigned to him by the National Protection Unit. He no longer sleeps peacefully because of the anxiety he feels that at any moment he could be killed. “The fear never goes away”, he says, and his parents and sister nod with concern. Enrique lives with his parents, some of his seven brothers and the two bodyguards in a humble house with an earthen floor and zinc roof. At the entrance there are large trees where turkeys, dogs and pigs seek shade during hot days. “Come on, I’ll show you my farm”, Enrique says, and we happily go with him, just as the morning light appears. The farm is called “El Paraíso”. In the background sits the Jai Katumá mountain range, where the spirits of the Emberá indigenous communities live. Enrique was born on this plain more than thirty years ago. His father arrived in the 1980s when everything was wild forest. The family grows rice, plantain, yucca and squash. “It’s complicated to sell our products, nobody buys them”, says Enrique regretfully. There is a school but at the moment its only students seem to be some lost cows standing in the classroom. “They don’t belong to my family”, explains Enri-

que. When fleeing in 1996, they lost all their cattle, among many other things, but they made a deal with a neighbour: in exchange for taking care of the neighbour’s cows they get to keep the milk and half of the calves, and so, someday they will recover what they lost. Enrique has lived through a similar story to that of many land claimants. In 1997 around 200 paramilitaries arrived in his territory and killed fourteen small-scale farmers during the incursion, and so Enrique’s parents packed up everything, took the youngest children, and ran.27 Enrique was twelve years old, and he remembers how they walked to the Atrato River, then crossed it by boat and walked all the way to the Pacific Ocean. When they finally dared to return in 2002 they learned that, in their absence, others had bought their land with false deeds. Thanks to the advice of the Inter-Church Justice and Peace Commission (CIJP), legal proceedings were opened against the Colombian Institute of Development (Incoder) and they managed to recover the deeds. That is when the threats against Enrique began.28 Enrique’s situation is desperate, but he is clear that his only option is to resist and endure the waves of violence: “Today the paramilitaries are in Llano Rico drinking beer”, he says, in disbelief. This means taking refuge on the farm and isolating themselves socially from their community. “I have lived as though I am locked up”, he confirms and adds that “it is difficult to live like this because you distrust everyone”. The threats have taken Enrique to many countries in Europe to talk about his case and the lands of Curbaradó. When asked about his hopes he says: “It’s like the Norwegian sun in winter, that’s how I see it”. Enrique stoically claims the right to his lands; he endures threats, lives daily with fear and does not sleep at night. This is Enrique’s reality, but for now there is no other way. 97

FOR THE LOVE OF THE LAND “I live with six women” says Don Uriel with a wide smile as he introduces us to his wife and their five daughters. Uriel grows literally everything on his three-hectare farm: zapote, avocados, plums, tomatoes, onions, garlic, plantains, rice, corn and much more. “We have been eating avocados for a week now, and we’ve had enough of them” he says and explains that it is not profitable to sell their produce, so what they do not eat, is lost. They try to be self-sufficient. He has declared his farm to be a Biodiversity Zone. There is a sign taller than Uriel in front of his house to indicate that all armed actors are prohibited here. On his land he feels relatively safe, although the men in uniforms do not always respect what is printed on his sign. When he has to leave his peaceful haven he takes a daughter or his wife, which he says keeps them safe. The buildings of the nearby towns are covered in graffiti from the Gaitanista SelfDefence Forces of Colombia (AGC).

Photo: Bianca Bauer

THE RICE MILL Before the community had the mill, they had to mill the rice by hand. It was a lot of work and so they preferred to buy the rice in the market. They have had the community mill for five years now. People arrive by motorcycle or on foot with their rice. The administrator who receives them and charges them to use the mill estimates that 2,000 pounds of rice a week is milled in Curbaradรณ. The profits are used to buy fuel, tools and spare parts.

Photo: Bianca Bauer

Photo: Adrian Johanson The environmental damage is huge in this region.

Pedeguita y Mancilla: legal delays and threats


DEFORESTATION AND DAMAGE TO THE SOIL HAVE AN IMPACT ON THE FAMILIES’ UNDERGROUND FRESHWATER RESERVES, WHICH PUTS THEIR LONGTERM SURVIVAL IN THE TERRITORY IN DANGER “If you won’t sell it to me, I’ll buy it tomorrow from your widow”. This phrase became famous in the nineties in the Bajo Atrato area, when the Elmer Cárdenas Bloc of the United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC) arrived with force, dispossessing communities and buying land en masse using illicit means. This still resonates in the memory of the inhabitants of Pedeguita y Mancilla and they are worried that history might repeat itself. Pedeguita y Mancilla is an extremely biodiverse region, with abundant fauna and flora. The inhabitants are still waiting for their lands to be returned to them. When the war ended they went back to their lands and found extensive palm oil and banana plantations, and cattle farming in their territory. Today, 58% of Pedeguita y Mancilla is in the hands of people who have occupied the land in bad faith and just 13% is in the hands of the community.29 The land restitution process has been very slow and there have been no protection guarantees for the claimant leaders. Recently, five NGOs that accompany claimant families in the Urabá region filed a complaint with the Prosecutor General’s Office calling for a disciplinary investigation to be opened against the director of the Land Restitution Unit, because he has not taken the necessary actions to reinstate the lands to the community council of Pedeguita y Mancilla.30 To all this is added another complicated situation. The legal representative of the collective territory granted a usufruct contract of 20,000 hectares (almost half of

the collective land) for one hundred years to the Agromar Small-Scale Farming Association, without having previously consulted with the communities. Since then, this association, which develops projects for extensive banana production, has been installing working families in the area, whose task is to “clean” the land so that crop sowing can begin. They have destroyed native forests and basic food crops. The leaders have reported this desperate situation. According to the Inter-Church Justice and Peace Commission (CIJP) “The use of backhoe loader type machinery to adapt the land and the construction of water channels for the plantain agro-industry has a negative environmental impact on the soils”.31 The environmental damage is great; deforestation and damage to the soil have an impact on the families’ underground freshwater reserves, which puts their long-term survival in the territory in danger. Anyone who opposes this agro-industrial project has received threats, insists CIJP.32 A group of community council leaders travelled to Bogotá to report the situation and upon their return they received death threats from neo-paramilitary groups, according to Manuel Garzón, a lawyer from.33 The slow nature of the land restitution process, in addition to economic interests by palm oil and banana companies, violates the rights of the collective territory’s inhabitants. The community continues to resist, hopeful in the knowledge that they have not yet given up their land, and that they never will. 103

Photo: Bianca Bauer There is an Emberá indigenous community in Jiguamiandó, which means “river that brings fever” in their language.

Beautiful Mother Earth


There are two rivers in the small village of Alto Guayabal, the smallest is turquoise in colour and is called Jancadía and the largest is amber-green in colour and is called Jiguamiandó which means river that brings fever in the Emberá indigenous language. The name does this area justice, as mosquitoes are rife and people often catch tropical diseases. The Jai Katumá mountain, where the spirits of the Emberá people live, stands majestically in the distance. The 87 families in the community live in ranches on stilts to avoid the devastating impact of the waters during the rainy season. The roofs are made of zinc or braided grass, and in the houses there are large and colourful cloths, which the women use as cross-over skirts that they call parumas. The village belongs to the Urada Jiguamiandó indigenous territory. For the Emberá, the earth is sacred and they are its guardians. When they cut down a tree they plant five more – that is what is written in their community regulations - and they do not cut down trees near the river, nor do they shoot snakes into the stream because they could contaminate the waters with the poison. The river is life, there the community bathe, wash, play and collect water to drink. The jungle is life because there are wild animals to be hunted there. Thanks to their care, most of the 90,000 hectares of the territory still contain native forest. Each family uses only what is necessary to grow cassava, corn, plantain, rice and pineapple. The people of Alto Guayabal are the owners of this land, which is legally constituted as an indigenous reservation, a special category of land in Colombia. Still, mother earth has many enemies here. For four years, settlers have burned trees and replaced them with coca crops. They have built laboratories in the middle of the thick

jungle where they process the leaves. The waste ends up in the colourful rivers and that is why there are days when bathing in the water causes itching and stains the skin, gives people diarrhoea when they drink it and makes the fish die. Nowadays, men dressed in camouflage with guns and radios pass through the thick jungle.34 For fear of bumping into them, the indigenous men do not go out with their lanterns to hunt at night, nor fish far from the village, which is why at times food is scarce. They have already lived through one cycle of violence, and they fear that they will have to abandon their mother earth again to protect their lives, as they did once before in the year 2000, when after a military operation, the families ran away and only returned eight years later. The sacred mountain Jai Katumá is also a symbol of resistance. There is gold under the mountain; in fact, when they need money to buy salt and clothes, the Emberá come to the mountain and search for a sliver of gold, just as their ancestors did. But in 2009 a multinational company arrived with the Mande Norte project, and tried to occupy the mountain to take its gold. In response, Emberá women, men and children climbed Jai Katumá and stayed there for six weeks, demanding the departure of the army and the company workers. They took jaibanás, their traditional doctors, to call upon the spirits and scare the occupiers. In the end they were victorious. It was one more battle for the protection of their beautiful and abundant mother earth. The daughters and sons of these protectors of the jungle and the rivers run freely through the flourishing green environment, shouting with joy because they have not known the violence their parents faced and hopefully they never will. 105

Photo: Bianca Bauer The inhabitants fear another wave of violence.

Cacarica once again at the heart of the conflict



The unimaginable happened in 1997 in the settlement of Bijao - Cacarica. Paramilitaries arrived, took small-scale farmer Marino López, tied him up, tortured him, killed him, cut off his head, and then played football with it. This murder was just one of the atrocities committed during Operation Genesis; a joint operation between the Colombian army and the paramilitaries, for which General Rito Alejo del Río was sentenced to imprisonment.35 The operation caused the displacement of 3,500 inhabitants of the region followed by three long years of overcrowding in refugee camps, in inhumane conditions, amid threats and stigmatisation. However, the people of Cacarica joined forces to face their desperate situation. After many meetings, and a great deal of work and persistence, they got the State to support their return and to award them a collective land title. Also in this same year they founded the Communities of Self-Determination, Life and Dignity (Cavida) and began to plan the return to their lands. The men and women most experienced in agricultural work and in opening up land in the jungle, crossed the Gulf of Urabá and travelled down the Atrato, Perancho and Peranchito rivers to Cacarica to see whether the conditions were apt for them to return to their homes. They found that the jungle had swallowed up their houses and crops; that many trees had been cut down and that there was practically nothing left of many other spe-

cies. They recovered rice, cassava and corn seeds and began to plant them, so that when the whole population returned, they would have something to eat. During their first visits they encountered no any opposition, either from the remaining guerrilla or from the paramilitaries. In 2000 they returned to Cacarica. It was an emotional journey, navigating their rivers again, to rediscover the natural environment and the jungle fauna that was so familiar to them, yet they found that many changes had taken place: the forests had been cut down and wood was flowing down the river, which made them realise that their three years of displacement had been hard for them and for their land. Nothing was the same, but they were clear that now they were together with their land once more, life would sprout again and that paradise would return to this area of ​​the country, despite the fact that the violence was not yet over. “It was like returning to freedom”, Jaheira says to summarise what the return was like for her, as she remembers the happiness she felt when she saw her beloved river again where she had bathed over and over again and played with her friends. And so began the path of resistance with the creation of the Humanitarian Zones called Nueva Vida (New Life) and Nueva Esperanza en Dios (New Hope in God), and the community’s resistance continues to this very day. 107


Photo: Bianca Bauer

Today the communities fear that history may repeat itself and that the cycle of violence will return. In February 2017, the tranquillity of the community was interrupted by a group of hooded neo-paramilitaries who entered the Nueva Esperanza en Dios Humanitarian Zone. They entered the area where the ​​ football field is situated, and the children who were playing there were scared and ran away towards the crops, causing their mothers great concern. Then, in October 2017, neo-paramilitary groups murdered a resident from Cacarica.36 Since 2015, violence has intensified in this region.37 According to the CIJP, these armed groups seek to regain territorial control, but with a new strategy: “they no longer enter sowing fear and killing people, instead they come with proposals for socio-economic projects. Like many other regions of the country, Cacarica is a forgotten area where the State only ever shows its presence through military interventions. Here there is a lack of roads, infrastructure, health, education ... The neo-paramilitaries are trying to win over the community by offering to build all this for them”.38 For Danilo Rueda, a member of CIJP, “this leads us to understand that these proposals mean they want to stay in the territory and to satisfy the community’s needs that have not been met by the State, in terms of education and basic infrastructure such as the unblocking of rivers. By doing this they aim to gain territorial control to implement productive projects, such as palm oil, cattle farming, banana plantations and drug trafficking to the countries in the global north”.39 It is ironic that in legal terms the people of Cacarica own a large and beautiful territory, but they cannot enjoy it because it is occupied by strangers who bring terror.

Paramilitaries murdered Marino Lรณpez, a small-scale farmer. They killed him because they wanted to instil terror and he was the person they chose. He died after being decapitated, his body was cut into several parts, thrown into the river, and after removing his head, the paramilitaries played football with it. During the twentieth anniversary of that terrible day, a group of young people recreated the arrival of the paramilitaries in the town, which caused chills among many of the spectators.


Photo: Bianca Bauer The results after twenty years of violence are shocking: 320 people have been killed in the Peace Community of San JosĂŠ de ApartadĂł.

For the love of the earth


More than twenty years ago, a small-farming community who found themselves in the middle of a terrible war decided to organise and resist in their territory. That is how the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó was founded, declaring itself neutral vis à vis the armed conflict, and prohibiting its members from any direct or indirect contact with armed actors. Back then, they thought that if they declared themselves to be neutral, their wishes would be accepted. However, that is not what happened. San José de Apartadó is an area where many economic interests are concentrated, as well as being situated in the area lying between the department of Córdoba and the Gulf of Urabá, near the main drug trafficking routes to the USA and Europe.40 It is also the pilot project for the implementation of Point 1 of the Peace Agreement, with emphasis on land restitution and legalisation. What does this imply for the Peace Community? To answer this question, we need to understand the value of the land for the people in the community.

COMMUNITY LANDS Love for the land lies at the centre of the community’s resistance. People have been purchasing land throughout the twenty years that the Peace Community has been in existence, this is community land purchased from other small-scale farmers and vacant land that was occupied by the community, that is to say, land that did not belong to anyone and therefore belongs to the Colombian State.41 “This is community land, it is not private property, instead it is at the service of the Community”, insists Germán Graciano, legal representative of the Peace Community.

UNTITLED LAND More than 97% of the 8,000 inhabitants of the San José de Apartadó Community do not have the legal titles to their lands.42 The legalisation of these lands is good news; it is what the inhabitants have been asking

for. However, they also have questions and concerns about how the restitution process will proceed and how the collective territorial rights of the Peace Community will be respected. One of the problems is that collective land ownership is not recognised, as is the case for the Peace Community. “This shows ignorance of the reality in rural Colombia, the way that the small-scale farming communities have been resisting the war in their territory and how they have organised themselves,” says Germán Romero, Colombian human rights lawyer and expert on land issues. Therefore, the Peace Community is in a “legal vacuum” in which it faces difficulties to legalise some of its collective lands.

SOUGHT-AFTER LAND Because the land is fertile and well-situated, it is highly sought after. According to the National Mining Agency, there are six mining licences and five requests for new ones in the area, which could also affect the formalisation of land titles for the smallscale farmers.43 The Peace Community has reported the presence of neo-paramilitary groups, who are controlling most of the hamlets in the area and have even built a hamlet in a place called Rodoxali.44 According to the latest Risk Report from the Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office, the AGC have developed strategies for land grabbing, by buying properties through figureheads “with the intention of controlling areas that are considered to be of great interest and high monetary value, given the mining activity planned for the area”.45 Also, according to the same report and as reported for the first time in 2014, the AGC are building two other roads in the area.46 The Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office report highlights the economic interests of the AGC, which run hand in hand with their new strategies they are developing to control and grab land from small-scale farmers in the area, and threaten the Peace Community’s territorial rights by purchasing lands. 111

THE PEACE VILLAGE, SYMBOL OF RESISTANCE One of the lands in legal limbo is the Peace Village in the hamlet of Mulatos. On this land, the brutal massacre of leader Luis Eduardo Guerra took place along with his son and life partner on February 21st, 2005. In homage to him, his family and the other victims, the community built a school, a library, a sports project and a community building for assemblies, as an act of memory and to rebuild the collective social fabric. This is a vacant plot of land that the community occupied after the massacre and for the Community it is symbolic and important for their resistance process. To date, Colombian legislation does not allow the community to own this land, “it would be disastrous for the Community, after they have built their resistance for the past twelve years in the village of Mulatos by building community infrastructure, if the land ended up being away from them”, says Romero. He also highlights that “Point 1 of the Havana Agreement promised the country that small-scale farming communities would be granted the right to own land, either individually or collectively. But this is not clear in the legislation that is being passed. The land issue must start with recognition of the way in which communities are organised, by recognising how they have confronted the issue of the war and how they continue to face it in the case of the Peace Community”. However, reality is more complex and the implementation of Point 1 of the Peace Agreement appears to be slow and confused with regards the situation of the Peace Community, which continues to wait for its territorial rights to be respected.


Photo: Eduardo Acosta Ulloa

One of the events that most affected the Peace Community was the massacre which took place on 21st February 2005. On that day eight people from the hamlets of Mulatos and La Resbalosa were killed, including three children and Community leader Luis Eduardo Guerra.


Photo: Alejandro González The Peace Community of San José de Apartadó has spent a number of years developing organic cacao production.

Planting cacao for life


The land is extremely fertile in the mountains of San José de Apartadó and since the seventies, when the settlers took the first cacao tree seeds to this region, it has been a cacao territory. During the war the cacao trees dried up. Little by little, when the small-scale farmers returned to their lands, they began cultivating again in working groups. Today, they are proud to produce seventy tonnes a year of 100% organic cacao called Chocopaz that is becoming known in many parts of the world for its quality and for what it represents: an alternative small-farming economy. The cacao plants were cultivated in Urabá by indigenous communities. Until the sixties the jungle region was little known and difficult to access. Then the road was built and small-scale farmers from other parts of Colombia came to explore and cultivate the land; many arrived with cacao seeds that they grew for their own consumption. For sale and sustenance they grew coffee, but it was not of good quality due to the humidity in the mountains and as the Cacao Growers Federation of Colombia and the Caja Agraria rural credit fund promoted the production of cacao and offered credits, so the farmers decided to replace the coffee plants with more cacao.47 They were organised in cooperatives, and the San José growers created the Balsamar Cooperative in 1985, which had the political support of the Patriotic Union (UP) political party and received funding from an international cooperation project in the Netherlands.48

THE CHALLENGES In 1997 the small-scale farmers created the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó; threatened by illegal armed actors they could not leave their village, so they began to create working groups and go out together to plant and harvest crops. This was the only strategy they had to protect themselves, to prevent an illegal group from killing or forcibly disappearing them, something that happened often in those days. They lived in hope that such a large group of small-scale farmers moving around on their lands would not be killed. However, illegal groups imposed constant economic blockades on the farmers, stopped them at strategic points and prohibited the passage of food or any merchandise, under the threat of killing them if they returned. Between 2001 and 2002 one of the worst blockades was imposed, and for months the armed groups forbade the passage of food on the road between Apartadó and San José: “nobody could go into the town because on the way back they were not allowed to pass with their food”, recalls Roviro López, Peace Community member. At that time, hundreds of people who risked the journey to buy food were killed. A lot of people were going hungry. The Community saw an ever-greater need to organise and grow their own food crops, to become self-sustainable.


The cacao trees had survived war and abandonment for many years and the small-scale farmers brought seeds to grow more.49 They watched the cacao grow, and two years later the trees bore fruit. The trees take a lot of careful work over a long time. When the cacao pod is ripe they harvest it, open it up, take out the grains, place them in a bucket and take them to their houses where they have boxes to ferment them; a process that takes between five and seven days. Then, they let the grains dry in the sun for four or five more days to remove the moisture. They then sort through the grains and eliminate any that are broken or mouldy and pack them into sacks to take them to the Community storeroom for sale. Each working group sells its cacao production to the Peace Community. The price per kilo is decided according to value standards negotiated with the client. Today the Community has some 125 hectares dedicated to this crop and produces seventy tonnes of cacao per year. All production is accredited by Ceres, a Colombian certifier who comes every year to evaluate the cacao crops. They keep some bars for themselves and the rest is sold to those who like organic chocolate. The Community sells 50 tonnes each year to two large customers in Germany and Great Britain. The profits allow the Community to sustain itself economically, to build infrastructure, to support education and training, and to buy in what they do not produce.


Photo: Alejandro Gonzรกlez


Today the Community has dedicated 175 hectares of land to growing cacao, and they produce around 70 tonnes per year. The earnings enable the Community to sustain itself economically, to build infrastructure, support education and training for its members, and buy produce that they do not grow themselves.


118 Photo: Bianca Bauer

Doña Brígida: Fifty years of resistance On tiptoes María Brígida tries to reach the rolls of linen she keeps on the top shelf in her house; the one she is looking for falls onto the floor. With trembling hands and visibly nervous Brígida bends down to pick it up. She unrolls it in her humble yard, full of colourful wild flowers, because there is more light there. We feel dizzy when we see so much violence depicted on this cloth which is more than a metre wide. In one part, uniformed men are walking with guns, taking away men, women, and children who are bleeding. Brígida sighs, saying “It was very difficult to paint this”. In the painting she has depicted the infamous massacre of La Resbalosa and Mulatos, where the Colombian army and paramilitaries - some later found guilty and sentenced by the justice system - murdered and dismembered eight people in 2005. Brígida is a small smiling woman of sixty-eight who always wears her silver hair in two braids. She came to Urabá exactly half a century ago, in 1967, when these lands were pure jungle and rather mysterious. She settled in the mountains of San José de Apartadó and lived with the animals

in the middle of this impressive habitat, a true paradise if it had not been for the war that broke out soon after. In the 1970s she began to work on the banana plantations that were expanding throughout Urabá, but when she became aware of the labour exploitation - for example, they worked up to twenty hours a day but were only paid for ten - she joined the trade union and supported workers’ rights. As expected, the banana company fired her. Brígida has experienced great tragedies, she has mourned the death of 300 leaders in her community, she has lost a brother and a daughter and she has learned of massacre after massacre. Brígida has been painting since she was a little girl and maybe that’s how she keeps that genuine smile she always wears when we visit her. Her 600 paintings are a historical testimony of what happened, a tribute to the pain caused by the war and the hope that was born when the Peace Community was created. “We cannot forget the history and memory of our loved ones who have died because if we forget that, we are finished”.


Footnotes 1. Observatory of the Presidential Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law Program: Diagnostic of the situation in the municipalities inhabited by the afro-Colombian communities prioritised by the Honourable Constitutional Court and the department of Antioquia, 2009, pp. 14 – 15 2. According to Conpes 3612 from the National Planning Department, a section of the Transversal de las Américas project would pass through the Cacarica river basin and continue to the area known as Palo de Letras. 3. Semana: Deforestación en Colombia aumentó un 44% entre 2015 y 2016, 6 July 2017 4. Cultures & Conflicts: Violencias estratégicas y violencias desorganizadas en la región de Urabá, Colombia, Gérard Martin, Number 24-25, 1996-1997 5. Fernando Botero Herrera, Universidad de Antioquia, Medellín: Urabá. Colonización, violencia y crisis del Estado, 1990; Edición Cerec/Iner, Universidad de Antioquia: Urabá: región, actores y conflicto 1960-1990, Clara Inés García, Bogotá, 1996. 6. Edición Cerec/Iner, Universidad de Antioquia: Urabá: región, actores y conflicto 1960-1990, Clara Inés García, Bogotá, 1996. 7. Instituto de Estudios Políticos Internacionales (Iepri), Universidad Nacional: Urabá: pulsiones de vida y desafíos de muerte, C. M. Ortiz Sarmiento, La Carrera Editores, Medellín, 2007 8. Cultures & Conflicts: Violencias estratégicas y violencias desorganizadas en la región de Urabá, Colombia, Gérard Martin, número 24-25, 1996-1997 9. Instituto de Estudios Políticos Internacionales (IEPRI), Universidad Nacional: Urabá: pulsiones de vida y desafíos de muerte, C. M. Ortiz Sarmiento, La Carrera Editores, Medellín, 2007 10. Cultures & Conflicts: Violencias estratégicas y violencias desorganizadas en la región de Urabá, Colombia, Gérard Martin, número 24-25, 1996-1997 11. Organización Panamericana de la Salud: Sistematización de experiencias de atención psicosocial en Antioquía, Bogotá, 2003 12. Disaster Info Net: Un llamado por el Chocó; Verdad Abierta: La complicidad entre militares y paras en el Urabá Antioqueño, 26 April 2011; El Espectador: El ‘dossier’ de los palmeros, 26 January 2008 13. CIJP y Banco de Datos del CINEP: La Tramoya — Derechos Humanos y Palma Aceitera – Curbaradó y Jiguamiandó, 25 January 2006 14. Inter-American Commission on Human Rights: Report on the field visit en relation to the precautionary protection measures ordered in favour of the members of


the communities constituted by the Community Council of Jiguamiandó and the families of Curbaradó, municipality of Carmen del Darién, department of Chocó, Colombia, 20 February 2009 15. Interviews with inhabitants of the Humanitarian Zones in Curbaradó, PBI Colombia, 2010 16. Voltairenet: La palma de aceite y la usurpación de territorio a las comunidades negras, 9 March 2006 17. Unofficial translation Medidas Provisionales respecto de la República de Colombia. Caso de las comunidades del Jiguamiandó y del Curbaradó, Order of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights of 15 March 2005 18. Padre Javier Giraldo, speech, 23 March 2017 in La Holandita, Peace Community of San José de Apartadó 19. La Silla Vacía: Curbaradó y Jiguamiandó: La gran prueba de la restitución de tierras de Santos, 18 March 2011; Verdad Abierta: Campesinos y afros se enfrentan por la tierra en Rio Sucio, Chocó, 25 June 2015 20. Op. cit. Curbaradó y Jiguamiandó: La gran prueba de la restitución de tierras de Santos 21. Verdad Abierta: A la cárcel 16 empresarios de palma de Chocó, 8 December 2014 22. Palabras al Margen: ¿”Terceros” o determinadores? El proyecto económico paramilitar en Bajo Atrato, 15 June 2017 23. IPC: Rechazan amenazas de muerte a reclamante de tierras en Urabá, 24 March 2017 24. Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office: Nota de Seguimiento no. 004-17, 27 April 2017 25. CIJP: Amenazan a líder de tierras Enrique Cabezas, 2 July 2017 26. El Espectador: Hallan muerto a hijo de reclamante de tierras en una carretera de Chocó, 1 June 2017 27. Rutas del Conflicto: Masacre de Riosucio de 1997 28. CIJP: Planean asesinato de Enrique Cabezas, 3 August 2014; CIJP: Amenazan a líder Enrique Cabezas al salir del foro sobre víctimas, 6 July 2014 29. Op. cit. El despojo de las comunidades negras, viaje al corazón del Bajo Atrato 30. Verdad Abierta: Restitución en Urabá genera tensiones entre Unidad de Tierras y algunas ONG, 19 October 2017 31. CIJP: Se afianzan operaciones empresariales ilegales de AGROMAR, 31 July 2017 32. CIJP: Reactivación de trabajos para agronegocio y amenaza a defensores de DDHH, 9 August 2017 33. Op. cit. Restitución en Urabá genera tensiones entre Unidad de Tierras y algunas ONG 34. In March 2017 more than 100 men from the Gaitanista Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (AGC) invaded the territory. El Espectador: Denuncian incursiones paramilitares en Chocó durante fin de semana, 13 March 2017 35. El Espectador: Rito Alejo del Río: la historia del general (r)

Photo: Bianca Bauer condenado que volvió a la libertad, 30 September 2017 36. Contagio Radio: Paramilitares asesinan a habitante en Cacarica, Chocó, 17 October 2017 37. Interview with Érika Carvajal, CIJP, February 2017 38. Ibid. Interview with Érika Carvajal 39. Interview with Danilo Rueda, CIJP, 26 February 2017 40. Internacional de Resistentes a la Guerra, Colombia: La Comunidad de Paz de San José de Apartadó, 22 April 2016 41. ¿Qué son los terrenos baldíos?, 10 August 2016 42. El Colombiano, Predios en Apartadó serán de campesinos, 20 May 2017 43. Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office, Informe de Riesgo n°035-17, 19 July 2017, p. 19 44. IPC, ¿Que no hay paramilitares en Rodoxalí? En San José

de Apartadó dicen lo contrario, 8 November 2016 45. Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office, Informe de Riesgo n°035-17, 19 July 2017, p20 46. Ibid., Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office, Informe de Riesgo n°035-17, p. 11. Una carretera entre la vereda de Nueva Antioquia y Rodoxali y otra hasta la zona de Altos de Carepa. 47. Gwen Burnyeat: Chocolate y Política: una contextualización etnográfica de la Comunidad de Paz de San José de Apartadó, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, 2015, p48-49 48. Ibid., p50 49. Gwen Burnyeat and Pablo Mejía Trujillo: Chocolate of Peace, 2016


Photo: Bianca Bauer

Starting over in La Europa


amaris lives in an improvised shack. Tree trunks hold up the corrugated metal roof, from which are hung shoes, machetes, caps and even a cage containing a rabbit, making the most of the small space. Hens run on the earthen floor and dogs sleep under the red plastic chairs.

During stormy nights like this, one halfloose metal sheet bangs against another and the noise becomes unbearable. Tamaris can no longer bear to stay in bed, so she gets up and turns on the small TV to distract herself. She waits anxiously for the early morning light, but there are still some hours to go. These storms are always frightening because they could make the roof fall in. Despite the noise, Tamaris’ three children sleep peacefully in the only bed the family owns. The sound of thunder reminds her of that dark time in the past when bombs fell from the sky and she ran, pregnant and with her little ones towards the forest in search of refuge. Even though it all happened more than twenty years ago, she can still smell the forest burning. Tamaris lives in the La Europa farm located in the Montes de María region. In the 1990s the area was a strategic region for both the guerrilla and the paramilitaries. They fought for control over the Gulf of Morrosquillo because the port located there was an important place for the Co124

lombian export routes and for cocaine trafficking to the United States; in addition, the Caño Limón-Coveñas pipeline ends in this area.1 To Tamaris’ misfortune, the region had become “one of the most terrifying in the country.”2 This violence led to 56 massacres in the Montes de María, almost four thousand political murders and 200,000 displaced persons.3 At that time Tamaris’ mother Gladys, lived in a mountainous area away from the farm. The guerrilla often passed through and ordered the inhabitants to “prepare us some food!” “There was no way to avoid them, we had to do what they asked”, Gladys remembers. She still gets shivers when she thinks of this chapter in her past. “One lot would leave and another would arrive”. When the people who lived up in the mountains travelled down to the village the guerrilla would warn them “you know what will happen if you say anything to the soldiers”. The army started to treat them as though they were members of the guerrilla. One day Gladys’ husband and their chil-

dren were sowing corn when forty soldiers arrived and ordered them to lie down on the floor, then they kicked and stamped on them. “Even today just thinking about it I can still feel the fury and the nerves”, confesses Gladys with a shy smile. The war intensified in 2001 and by then almost all of the families had abandoned the farm. Gladys had also left the area, going to Ovejas, the closest village, where she slept with her children on the concrete floor until someone gave them hammocks. When the war died down, Gladys, Tamaris and their neighbours went back to the farm. They arrived with nothing, their houses had gone, they had all been burned down during the years of war, and all the animals had gone too. They had to start over. At that time the owner of Arepas Don Juancho appeared, he was known as the “Boss from Medellín, and he offered them money to buy the La Europa farm lands. And although it was little money - 800,000 Colombian pesos per hectare - many families sold their plots, desperate and worried about their economic situation.4 After that, workers from Arepas Don Juancho arrived with bulldozers, barbed wire, and tractors with tools and cement to start building.5 Alarmed by the situation, the farmers stood firm with their machetes in hand to prevent the entry of the materials.6

LACK OF LEGAL GUARANTEES Thus began a legal fight for the La Europa farm. The farmers maintain that the farm belongs to them, since the government had awarded the 1,324 hectares to 114 small-farming families in 1969. They also claim that they are victims of forced displacement and that those who sold their lands did so under pressure and at an unfair price. Erika Gómez from the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CPDH), who represents the community in their legal process for land restitution, assures that the sale was illegal. “The Prosecutor General´s Office has never opened investigations into the actions of Incoder officials, who

were apparently involved in the negotiation with the owners of the Arepas Don Juancho company.” In 2013 the community presented its case before a Specialised Land Restitution Court, two years later the case was transferred to the Higher Land Court in Cartagena, and in 2017 a judge declared the case to be null and void.7 “Now we have to start over again and this implies that the community has not been protected by the law,” says the lawyer with concern. Whatever happens, the inhabitants will have to wait until the trial ends and in the meantime, their lives are in limbo. They cannot think about long-term development for the community. “Why would we want schools if the land has not been given to the farmers?” Asks Gilberto, 48, who is Tamaris’ husband and a charismatic leader with a sophisticated political philosophy. It is a discouraging situation for leaders who have been struggling for so many years, land rights leaders who have already paid a high price: years of exile, threats and attacks on their lives. In 2014 there was an attack against Andrés Narváez,8 in 2016 another against Argemiro Lara9 and the danger is such that the Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office warned about the risks to which the rural population of La Europa, due to the presence of armed men, and asked for special protection from the Police and the Prosecutor General’s Office.10

BEING A CAMPESINO IS NOT SUSTAINABLE La Europa could be a paradise, says Gilberto. He inspires admiration and it is difficult to believe that he only had access to primary school education. Gilberto knows every corner of the farm because he has spent almost all of his life there. “Here there are native forests, whitefaced monkeys, martens, armadillos and agoutis,” he says with pride. And until the 1980s they grew tobacco, corn, yams and sesame seeds to sell. There was even a cas125

Photo: Bianca Bauer The violence resulted in 56 massacres in the Montes de María region, as well as almost four thousand political assassinations and 200,000 internally displaced persons.

sava mincer until 1994. Every month they took a small lorry full of cassava flour to sell in Medellín, Gilberto says with nostalgia. The high-ceilinged factory is still standing and it is easy to imagine the splendour of those times. Today a family occupies this formidable space that now contains just a television and one hammock. Now that the Free Trade Agreements are being implemented, the small-scale farming economy is breaking down. Last year they were paid six thousand pesos for a kilo of corn, today it is worth 400 pesos; a bundle of yams used to sell at 140,000 pesos, today it is worth around 10,000 pesos.11 That does not even cover production and transport costs. Because of this situation, Gilberto has not sold his crops for three years. What he has left over he gives to his neighbours. “We have tried to get farmers 126

to grow produce for their own consumption, to raise pigs and plant yucca to fatten them with, to plant corn to make arepas, to keep hens for their eggs.” For Gilberto, exchanging agricultural products at the local level is their only chance of survival under these circumstances. It is a hard life; In addition to all of the above, the lack of water is overwhelming. From very early in the morning until dusk, men and boys ride the long roads on mules to the springs and wells and bring back the water they need for their homes to wash clothes and cook. Stomach diseases are common because the springs are contaminated, say the farmers. The workers from the Arepas Don Juancho company take their cows there and they urinate in the springs.

Photo: Bianca Bauer Tamaris dreams of an easier life for her daughter; that her little one will have a land title to prove that the land is hers.

In spite of everything, Tamaris is excited because she has a hectare of land. She points up to the mountain where workers are clearing the land. Soon they will be able to sow corn, she says with optimism. She is bent over the wood fire, and soon the workers will arrive to eat their lunch. Her small daughter wants to help, but she tells her off because there is a pan full of hot oil on the fire to fry plantains. “You could burn yourself on that”, she tells her daughter. It starts to rain again and Tamaris serves herself a sweet coffee and sits down on one of her plastic chairs next to her daughter, who is now watching a cartoon on TV. She dreams of an easier life for her daughter; that her little one will have a land title to prove that the land is hers.

Footnotes 1. Centro Nacional de Memoria Histórica: Una nación desplazada, 2015 2. Ibid. 3. Verdad Abierta: Como se fraguó la tragedia de los Montes de María 4. Verdad Abierta: La Mula, la Europa y la otra Alemania, 1 September 2010 5. Interview with Gilberto 6. Op. Cit., Verdad Abierta: La Mula, la Europa y la otra Alemania 7. Speech by Erika Gómez, Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CPDH), October 2017 8. El Espectador: ONU condena atentado contra un líder campesino en Sucre, 23 June 2014 9. La SillaVacía: Atentan contra vida de líder de tierras en Ovejas, 19 November 2016 10. El Heraldo, Campesinos de La Europa, en riesgo por grupos armados, dice Defensoría, 7 May 2016 11. El Espectador: Montes de María con el ñame hasta el cuello, 7 August 2017


1969 Montes de María


Golfo de Morrosquillo Finca La Europa







1990 - 2005

























“I am also called Magdalena� An account of the first meeting of women from the Campesino Reserve Zone in the Cimitarra River Valley

Photo: Caldwell Manners/ECAP


ince the month of June and during a number of visits to the office of the Campesino Association of the Cimitarra River Valley (ACVC) we noticed that the organisation was completely engrossed in organising this event. We asked Doña Irene if it was the first time that an event of this kind had

been organised and led by the women from this region. Apparently it was not. The President of the ACVC told us that there had previously been a number of other such events and that in 1996 they had organised women’s meetings on a large scale with the Popular Women’s Organisation (OFP), but that they unfortunately had to leave this organising to one side after the wave of paramilitary violence meant that they had to concentrate exclusively on defending their lives.1 Now the aim was to create new forums and spaces so that rural women could develop their own political proposals as a female collective from the Magdalena Medio region, which in turn would lead to a renewed sense of sisterhood. And all this was to take place in this region, which lies at the heart of the ACVC’s work. 132

THE GREAT DAY ARRIVED At first light, down by the water’s edge, the huge sense of excitement is palpable, as we wait for the boat that is going to take us to Cantagallo, which according to its regional hymn is “an up-and-coming sovereign municipality”. There is a feeling of joy in the air and everyone is ready and willing to make the event happen. “We hope that today will be a very important day for women”, says Sonia Nevado, a tireless leader from the region. Everything has been prepared with great care, with each person given a particular task. In each area an adult is in charge of looking after and playing with the children, so that those who are leading the meeting do not have to play their usual role of mother-caretaker, but can instead concentrate on their role as a leader capable of decid-

ing the direction of her community. During these two days in Cantagallo, women are at the forefront of politics in the municipality, a role which has historically been denied to rural women. I feel satisfaction seeing so many women taking a leading role in the “public sphere”, as the speakers and moderators are women, while the men distribute the refreshments, take care of the children and clean the bathrooms. The world has been turned on its head for 48 hours. The guests are 200 campesina women from villages in the municipalities of Yondó, San Pablo, Cantagallo and Remedios and also women from the city, and these women from academia and from the field exchange their knowledge and problems, considering together how to generate ways for women’s rights to be respected, designing strategies and communication channels, ways for the community to approach State institutions and vice versa, thereby building trust. All this is set against the backdrop of the tireless struggle for the implementation of the Peace Agreements and their gender component,2 particularly in terms of political participation, the rural economy and land ownership. The meeting offers an opportunity to recognise and reaffirm women’s leadership, invisible for some time, but nevertheless a fundamental element in guaranteeing food sovereignty and resistance within the Campesino Reserve Zone (ZRC). The words of Doña Irene, President of the ACVC, are greeted with applause and standing ovations, as she recalls how women drew upon their strength to take on the leadership of the organisation during the most difficult of times, back in 2007, when several of their male colleagues were arrested. Judith Maldonado from Voices of Peace3 speaks about those victims who did not live to see the end of the conflict negotiated, but for whom “this is the best tribute, it is an act of memory, and that is why we must not falter”. She also highlights the enormous significance of each woman taking part in the event: “I know that you have had to overcome many obstacles”.

WOMEN IN THE CAMPESINO RESERVE ZONES In all the interventions we can hear and also feel that the model of the ZRC is something more than just an economic proposal for those who inhabit it; it is also a symbol in itself that evokes environmental care and campesino culture, with all the accumulated knowledge and countryside traditions which exist because the culture is rooted in the land. From a political point of view, associations such as the ACVC and Cahucopana (accompanied by PBI) work for the recognition of small-scale farmers as political subjects and rights holders, fundamentally the rights to own land and live in their territory, which have been historically denied and which lie at the root of the violence in many parts of the country. The initiative has sought to provide sustenance to the farmers through community crops and farming projects, to ensure a decent way of life which is not harmful to the land. It is important to remember that the ACVC was founded as a result of small-scale farmers’ protests that took place between 1996-1998, when campesinos were displaced and were seeking refuge from paramilitary persecution.4 In 2004, Cahucopana was founded from a similar experience in the village of Lejanías, when campesinos from the North East of Antioquia decided to work together to counteract the effects of a humanitarian crisis caused by economic, health and food blockades imposed by legal and illegal armed actors in the area.5 The role of women in ensuring food sovereignty and resistance in these areas has been fundamental, for example, in caring for seeds and water, which has made it possible to guarantee continuity.

WOMEN AND POLITICAL PARTICIPATION The accumulated stories of women’s leadership and political contribution in their territories have not been recognised. A study by UN Women and the UNDP indicates that rural women suffer triple discrimination, since they are excluded from economic, social and political life because they are women, because they are rural people and because of the disproportionate impact 133

that the armed conflict and other forms of intimidation and violence have on them,6 which means that they have been more exposed to violence and have also had their participation limited. During the event the women point out that for reality to change, customs and culture must also change: “In one village in the Catatumbo region, in another event like this, the men did not like their women to participate in these committees. To change that custom, we had to fine all those who did not let their women partners participate”. In the meeting some women talk about their experiences, while others look for words to try and define what is needed to change this reality. Nuria Martínez, from the Latin American Coordination of Rural Organisations, proposes the need for a small-scale farming grass-roots feminist movement: “many of us campesina women also thought that feminism was just another extreme, but by studying we realised that we were also [feminists]”.The rural women start to use the word “empowerment” more and more during the event. It is exciting to witness the way in which, as the hours pass, each and every one of the attendees is losing their shyness and daring to take a step forward to talk about their experiences, sing a song or recite a poem. The event really is a space for full and safe participation, which many of the women have probably never experienced before. Doña Ligia, from the village of Camelias in the North East of the Antioquia department, is part of the Human Rights Committee and the Women’s Committee in the organisation Cahucopana. She summarises the participation in the event with these wise yet simple words: “in the meeting we tell the stories we know so that other women can hear them”.

WOMEN AND THE ENVIRONMENT One of the main objectives of the meeting is to develop joint strategies between the community and State institutions. Nine working groups each composed of around twenty female farmers and members of institutions discuss the main problems identified by rural women for political participation, sexual and reproductive health, the 134

environment, health, education, land, the implementation of the agreements and human rights. The Environmental Working Group presents in a participative way how the elements of an ecosystem interact and how the water depends on the soil, the flora and the fauna, and what happens when the links between these elements are broken, which is also a metaphor on thinking at the community level, instead of thinking in individual terms. “It is the difference between those of us who feel like we are part of the territory and feel the interdependence and relationship of these elements with ourselves, and those of us who do not feel part of this. Women, in general, have the greatest sense of belonging”. Little by little, the main problems are identified that particularly affect rural women’s activities, in relation to the care of the environment. There is even a debate on whether organic cooking is a specific women’s issue. Some simple strategies are identified to implement significant changes in the villages, such as moving from cooking with wood to cooking with gas thanks to bio-generator technology, and tree-planting projects on the banks of streams and deforested lands. The women also identify that manure from laying hens could be a solution for drylands and there are other exchanges of experiences and knowledge, also contributed by members of the State institutions, which are shared so that they can be replicated in other villages. The Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development offers technical support and comments that they are preparing a guideline for the protection of campesino knowledge for biodiversity. During the accounts of the problems experienced by rural women in their daily activities on the land and with the environment, it becomes clear that both nature and women themselves have and continue to face oppression. Ángela, of the ACVC, raises the need for an eco-feminism that can overcome this violence and places emphasis on the interdependence between humans and nature, highlighting the caring economy which is traditionally women’s labour. After all, the women say, campesina women “conceive our body as a territory where care for the environment begins”.

Jaqueline, one of the women participating in the event, says that the impact of companies on water is never considered. In the South of Bolivar there are many extensive African palm mono-crops, and one of the main problems associated with this activity is the effect it has on water sources. Each palm tree consumes around 30 litres of water per day, leading to the depletion of water sources, polluting the water and wetlands and affecting vegetation cover. The women also discuss the need to link the protection of the environment with the Peace Agreements. For Luz “these meetings are very important because they can do whatever they want to us, when we do not know our rights”.

THE CAMPESINO RESERVE ZONE IN THE CIMITARRA RIVER VALLEY AND THE “YELLOW LINE” The territory of the ZRC in the Cimitarra River Valley covers 184,000 hectares in the rural areas of the municipalities of Segovia, Remedios, Yondó, Cantagallo and San Pablo; the rest of the area is not considered legally as a ZRC but as a forest reserve area. The whole area is rich in gold and hydrocarbons and also has the potential for fracking activity. In fact, the day before the meeting the Environmental Ministry gave the green light for the fracking method to begin in Colombia.7 Some 260,000 hectares within the territory are currently under application (pending approval) for hydrocarbon extraction projects and there are 16 applications for large-scale mining projects. The main problem is that the ZRC protects the land, but not the subsoil. In the ZRC’s Sustainable Development Plan (2012-2022), the small-scale mining and farming communities prioritised the protection of an area in the Serranía de San Lucas (a mountain range located between Antioquia and the South of Bolívar regions) known as the Yellow Line,8 to safeguard the virgin rain forest which covers more than 70,000 hectares. The initiative to protect this space from the devastating effects of the war began in the ACVC Working Groups for Dignified Life. This is an example of a development plan built by communities for the protection of the biodiversity in the moun-

tain range and the collective rights of its inhabitants, such as the right to water, food, a healthy environment and seeds. These projects were never seen as money-making ideas, but rather as guarantors of food sovereignty, in the context of an armed conflict that hit the farmers hard over many years in this area of the ​​ country. “We have best protected the different species by getting to know them”, says Ángela, a member of the ACVC and facilitator of this project, which has documented the flora and fauna. The organisation is working with the National Parks authority to find a legal model that can protect this area, however, there continue to be delays on the part of the Government to create a strategy for the Yellow Line to be formalised.9 The Environmental Ministry has also begun working on other projects with the ACVC to protect the environment. The new “Peace Forests” initiative is a policy developed by the small-scale farmers for conservation and coexistence. Ángela explains that they will look for 60 environmental guardians to implement this program “which I hope will include many women guardians”, she comments, with a nod to the women in the room. In addition, among many other activities, the ACVC organises agro-ecological camps and environmental recovery days between the San Lorenzo marsh and the Cimitarra River.

ACHIEVEMENTS AND COMMITMENTS The event closes with a moment of reflection and the reading of the commitments on all the issues, which were collected by the working groups the previous day. With regard to land and the environment, the commitments are as follows: to begin the struggle for the names of both women and men to appear on land titles and not just the men; demand a more agile process in land titling for women; demand that border villages that lie outside of any one municipality may participate in land-use planning schemes; request legal accompaniment for land titling; create women’s committees where there are none at present so that the women can discuss land issues in their area; exchange seeds; promote reforestation; promote meetings between 135

companies, State institutions and the community; promote agro-ecology; seek legal and institutional support for the ZRCs, wetlands and jungles. Last but by no means least, the women create the Magdalena Medio Women’s Coordination, so that they can work together with all the processes in the region on 4 points: education, human rights, agro-ecology and political participation. The event highlights the necessary and inevitable relationship that exists between the points of the Havana Peace Agreement. It clearly shows that in order to guarantee the rights of rural women, progress is needed on land issues, community security, political participation, the concerted and gradual substitution of illicit crops and the recognition of the rights of victims. Ángela Caicedo of the Office of the High Commissioner for Peace also adds another dimension: “The Agreement is a great roadmap for overcoming violence against women”. All the women present come to the front to receive a diploma as recognition, as a symbol of gratitude and to represent their fundamental participation: all the women stand up when the name of their village or municipality is mentioned, proud to be present and to be protagonists. These were two magical days, and I think many of the campesina women must have felt that their voices mattered, that they were as capable as men of identifying, clarifying and solving the problems in their community, and the enthusiasm they brought to one another acted as an empowering spark. “This day was long in coming”; commented one participant, excited after the success of the event.


Photo: Caldwell Manners/ECAP

Campesina women “conceive our body as a territory where care for the environment begins.�


Photo: Florian Zeidler The Campesino Reserve Zone in the Valle del RĂ­o Cimitarra region covers 550 thousand hectares of land, 370 thousand of which are Forest Reserves.

Campesino Reserve Zones


The Campesino Reserve Zones (ZRC) are an example of resistance promoted by communities, and were legalised by Law 160 of 1994.10 The aim of these territories is to provide land for the small-scale farming population to develop their own economic models that promote food security and sustainable agriculture, challenging the economic model based on the extraction of natural resources and large-scale exploitation of the land through agro-industries. The National Land Agency (ANT) is the institution in charge of authorising the ZRCs, which, once installed, offer significant protection measures for the territory, including preventing land titles being granted for mining activities or private property. Between 70 and 80% of the food products found in large Colombian cities are produced by the small-scale farming economy,11 which demonstrates the importance of safeguarding the Colombian countryside and protecting small-scale production models. Currently, six ZRCs have been installed in the country, each with its own challenges and particular situations, given the variety of climates and the production culture of the communities located within these delimited areas. Although their objective is to develop a model of sustainable agriculture which promotes food sovereignty, most of the production in the ZRCs is still based on the logic of the global market that exerts pressure to produce large quantities of food for export and as a result, countries depend to a large extent on importing the food they need.13 Agricultural big business is at the centre of this system at every stage of this model, from the ownership of seeds to the production, distribution and consumption of food. That is why food production in the ZRCs

cannot be completely separated from the model adopted by the Colombian State, which means that most farmers continue to use fertilisers and respond to market dynamics in terms of the products they grow.14 ZRCs tend to be created in areas that have been particularly affected by the armed conflict, which often means that the people living in the ZRCs are victims. For example, 16 extrajudicial killings have been committed in the ZRC in the Cimitarra River Valley and the majority of the population is victim of forced displacement.15 Often, these lands are also affected by years of heavy fumigation in the attempt to eradicate coca crops.16 This has had a hugely detrimental impact on the land, which has led farmers to use fertilisers to produce crops that previously thrived on the once fertile land.17 It is also of concern to see the loss of native seeds and the increase in the use of transgenic seeds, sold by the same agro-industries that later sell the fertilisers to campesinos, necessary for the production of their crops.18 Nevertheless, despite the difficulties it is important to recognise that the ZRCs challenge the dominant food production model and with technical assistance and improved rural infrastructure, could prove to be an important tool for the territorial protection and food sovereignty representing a sustainable model. The creation of a ZRC requires the campesino movement to be organised and work together, in order to advocate for the importance of these areas, for the preservation of their traditional ways of life and the fulfilment of their right to self-determination. Because of this, the ZRCs are an example of territorial resistance that promote food sovereignty and sustainable rural development.



»» Contain the expansion of the agricultural frontier (that is, between land dedicated to agricultural production and that which is conserved in its natural state); »» Correct inequitable concentration of land ownership; »» Create conditions for the strengthening and sustainable development of the smallscale farming economy; »» Regulate the use and ownership of land, granting preferential distribution to low-income small-scale farmers; »» Establish a comprehensive model for sustainable development; »» Protect the campesino economy and its food security.


Photo: Caldwell Manners/ECAP

“The State must invest in the ZRCs because [the population within the area] deserves their rights to be recognised. Which rights? The right to life, the right to land, the right to housing, health and education, the right to freedom of expression and the right to access the market and investment as small-scale farmers�, says Oscar Duque, founding member of the ACVC.12


Photo: Bianca Bauer KarĂ­ Mariana Manceral GĂłmez was brought up with a strong belief in the importance of the fight for a better world.

Smiles that overcome challenges


Karí has a smile that lights up any room and infectious energy that captivates and warms even the coldest of Bogotá days. Her animated interior is matched with her bright pink hair and lipstick though which her personality shines. Karí grew up with a strong sense of the importance of fighting for a better, more just world, forming part of “El Tribú”, a group of seven families from her neighbouring communities who would meet during her childhood and share their ideas, ideologies and their conviction that societies can change for the better. The energy that Karí describes as coming from her parents who were teachers belonging to trade unions who experienced the horrors of war firsthand, has always motivated her to work in human rights, and specifically with rural communities. Karí´s eyes sparkle even more intensely as she describes the first time she visited the region of Northeast Antioquia, “it was like a scene from the discovery channel!”, she remembers describing the animals, the powerful river and the intense greenery. Yet she doesn´t romantise the countryside, Karí understands that the complex dynamics of the conflict have caused huge pain and suffering, and despite the paradisaical appearance, the scars of violence are everywhere, in the land as well as the faces and bodies of those who resist upon it. Karí works for Cahucopana, an organisation that as she explains “started by the people, for the people” as a response to the relentless violence perpetrated by the military and paramilitary forces in Northeast Antioquia, one of the richest parts of the country in terms of natural resources, most notably gold. Her eyes glisten and a pained expression crosses her face as she recounts a few of the countless stories she has heard of torture, selective murders, disappearances, economic blockades and forced displacement, all of which form part of the complex tapestry of the organisation of which she is hugely proud and feels privileged to be part of.

She talks of the sacrifice that so many have had to make, the leadership the region´s women have shown in moments of deep crisis, the strength of character the people have had to develop in order to confront armed actors in their territories and demand respect for their ways of life on their land. However, despite the hardship there is no sign of defeat in Karí´s words nor in her expressions. She is inspired by the stories of struggle and determined that things can only get better. Karí is a human rights defender who puts others first, humbles her own experience and seeks to shed light on the struggles of others. Her humility allows anyone to create a very human and natural bond with her, to trust her and to listen to her ideas intently as she explains the reality in the territories to urban audiences in Bogotá. She represents Cahucopana´s national advocacy platform from which the organisation has grown from regional appreciation to national recognition, as shown by the recent granting of collective reparation as a recognised collective victim of the armed conflict. Her work translates years of suffering, resistance and defiance to a language digestible for national authorities and the diplomatic corps. She is determined to channel the strong women she has met such as Doña Irene from the Acvc, or Doña Fanny, in order to draw national and international attention to the situation in this resource-rich and conflict-ridden part of the country. Her determination for better conditions for the social leaders she knows inspires her to continue her work in Cahucopana and keep dignifying their struggles. She knows that these people are vital to the true peace building, and despite the challenges and contextual uncertainty, she derives her strength from the territory she loves and respects and the people and stories that form part of her identity as an intelligent, determined and truly kindhearted human rights defender.


Photo: Delphine Taylor Photo: Florian Zeidler

Campesino Reserve Zones are an example of resistance promoted by the communities themselves. Photo taken in the SerranĂ­a de San Lucas region.

Photo: Caldwell Manners/ECAP

The aim of the Campesino Reserve Zones is to provide land so that the farming population can develop its own economic models.

The expansion of African Palm Oil cultivation is causing an enormous environmental impact.


Photo:Alejandro González

Footnotes 1. The Meeting of Women from the Campesino Reserve Zone took place in August 2017. 2. The Peace Agreement is the most advanced in the world in terms of gender, which is one of the issues lying at its heart. It contains 122 measures related to gender throughout its text. 3. Voces de Paz” is a citizen’s initiative registered with the National Electoral Council in December 2016 which will have a seat in the Colombian Congress to ensure the implementation of the Peace Agreement. 4. Prensa Rural: “La resistencia campesina en Colombia. La experiencia de la Asociación Campesina del Valle del Río Cimitarra”, 2 February 2005 5. PBI Colombia: Cahucopana 6. UNDP and UN Women: Mujeres rurales, gestoras de esperanza, 2011 7. El Espectador: Ministerio de Ambiente permite el fracking en Colombia, 24 August 2017 8. Prensa Rural: ¿Sabes qué es La Línea Amarilla?, 10 August 2017

9. Radio Macondo: A defender la zona de “Línea Amarilla al Sur de la Serranía de San Lucas”, 28 May 2017 10. Secretaría Senado: Ley 160 / 1994 11. PBI Colombia: El fortalecimiento de la economía campesina: una apuesta de la Zona de Reserva Campesina, 21 October 2015 12. CONAP: Ponencia en el Encuentro por la Paz: ACVC, una experiencia de organización, movilización y resistencia en el territorio, 15 August 2011 13. Jaskiran Chohan: Charla sobre Cumplimiento y Resistencia al Régimen Global de Alimentos en Colombia: Zonas de Reserva Campesina como propuestas para la soberanía alimentaria, 9 October 2017 14. Revista Claves 21: Colombia: desafíos de la soberanía alimentaria, 22 November 2016 15. PBI Colombia: Acvc 16. El Espectador: Fumigar con glifosato, un desastre social y ambiental, 12 April 2015 17. Op. Cit., Jaskiran Chohan 18. Grain, Las leyes de semillas aniquilan la soberanía y autonomía alimentaria de los pueblos, 14 July 2010


Photo: Beatriz Puerta Santos

The Jiw and Sikuani fight for their ancestral lands


he Jiw and Sikuani indigenous peoples are engaged in a lengthy battle for the return of ancestral lands where, in keeping with their culture and traditions, they wish to subsist by hunting and fishing. Historically a nomadic people, during periodic migrations they traversed the

department of Meta and part of Guaviare. The department of Meta, nestled between the Andean mountains and the Amazon rainforest, in a region of Colombia generally known as the “Llanos Orientales” (Eastern Plains), is largely comprised of savannah. Directly south, in an area covered by Amazon rainforest, is the department of Guaviare. In the mid-twentieth century, European colonisation of the region triggered the displacement of indigenous communities towards the southern areas of these departments. The civil war between the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party in the 1940s and 1950s, a period known as “La Violencia” (The Violence), and the subsequent internal armed conflict spanning more than half a century, forced indigenous peoples to flee to more remote and isolated jungle areas in a bid for survival. In the south of the department lies the municipality of Mapiripán, a region immersed in conflict following the respective incursions of the FARC guerrilla in the 148

1980s,1 and the Meta Bloc of the United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC) during the 1990s.2 Emblematic of the violence which took place during this period is the Mapiripán Massacre. Between the 15th and 20th July 1997 paramilitaries from across the country, together with members of the Colombian Armed Forces, tortured, dismembered and murdered at least 49 people (77 according to the Attorney General). In 2005 the Inter-American Court of Human Rights condemned the Colombia State for its responsibility in the collusion between members of the Colombian Army and paramilitary groups during the massacre.3 According to the Unified Registration System on Displaced Population 12,812 people were forced to flee Mapiripán between 1997 and 2007, abandoning almost 73,000 hectares of land. For this reason the government has prohibited the sale of land belonging to displaced persons.4 The return of peasant farmers and indigenous communities to their territory fol-

lowing the Mapiripán Massacre has been complicated by the presence, since 2008, of the multinational company, Poligrow, which specialises in the production of palm oil.5 Much of the ancestral land within the municipality of Mapiripán is now occupied by industrial palm oil plantations belonging to Poligrow. The multinational is currently under investigation for its role in the illegal appropriation of land and for causing environmental damage.6 The indigenous population has reduced dramatically in size: in 2000 it was registered that out of an initial 10,000 indigenous inhabitants of Mapiripán, only 800 remained.7 Today there are four indigenous reservations in Mapiripán; two belong to the Sikuani, and the remaining two to the Wanano and Jiw (also known as guayaberos). In 2009, the Constitutional Court, through Resolution 004, declared the Jiw and Sikuani peoples in danger of extinction due to the armed conflict.8 Although the Sikuani community’s reservation in Caño Ovejas (Mapiripán) has been legally recognised, the indigenous peoples, just like the Jiw, find themselves living in crowded conditions.9 The community has been petitioning for the restitution of approximately 62,000 hectares of land since 1989.10

Furthermore there are third parties occupying these ancestral lands, having settled there during the 1990s and 2000s. In 2014 a tribunal ordered the Land Restitution Unit to carry out a census of these third party occupants, while granting the indigenous community’s appeal for the restitution of its territorial rights. Both indigenous communities are demanding space to continue performing their rituals in addition to hunting, fishing and harvesting the land – all of which are fundamental to their physical and cultural subsistence.11 The Jiw community, which comprises approximately 600 people, has been living in cramped conditions in temporary accommodation since 2012. The land, which is close to the town centre of Mapiripán, does not satisfy the community’s basic needs with regards to health, education and access to clean water. Despite the Constitutional Court’s ruling (Resolution 173-2012), which orders the National Land Agency to coordinate the timely implementation of a comprehensive land restitution process for the community, no progress has been made to date and the indigenous people continue to live in undignified conditions. The communities fight for their cultural survival on land that once belonged to them.

Footnotes 1. Interior Ministry: Plan de salvaguardia del Pueblo Indígena Sikuani del Medio Río Guaviare, 2013, p. 82 2. Ivonne Rodríguez: Despojo, baldíos y conflicto armado en Puerto Gaitán y Mapiripán (Meta, Colombia) entre 1980 2010. estud. socio-juríd, January-June, p. 329 3. FIDH: Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos condena a Colombia por masacre de Mapiripán, 13 October 2005; Ivonne Rodríguez (2014) Despojo, baldíos y Conflicto armado en Puerto gaitán y Mapiripán (Meta, Colombia) entre1980 y 2010.estud. socio-juríd, Bogotá, 16(1): 315-342, January-June 2014, p. 328; Centre for Memory, Peace and Reconciliation: El horror de Mapiripán descuartizado y una explicación desconocida, 15 July 2015 4. CIJP: Los claro oscuros del grupo palmicultor Poligrow en Colombia, 2015, p. 15 5. Ibid., Los claro oscuros del grupo palmicultor Poligrow en

Colombia, p. 23 6. El Espectador: Contraloría pide que se investigue a Poligrow por acumulación de baldíos, 9 May 2017; El Espectador: Carlo Vigna Taglianti, director de la multinacional Poligrow, va a juicio, 6 May 2017 7. Gobernación del Meta: E.O.T Mapiripán, año: 2000, p. 294. 8. Constitutional Court: Auto 004/2009 9. Ibid. 10. Ibid. 11. Second Civil Court belong to Specialised Land Restitution Circuit in Villavicencio; Noticiero del Llano: Reconocerán servidumbres y 62 mil hectáreas para indígenas de Caño Ovejas, en Mapiripán, 10 October 2014; Juez admite la demanda de Restitución de los derechos territoriales de comunidad indígena Sikuani de Caño Ovejas, 9 October 2014




The forest guardians´ struggle

Photo: Pia Uรงar


gai Mutuoboro was born in Chuka, Kenya, in around 1939, “when the colonisers had already arrived”, that is to say, during the period of British colonisation. Ngai says that his community was stripped of its land by the colonisers. He believes that this was the main reason

for the subsequent rebellion of the Mau Mau in this area:1 “the whites took the community’s land, that is the reason for the struggle, the land they took was never returned”.2 During the rebellion, Ngai was a kind of secret agent who leaked information from the government to the movement, which was a very dangerous job, “when I was arrested I was beaten and tortured by the whites, they removed all my teeth. They sentenced me to death in 1953; it was thanks to God that I survived”.3 A group of officials interceded for him, moved by his youth, as at that time he was just a teenager. While the rebellion did not have the hoped-for success, Ngai Mutuoboro has continued to fight for their lands to this day, and is one of the founders of Atiriri Bururi ma Chuka4 which in English means Guardians of the Chuka Community Territory and is abbreviated to ABC Trust. The Trust is a grass-roots organisation, whose objective is to “safeguard the environmental rights and interests of the Chuka community”,5 and which has led a persistent struggle for their ancestral territories from 152

colonial times to the present day. The land reclaimed by the indigenous people of Chuka, is known to them as the forest of Magundu Ma Chuka, and is in part of what is now the Mount Kenya National Park and Forest Reserve. Magundu Ma Chuka has great spiritual and religious importance for the community. The mountain is the home of their spiritual beings and some trees are considered sacred. The community used to perform rites and celebrations in the forest in order to attract blessings to their lives. Ngai says that mugumo and muringa are trees with great spiritual meaning, and were used for medicinal purposes, “under the mugumo people used to pray to attract rain and fight hunger and evil spirits”.6 Since Mount Kenya was declared a protected area, the community has been prevented from performing its traditional rites, “it is the forest authority that issues access permits to the forest, so to enter you must pay, you have to pay money because it is a reserve, even if you are going in there to pray”.

saw their mission frustrated, since nineteen of them, most between 70-80 years of age, were arrested for illegally occupying the forest. As a result of this, they are now facing legal charges. Ngai says that the guardians of the Chuka territory will continue fighting as long as they live, but they fear that if things continue as they are, there will be no more forest. “We need help to work out how to continue fighting for the land”. The commitment of ABC Trust is truly inspiring, they are elderly people who, by listening to their ancestors, have continued to fight persistently for their lands, without expecting any benefit other than to return to inhabiting and protecting the forest. There is a nostalgic expression in Ngai’s eyes when he says that he might die without seeing the fruits of their struggle: “If they return the earth to us we could plant the trees again. Our trees are the ones that will bring rain again and save the forest”.8 They have been trying to recover the land for years now, but Ngai has not lost hope of living in his longed-for forest once more.

Photo: Delphine Taylor

The community is also concerned about the serious degradation that the forest has been subjected to: vegetation reduction and destruction, soil erosion, restriction of wildlife movement, illegal logging and the introduction of species that affect the ecosystem,7 are just some of the damages that have occurred in the forest according to ABC Trust. ABC Trust’s advocacy strategies have reached the government. In 2011, on behalf of ABC Trust, Ngai contacted Wendy Mutegi, a human rights lawyer and daughter of a community leader in Chuka, to ask for her advice on the case. Following Wendy’s legal advice, the community have filed a lawsuit before the courts to demand the protection of their ancestral territory, and the judicial body responded initially by ordering the removal of the licences granted to some logging companies. However, a few months later, the court revoked the order. Because of this, according to Ngai, four hundred members of the community, led by the elders, decided to peacefully occupy the forest to protect their sacred trees. The group of protesters



Guatemala The forgotten women

Photo: James RodrĂ­guez


and tenure in Guatemala, characterised by serious imbalances, inequalities and injustices, has been and continues to be a key and unresolved factor in the life and history of Guatemala. The struggle for land was one of the main triggers for the internal armed conflict, and the

1996 Peace Accords included among its main points the resolution of the land issue. However, it has never been possible to define an explicit policy that addresses the problem of the extreme concentration of property whilst recognising the social function of the land. After decades of agrarian policies promoted by successive governments access to land continues to evade many people, especially women and indigenous populations.9 Since the Spanish invasion, women have been the forgotten ones in this matter.10 The Peace Accords include the need to take into account and eradicate discrimination against women in access to land and credit loans, but in practice the equal distribution of land continues to be an unfulfilled objective of the Accords. And although there is a National Gender Policy in Guatemala, which claims to guarantee women’s access to land ownership, co-ownership, tenure, use and usufruct, inequality based on ethnicity and gender persists.11


THE ROLE OF REFUGEE WOMEN Refugee women played a key role during the internal armed conflict. The organisation Mama Maquín, which has dedicated its efforts to fighting for women’s rights to land and participation, is a clear example of this. It was founded in 1990 by Guatemalan women refugees in Mexico, who chose its name in memory of the q’eqchi’ leader Adelina Caal Maquín. This indigenous woman defender was murdered, along with many other people, in the Panzós massacre, while leading a march for the right to land. It was also refugee women who led one of the first discussions on women’s land ownership in Guatemala, they are therefore a central point of reference when discussing this issue.12 The role of women in sustaining the family economy, and therefore in family survival, is unquestionable. However, there are many obstacles that prevent them from participating actively in rural development and in the implementation of agrarian policies that directly affect their lives and those of their families.


THE LAND FUND, A STATE PROGRAMME WITH A GENDER FOCUS? In response to the commitments made in the Peace Accords on the agrarian issue, the Land Fund (Fontierras) was created in 1999. This state mechanism enables access to land through purchase and sale, providing credits for small-scale producers to purchase land. However, in practice the work carried out by Fontierras has been widely criticised by different agrarian and social organisations. They report poor quality and high prices for lands that small-scale farmers have had to buy; in fact it has been shown that many landowners took advantage of the opportunity to get rid of their worst farm lands by selling them at prices well above their value. The low quality of many of the lands and, above all, the lack of infrastructure and technical assistance, has prevented the farmers from developing the lands productively and has created a serious debt problem. In addition there has been a lack of action carried out in favour of populations in rural areas, which has led to high rates of malnutrition, especially among young girls and boys.13 Despite its clear failures, Fontierras appears to be the only state institution that guarantees and recognises women’s right

to co-ownership of land titles. Efforts have been made on gender issues, as reflected in the creation of the Special Land Leasing Program. Axel López, general manager of Fontierras, says that 58% of the beneficiaries of the Leasing Program are women.14 This percentage shows that women who have access to land in Guatemala can only achieve this by renting a plot, since the Leasing Program does not allow them to become the owners of the land.15 The requirements to access land are complicated, because as Axel López points out, the women are required to have family responsibilities in order to apply and women who are single or without children, and those who have a profession, are not allowed to apply. The United Nations Development Program estimates that in Guatemala 80% of indigenous women have a close relationship with the land and with agricultural activity in general. According to the same source, 23.6% of the total farm land is in the hands of indigenous people, around 6.5% corresponds to farms headed by women and almost 70% corresponds to households headed by non-indigenous men. The amount of farm land in indigenous hands is less than half of the percentage of the indigenous population, a result of the history of expropriation to which this sector has been subjected.16


SOCIO-CULTURAL OBSTACLES According to Ana Patricia Castillo Huertas, indigenous peoples have maintained a different relationship with the land, not only in a philosophical but also in a material sense. The earth, and more broadly, territory, is understood as the basis for community reproduction, where community roots, life, work, health, wisdom and culture reside.17 Rural and indigenous women have a very close and special relationship with the land. The women interviewed highlight patriarchy as a major obstacle in women’s access to land. According to María Corina Ramírez18 the difficulty is that patriarchal attitudes are rife and men regularly say things like “she is a woman and does not belong to the earth”. They see women as objects to be used for sex, to do domestic work, to have children and do not give them the value that they truly deserve. Telma Iris Pérez Oloroso affirms that in many communities women are afraid and ashamed to claim their rights. A woman, because she is a woman, belongs to the home, to domestic work, she has to wash dishes and she is never given opportunities for participation and education. Despite this situation there is still room for optimism and hope. There are a number of examples of this. Axel López mentions the collaboration between Fontierras and some fifty women’s organisations from the Weaving Strength for Good Living National Association, which aims to include women’s perspectives in the development of programs to facilitate their access to land. In addition, within some small-scale farming organisations, women are beginning to receive training with interesting results, such as those described by Telma Iris Pérez Oloroso: women may not own land, but they continue to fight together, some have recovered their land and are working on their plots to diversify crops, to feed themselves, to feed their family and their community.


Photo: James RodrĂ­guez

Villagers from the RĂ­o Polochic 2 community tend their community rice fields. In 2011, 629 families from 14 communities were violently evicted in the Polochic River Valley due to land conflicts. In 2016, 67 of the evicted families managed to acquire and legalise a plot in Panzos, Alta Verapaz. Today they have developed a community project to produce rice, rubber, corn, cattle and chickens.


Photo: Francesca Volpi Two women weigh flour.


Land of corn and hydro-electric dams



Martín Gómez is a small, slim man. He walks with confidence and you can see that he has planted corn and grain all his life. He lives in the middle of green mountains in Santa Elena, southern Honduras. Martín is part of the MILPAH indigenous movement, created in 2010 to defend land and the Lenca indigenous community, a predominant indigenous people in Honduras. A year after the organisation was founded, the Honduran government approved a concession for the construction of the Los Encinos S.A. hydroelectric dam in Santa Elena on the Chinacla river. For Martin and his community, this river is significant, since it supplies water to nearby communities. “This resource is for our whole people, we go there to bathe, to fish, to have fun, to get to know the river”, Martin insists in a soft voice and with a shy smile. Santa Elena is an emblematic example of the reality that exists in Honduras, where extractive projects have been granted to private companies without respecting the right to free, prior and informed consultation with indigenous peoples and small-scale farmers. This usually leads to confrontation, and has even led to the assassination of land defenders, such as the

activist Berta Cáceres in 2016. She lost her life because she opposed the construction of a hydroelectric dam. Honduras has become the most dangerous per capita country in the last decade, with 127 assassinations of land defenders since 2007. According to Global Witness, the hydroelectric industry has been closely linked to the murders in many cases.19 Martín has also received threats. One of his horses was killed with a machete alongside two of his cows and two dogs. This has meant an important economic loss for his family, humble people with few resources. Even worse, they have left Martin uneasy and fearful for his life. “Psychologically speaking it makes me worried”, he confesses. In 2016 more than a thousand inhabitants of Santa Elena went to the polls in an autonomous consultation process and 80% voted “no” to the installation of a hydroelectric plant in indigenous territory.20 According to Global Witness, widespread corruption, lack of consultation with communities and total failure of the government to protect activists are the triggers for attacks.


Photo: PBI México The peoples who inhabit the region have identified mining extraction as one of the main threats to their land.


The struggle of the Me’Phaa against mining 162

An indigenous community from the region of La Montaña (state of Guerrero) have been waging a legal battle since 2011 to prevent their lands from being conceeded to mining companies. The indigenous Me’phaa community lives in San Miguel del Progreso, or Júba Wajiín in their indigenous language. In the last seven years, they have obtained two legal protection mechanisms that have rendered a mining project practically null and void.21 “It is an open cast mine, that is to say, they are going to devastate the community and several other communities”, says Valerio Amado Solano, president of the San Miguel del Progreso communal property commission.22 Valerio has seen the effects of mining in other places: “we saw how the mountains were falling apart; the problems that the communities face right now, organised crime, many people are leaving their lands; so we already have evidence of what could happen to us”.23

The state of Guerrero is of interest to the mining sector due to its 42 deposits, and 38 concessions granted by the Mexican government for exploration and mining activities, however, the rights of the indigenous peoples to territory, consultation and consent have not been observed.24 According to the latest report from the Tlachinollan Mountain Human Rights Centre, the communities that inhabit the region have identified mining extraction as one of the main threats to their territory, which is why they have developed a series of strategies in order to continue their resistance and struggle.25 For the Me`Phaa people, the mining concessions granted by the Mexican State in La Montaña de Guerrero represent the imposition of a policy that undermines their way of life which is rooted in their ancestral worldview, where nature is understood as something sacred, something which is cared for and defended.

Footnotes 1. PBI Kenya: Interview with Ngai Mutuoboro, Founder and member of the Atiriri Bururi Ma Chuka committee, 7 September 2017 2. Ibid., Interview with Ngai Mutuoboro 3. Ibid. 4. Ibid. 5. Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (Knchr): Letter from Patricia Nyaundi, Comission Secretary, to Kenya Forest Service Director, Reference: KNCHR/CID/PETGEN/vol. XI/2015, 8 December 2015 6. Op. cit., Interview with Ngai Mutuoboro 7. The High Court of Kenya T Meru: Petition No.9 of 2014, Point 14 8. Op. cit., Interview with Ngai Mutuoboro 9. Recmuric: Tierra para nosotras. Propuestas políticas de las mujeres rurales centroamericanas para el acceso a la tierra. Guatemala, El Salvador y Nicaragua, 2015 10. Interview with Telma Iris Pérez Oloroso, 5 May 2016 11. Política Nacional de Promoción y Desarrollo Integral de las Mujeres y Plan de Equidad de Oportunidades 2002-2023, p. 31, Guatemala, 2009. 12. Fian Internacional: Mujeres toman el poder de la tierra: Acceso a la tierra como una estrategia de empoderamiento de mujeres indígenas en Guatemala. Germany, 2007

13. Castillo, A.: Unicef: Guatemala ocupa el quinto lugar de desnutrición a nivel mundial, La Hora. Guatemala, 28 November 2014 14. Interview with Axel López, 26 May 2016 15. Op. Cit., Fian 16. UNDP: Informe Nacional de Desarrollo Humano 2002. Desarrollo Humano, Mujeres y Salud, Guatemala 17. Castillo Huertas, A.P.: Las mujeres y la tierra en Guatemala: entre el colonialismo y el mercado neoliberal. Editorial Serviprensa, Guatemala, 2015 18. Interview with María Corina Ramírez, 5 May 2016 19. Global Witness: Defenders of the Earth, 2017 20. Cehprodec: Sobre la Autoconsulta de los pueblos Lencas de La Paz, 13 July 2016 21. Proceso: El pueblo Júba Wajiín: la lucha contra el gobierno y las mineras, 4 August 2017 22. Interview with Valerio Amado Solano, August 2017 23. Desinformémonos: Carrizalillo, ejemplo de lo que viene con el nuevo impulso minero, 2014 24. Centro de Derechos Humanos de La Montaña Tlachinollan y Heinrich Böll Stiftung: Júba Wajín, Una batalla a cielo abierto en la Montaña de Guerrero por la defensa del territorio y la vida, 2016 25. Cdhm Tlachinollan: Guerrero: Mar de luchas, montaña de ilusiones, 2017



»» Implement the Peace Agreement signed between the Government of Colombia and the FARC in an agile, fast and efficient manner, especially in relation to Point 1, which corresponds to the issue of land, and Point 3.4, regarding prevention and protection for human rights defenders and social leaders. This includes the clarification of cases and guarantees for the nonrepetition of actions committed by neoparamilitary groups. Guarantee the full and efficient functioning of the National Commission for Security Guarantees, of the Special Investigation Unit of the Attorney General’s Office, of the Elite Corps of the Police and promote the creation of a new prevention and alert system for rapid response to the presence and actions of these groups. Likewise, it is important that the Community Defenders in the Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office maintain a permanent and continuous presence in rural areas. »» Strengthen the mechanisms for attention, protection and prevention so that they are effective, timely and adequate, including collective protection measures with a differential approach for land defenders, so that these measures are more efficient and can prevent the different aggressions that these defenders suffer which often end in assassination. This includes investigation and detailed analysis of the relationship between conflicts surrounding land restitution, socio-environmental conflicts, the presence of business actors, the convergence of economic interests and armed groups, and the growing vulnerability of rural communities. 164

»» Reduce the legal gaps that increase the risks for human rights defenders, as well as the weakness of environmental norms and laws regarding the protection of the rights of indigenous peoples, including their land rights and customary rights to territories and resources. Likewise, ensure that genuine processes of Prior Consultation are carried out (ILO 169) and that the national regulations for the protection of Afrodescendant communities are respected, as provided for in Law 70 of 1993. »» Implement a publicly-accountable process with respect to Law 1448 and its projection until the year 2021, and specifically guarantee the rights of victims in the adjudication process for vacant lots of land where mining titles are under application or have already been granted, as these titles increase subsequent conflicts and affect the rights of communities who are in the process of returning to their lands. »» Ensure that public officials, especially those from the judicial branch and from bodies responsible for land restitution, receive training on the differential risks faced by human rights defenders and land claimants, their specific needs (gender and ethnic-territorial focuses), the contexts in which they work and the obstacles to justice which affect them. »» Raise awareness of and support, through public information campaigns, the legitimacy and relevance of the work of land claimants and land rights defenders.


Photo: Bianca Bauer

Photo: Delphine Taylor

PBI COLOMBIA FUNDING AGENCIES Catalan Agency for Cooperation and Development I Basque Agency for Development Cooperation I Barcelona City Council I Pamplona City Council I Donostia City Council I Christian Aid (Irish Aid) I Christian Aid (Charity) I Individual and anonymous donations I European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights – Frontline Defenders I Ev. Ref. Kirche ST. Gallen – Tablat I Ferster Foundation I Government of Navarra I ICCO – Interchurch Organization for Development Cooperation I Church of Valdense and L’Otto I Oxfam Intermon I Mensen met een Missie I Ministry of Foreign Affairs Netherlands I Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development – Civil Peace Service I Norwegian Foreign Ministry COL-16/0017 I Bread for the World I PBI Germany I PBI Canada I PBI Catalonia I PBI Spain I PBI France I PBI Italy I PBI Norway I PBI Switzerland I Unifor The Union / Le sindicat



News magazine Land: culture and conflict #23 PBI Colombia I December 2017 Cover photo

Francesca Volpi: woman planting beans. Photo part of the exhibition “Vivir defendiendo derechos. 20 relatos gráficos por la defensa de los derechos humanos” shown in Madrid during 2017


Caldwell Manners I ECAP, Tom Laffay I CCAJAR, Adrian Johanson, Bianca Bauer, Florian Zeidler, Eduardo Acosta Ulloa, Alejandro González, Charlotte Kesl, Damien Fellous I Libre arbitre, Leonardo Villamizar, Julian Montoni, Beatriz Puerta Santos, Delphine Taylor and Pia Uçar Photographs by James Rodríguez and Francesca Volpi are part of the exhibition “Vivir defendiendo derechos. 20 relatos gráficos por la defensa de los derechos humanos” shown in Madrid during 2017

Research and writing

PBI Colombia Land: culture and conflict (Land: So much in the hands of so few I Colombian law I Land and peace I The dark history of stolen land I Land: accumulated and badly used I Defending the land: a dangerous activity I Transforming fragility to strength): Hannah Matthews The dignity of campesina women: Silvia Arjona Small acts of big resistance: Heidi Mitton Urabá, a contemporary history of violence and territory: Frederic Latour and Bianca Bauer I Hope: Like the winter sun in Norway: Bianca Bauer I Pedeguita y Mancilla: legal delays and threats: Nathalie Bienfait I Beautiful Mother Earth: Bianca Bauer I Cacarica once again at the heart of the conflict: Noelia Vizcarra and Bianca Bauer I For the love of the earth: Nathalie Bienfait I Planting cacao for life I Doña Brígida: Fifty years of resistance: Nathalie Bienfait and Bianca Bauer Starting over in La Europa: Bianca Bauer “I am also called Magdalena”: Clara Ortega Díaz-Aguado I Campesino Reserve Zones I Smiles that overcome challenges: Hannah Matthews The Jiw and Sikuani fight for their ancestral lands: Lara Pardo Fernández and Petra Langheinrich The forest guardians´ struggle: Delphine Taylor and Paulina Martínez Larraín (PBI Kenia) I The forgotten women: PBI Guatemala I Land of corn and hydroelectric dams: PBI Honduras I The struggle of the Me’Phaa against mining: PBI México Requests: Petra Langheinrich and Francesca Nugnes

Content revision

Petra Langheinrich, Francesca Nugnes, Hannah Matthews, Bianca Bauer


Joanne Hutchinson, Hannah Matthews, Isabel Negreira, Alice Garside

Layout and design

Bianca Bauer

Maps and infographics

Illustration: María Lessmes I Script: Bianca Bauer and Hannah Matthews




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© PBI Colombia All rights reserved Contact I

The opinions and views expressed do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Peace Brigades International or its funders.


Photo: Caldwell Manners/Ecap

Making space for peace in Colombia Peace Brigades International is a non-governmental organisation recognised by the United Nations, which has maintained a team of international observers/ accompaniers in Colombia on an ongoing basis since 1994. PBI’s mission is to protect the working environment of human rights defenders, who face repression due to their nonviolent human rights activities.

PBI Colombia BogotĂĄ, Colombia Tel. (+57) 1287 0403 168

PBI Colombia in Europe Tel. (+34) 647 748 680

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