10 families who had their lands taken from them in the middle of the conflict are trying to rebuild their lives on a property 15 minutes from the urban area of ​​Cali. They already have the land, but they lack clean water and help to make their productive projects sustainable.

Published October 28 – 2017

Original: https://colombiacheck.com/investigaciones/tierras-productivas-el-reto-para-las-victimas-restituidas-en-el-valle

When Miguel * arrived in October 2013 at the property given to him by the Land Restitution Unit, he remembers that «it was a peladero, where there was nothing.» He had mixed feelings: satisfaction at having the land again to live and work and longing for having to start from scratch.

He, his wife and their three children arrived together with nine more families from different corners of Valle del Cauca to a 14-hectare property in the El Hormiguero district, 11 kilometers from the urban area of ​​Cali. Miguel’s family was one of the first to settle in four years ago and the others came later. They are not only united by their past, but by the land they share and work today.

These 10 families have in common that a land judge recognized that they were dispossessed of their properties, but none were able to recover their original lands, since in some areas there were no security conditions to return and, in others, the property was in the area of Forest reserve. Then they were given in compensation a property that was in extinction of domain.

According to Sandra Paola Niño, director of the Land Restitution Unit (URT) of Valle del Cauca and the Eje Cafetero, the families chose their new property after the entity showed them different land options in Valle del Cauca with similar characteristics to those who lost.

In this case, the restitution judges ordered, among other things, that access to water be guaranteed to these families and the construction of houses. However, after almost 4 years after the first sentence was issued, no property has potable water service and only five families had the Agrarian Bank built houses with electricity service – although they do not have an urban curatorial registry to legalize housing. -. The other five families have built makeshift houses with their own resources or do not currently live on their properties.

Under this scenario, it has not been easy to make the lands productive and give them enough to live as they claim they did before they were victims. A story that repeats itself among families who are victims of dispossession and abandonment due to the armed conflict and is one of the main challenges of the Land Restitution Unit, an entity that is part of the transitional justice mechanisms created by Law 1448 of 2011 or victims’ law to guarantee families comprehensive reparation and not just restitution and formalization of the land.

But Miguel is clear that, although he has received offers, he is not going to sell his land: «our mentality must be to stay here and work on our productive projects.» He adds that it is the only thing that he can leave as an inheritance to his children.

According to figures from the URT, until July 31, 2017 in Valle del Cauca 450 families have been restored with about 8 thousand hectares. “There are still 90 pending requests in Cali and we hope to resolve them by the end of 2017 or earlier; mostly in rural areas, although there are also urban properties, «said Sandra Niño.

With land, but without water

Miguel does not forget the words of the URT lawyer when his property was handed over to him: «that land is yours, you will see if you let it lose.» For this reason, a few months after his two hectares were handed over to him, he did not hesitate to go live in a makeshift stable measuring 4 by 3 meters that he built on the property. Now he lives with his family in a simple gray construction of about 35 m2, built by the Agrarian Bank. They also started their productive projects to guarantee their food security, but also with the idea of ​​making a profit.

She spent almost a year and a half living in a field that flooded every time it rained, hoping to give her family a stable home again. During that time, he gradually refurbished the property and finally in June 2015, with the support of the Army’s Third Brigade, they adapted the land and cleaned the ditches, drains and the irrigation canal, to prevent it from being affected again by the winter wave.

As they do not have drinking water, they have had to make a well of just under 7 meters and with a small electric pump to extract the water they use for agricultural work and for cleaning. Water for personal consumption is supplied by Emcali every two days with four medium water tanks totaling 1,500 liters.

In the last post-ruling follow-up hearing on June 23, 2017, Judge Fander Lein Muñoz Cruz, of the First Civil Court of the Specialized Circuit in Land Restitution of Pereira, urged the Department of Housing and Habitat of the Government of Valle del Cauca to «submit monthly reports on the progress of the construction and installation of the multipurpose aqueduct», however, the contract, which was signed on March 29, 2017 and was supposed to last 6 months, in the present is temporarily suspended.

According to Guido Briceño Méndez, an engineer for the Department of Housing and Habitat of the department, the delays are due to the fact that last July the municipality recovered the certification in drinking water and sanitation granted by the Superintendency of Public Services and now the competence to carry out the work is from the Special Administrative Unit of Public Services of Cali, Uaespm.

The Manager of the Uaespm, Rubén Olarte Reyes, assures that he is awaiting a response from the URT, since part of the properties where the study for the aqueduct was carried out were handed over to a new compensated family, which prevents continuing with the work.

In search of sustainable productive projects

This new property is very different from the 13.7 hectare farm that Miguel had to abandon in 1999 due to threats from the Farc. He remembers with nostalgia and pride that in his previous farm, which was a cold climate, he planted blackberry, lulo, tree tomato and had cattle.

On this new farm, he has, on the other hand, six papaya plants and furthermore a shed for 15 laying and fattening hens; to the front an outdoor dining room and the wood stove; to the left, about 10 meters away, they built the garden where they have planted baby cherry tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, long onion, coriander and various kinds of chili peppers; On one side of the garden there are four camuros, a breed of sheep of African origin, and at the back of the house seven cattle are grazing. In addition, they produce organic compost and have a vermiculture project.

This was built thanks to the incentive of 40 minimum wages that the law orders to be delivered in three phases over two years to develop a productive project.

He acknowledges, however, that reaching that point has not been easy, «The processes in the field take time, we have to re-domesticate the land and we no longer have the same strength as before to sow.» He adds that after two years of starting their project, they are barely seeing occasional income from their work.

And that happens with the rest of the families, because according to what they say, the problem is that they have not yet managed to make them sustainable. The first obstacle is the commercialization of the products, since they do not have the means to pay for the transport. Although their premises are only 11 kilometers from the urban area of ​​Cali, to get the products they have to walk for 20 minutes on an uncovered road until they reach Avenida Cali – Jamundí, where they can board an inter-municipal bus that takes them. to the terminal or wait for the MIO feeder which can take between 20 and 40 minutes to pass.

To this is added that the land is prone to flooding every time it rains, because it has underground water reserves that feed the Cauca River. For the third consecutive year, in the month of May, the winter wave caused floods that damaged a large part of their crops.

The situation is worrying, since this is their only source of income and after the first two years of the restitution process, benefits of the law, such as exemption from payment of public services and property tax, are terminated. Miguel has had to pay for the electricity service, which costs them around 60 thousand pesos a month and the property tax last year, which reached him for more than a million and a half for being a category 7 sector. Tax that he has not yet been able to to pay.

«The restored victims receive technical advice from the URT for their productive projects and in fact we follow up even after two years that according to the terms the legal process is fulfilled, because we understand that they need it,» says the director of the URT of the Cauca’s Valley. He adds that courses have also been offered at SENA on project formulation and planning, associativity, home gardens, biosecurity and pruning fruit trees.

According to data from the URT, the families of this property have been given about 224 million pesos for nine productive projects of poultry, livestock, fruit trees and livestock. More than 5 billion pesos have been delivered to the department.

This was built thanks to the incentive of 40 minimum wages that the law orders to be delivered in three phases over two years to develop a productive project.

He acknowledges, however, that reaching that point has not been easy, «The processes in the field take time, we have to re-domesticate the land and we no longer have the same strength as before to sow.» He adds that after two years of starting their project, they are barely seeing occasional income from their work.

And that happens with the rest of the families, because according to what they say, the problem is that they have not yet managed to make them sustainable. The first obstacle is the commercialization of the products, since they do not have the means to pay for the transport. Although their premises are only 11 kilometers from the urban area of ​​Cali, to get the products they have to walk for 20 minutes on an uncovered road until they reach Avenida Cali – Jamundí, where they can board an inter-municipal bus that takes them. to the terminal or wait for the MIO feeder which can take between 20 and 40 minutes to pass.

To this is added that the land is prone to flooding every time it rains, because it has underground water reserves that feed the Cauca River. For the third consecutive year, in the month of May, the winter wave caused floods that damaged a large part of their crops.

The situation is worrying, since this is their only source of income and after the first two years of the restitution process, benefits of the law, such as exemption from payment of public services and property tax, are terminated. Miguel has had to pay for the electricity service, which costs them around 60 thousand pesos a month and the property tax last year, which reached him for more than a million and a half for being a category 7 sector. Tax that he has not yet been able to to pay.

«The restored victims receive technical advice from the URT for their productive projects and in fact we follow up even after two years that according to the terms the legal process is fulfilled, because we understand that they need it,» says the director of the URT of the Cauca’s Valley. He adds that courses have also been offered at SENA on project formulation and planning, associativity, home gardens, biosecurity and pruning fruit trees.

According to data from the URT, the families of this property have been given about 224 million pesos for nine productive projects of poultry, livestock, fruit trees and livestock. More than 5 billion pesos have been delivered to the department.

Valle del Cauca productive projects:

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Partnering is the way

In search of strengthening their productive projects, the restored farmers decided this year to unite and create the «Association for Organic Producers of Victims Compensated for Land Restitution», Asprovicort. With this, they have been able to participate in their first and for now only marketing space for their products called «Organic Market», an activity carried out by the Administrative Department of Environmental Management, Dagma, every 15 days in Plazoleta Jairo Varela.

Families get together every fortnight to bring to this space products such as eggs, canned chili peppers, garlic powder, cherry and baby cherry tomatoes, papaya, green papaya sweet, tomato, meat marinade, organic fertilizer and different products that can easily transport and store.

Through this space, which they consider an opportunity to socialize with the community, they have had contact with restaurants such as Platillos Voladores, located in the Granada neighborhood, which from time to time buy their products from them and also sometimes receive support from other organizations. such as the Municipal Agricultural Technical Assistance Unit, Umata, and the School of Police.

These families coincide in affirming that «associating is the way to be stronger as a community» and to continue strengthening their productive projects, because they know that it is the only way to guarantee their sustainability. They also hope in the near future to be able to offer the city «a space where any visitor can find a great variety of organic products», as a message of hope and reconciliation.

* The name is reserved at the request of the victim

Research carried out under the project «CdRLab Transitional Justice» of the Editorial Board organization, with the support of the AGEH and the DW. 

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