HEKS in Kolumbien
Mirjam Wirz
Colombia

Rural development and peacebuilding

Colombia Country Programme

HEKS/EPER is active in the Los Santanderes region. The country programme concentrates on the Santanderes, Magdalena Medio and the Pacific regions. The thematic priorities are the development of rural communities, peace-building and conflict management, as well as enhanced protection for the local population. The programme aims to help create a more just and peaceful society and improve livelihoods in rural communities.

Context

Colombia has been gripped by armed conflict for over 50 years, a conflict that revolves essentially around the country’s natural resources. Further, the Colombian Government’s economic model relies on agro-industrial production and commodity exports. The armed conflict, coca cultivation, huge monocultures for biofuel production as well as mining projects are all jeopardizing the livelihoods of rural communities and leading to violent evictions of indigenous smallholder families.
Many of them find it almost impossible to grow enough food and earn an income. They are migrating to the cities in search of a better life.
Yet another problem is the destruction of ecosystems by forest clearance and the use of pesticides, which endanger public goods such as water, land, the biodiversity and forests. This situation is compounded by severe droughts and flooding, which are being triggered by climate change.
Some smallholder families, women and young people have organized themselves in order to protect their resources. Their local roots are strong and they want to remain where they are. But the civilian population gets drawn into the conflict owing to the heavy military presence in daily life and the demands of the armed fighters. The consequences are serious human rights violations such as violence, poverty, hunger, displacement, as well as the destruction of the social fabric and traditional values.
Yet in 2016, after more than 50 years of armed strife between government forces, guerrillas and paramilitaries, a peace agreement was signed between the Government and the FARC guerrillas. A peace agreement alone is no guarantee of lasting peace, however. The agreement must be implemented and outstanding matters settled. A system of transitional justice as well as long-term conflict transformation are needed at various levels, for example.

Objectives and priorities

HEKS/EPER has been working in Colombia since the 1980s and has extensive experience in supporting internally displaced people, setting up and consolidating grassroots organizations, as well as in promoting human rights and peace-building. Geographically, the country programme concentrates on the Santanderes region, the Magdalena Medio region as well as the Pacific region. The thematic priorities are the development of rural communities, peace-building and conflict management, as well as enhanced protection for the local population.

HEKS in Kolumbien
Mirjam Wirz

Activities

The programme aims to help create a more just and peaceful society and improve livelihoods in rural communities through the following measures:

  • Setting up and strengthening self-help organizations of internally displaced people, small farmers’ organizations, women’s organizations and youth organizations.
  • creation and strengthening of local and regional networks of social organizations.
  • promoting small-scale organic farming and income-generating projects for women.  
  • promoting access to land and resources as well as the rights of small farmers.  
  • promoting agro-ecological production and the biodiversity.
  • building up value chains and market access.
  • awareness-building and claiming the right to food, land and territory.
  • networking and lobbying around priority topics of the Country Programme such as land-grabbing, traditional seeds and the rights of small farmers.
  • supporting peace initiatives and contributing to the implementation of the peace agreement.
  • advocacy on behalf of people at local, regional, national and international levels

More information...

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