Colombia: Harvest & Hope Amidst Threats


Julia Martinez and her brother with Zoraida Castillo LWR country director and LWR partner Rosario Montoya of the organization Infancia Feliz. At Finca Alemanis.

by
May 4, 2011

Annalise and other LWR staff members are visiting the family of Rogelio Martinez, a Colombian farmer who was slain by paramilitaries in 2010.

At Finca Alemania, LWR staff was received with plates of freshly harvested yucca and delicious Colombian cheese. The community saw abundance this year in their yucca, corn and rice crops—part of LWR’s food security projects at Finca Alemania. It also saw a growth in leadership and courage.

“Our first reaction was to leave this farm and never come back,” said Rogelio’s brother in law, after Rogelio’s murder last year. “But since you [LWR and LWR’s partner Infancia Feliz] called us together for meetings,” his neighbor added, “accompanied us and proposed new ideas, we got more enthusiastic.”

The farm, which is organized as a small business, quickly elected a new board chair and prepared to move forward with farming projects and investments. Three days later, the board members received death threats. “They want to see us defeated,” said one Alemania Farmer, “but we just had one of our best harvests since returning!”

Zoraida Castillo enjoying a lunch of yucca and fresh cheese at Finca Alemania.

Farmers at Finca Alemania are under serious threat by people who want their land and are using violence to get it. In response to Rogelio’s murder, small groups of Colombian troops monitor portions of the farm as a protection measure. It is not easy to remain on the farm under threats or without better infrastructure. The few homes — rebuilt by Colombia’s Social Action program for displaced people — lack electricity and are beginning to rot under heavy rains. The main road to Finca Alemania is nearly impossible to use after rains. Yet the community seems stronger than ever. In part, this is because the farmers are tenacious and courageous. It is also because they remain organized and have begun sharing leadership in the Rogelio’s absence. The shared ownership they express over their return process is critical.

When asked what else they need for their farming business to succeed, community members articulated a list of security measures the Colombian government can take to protect their land and lives. But they also emphasized continued support for farming and social projects by non-governmental organizations, such as LWR. They clearly tie their future security and success to immediate collaboration with LWR and similar organizations.

LWR continues working with Finca Alemania to increase food security and advocate for improved protection measures for farmers as well as resolution to land disputes. Our lunch was evidence of growing success on the first front, but the later will take more time and your support for advocacy on behalf of farmers struggling for their land in Colombia.

Find out more about how you can help advocate for the people of Colombia.

is Lutheran World Relief's Regional Communications Officer for Latin America.

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