Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos on Tuesday signed a landmark decree that would formalize the land ownership of 2.5 million Colombian farmers.
The new mandate will allow peasants to legalize properties that were bought land that lacked the adequate titles and thus never included in the country’s cadastre.
According to the authorities, about 36% of the files of real estate registration have records that were sold under false pretense.
Land ownership, or the lack thereof, has been one of the main causes of armed conflict and violence in Colombia’s countryside for decades.
The government agreed to formalize land titles in a peace deal that was signed with the country’s largest guerrilla group, the FARC, in 2016.
“This decree will contribute to improving the quality of life of rural inhabitants,” said Santos at a ceremony in Sogamoso, a rural community in the Boyaca province.
Farmers “will be able to access both property formalization programs led by the national government and judicial bodies to obtain their property title,” according to the president
Farmers will also be allowed to obtain credit, mortgage their property and pass on holdings to their children.
“This … is a fundamental part in the construction of peace. We need all these instruments to put more production in the field,’ according to the president.
“This formalization opens the doors for a better future for millions of peasants in Colombia,” Santos said.
Land that was acquired through the forced displacement of previous owners can not be formalized. Illegitimate owners of land parcels in indigenous or Afrocolombian territories, and nature reserves will also not be able to legalize property.
Informal land ownership has been a root cause for violence for centuries with more than half of Colombia’s peasants not having an official title to their farm.