The Colombian government and the FARC rebel group released a draft rural reform on Wednesday that showed the two warring parties have not yet agreed on the specifics of land redistribution or how to finance agricultural investments in the event of a peace deal.
At first glance, the integral rural reform accord recognizes many of the root problems of Colombia which revolve around land distribution but does not go into much detail as too its eventual implementation. The document is comprised of three main points, each with various sub-points.
The accords are product of close to two years of negotiating between the Colombian government and the country’s largest rebel group FARC, to put an end to one of the oldest internal armed conflicts in the world of which inequality in the countryside is one of the root causes.
Colombia’s peace deals in depth
The document outlines the government’s commitment to promote democratic, sustainable, and equitable rural development. In Colombia, 1% of the population owns around 50% of the land in the country.
Point 1: Access and use of land
The access to land in Colombia has been restricted due to slow bureaucracy and the fact that many rural inhabitants have no formal titles of the land they have been living on.
Being the first point of the accord is testament to how important the formalization of land titles and ownership is to achieving peace.
“For the deconcentration and promotion of more equitable land distribution, the national government will create a Land Fund for free distribution. The land fund will distribute (xxx) million hectares of land in a period of (xxx) years.,” reads the document. The negotiations so far failed to agree on how much land will be distributed and over how long.
The document states that the government should launch a “massive formalization plan” while “guaranteeing the gratuity” of the formalization process for small land owners. If the land owner is found to own less than a Family Agricultural Unit (UAF), then they can request more from the Land Fund that is to be created in the event of a peace deal. A UAF is a measurement made by the ministry of agriculture to determine how much land is needed for a rural family to support themselves in a certain region.
The government will also use incentives to get people to promote the access to land. According to the document, subsidies and credits to buy land will be available for people without land, or insufficient land, prioritizing women and internally displaced people.
Point 1.9 in the document is also very important because it addresses taxation in the rural regions of the country which have proven to be very controversial.
Point 2 and 3: Rural development
Rural development is preached loud and clear in the document. The document states that each region in the country should, have substantial debates of all sectors of society, to define their development priorities, whether they be irrigation, roads, services, infrastructure, etc.
Complement to the priorities of the region, the national government will promote the development of various sectors of the country.
- Road infrastructure: Communities will actively participate to ensure projects are completed, sustainable, and use labor and materials from the surrounding region as much as possible
- Irrigation: The document states that “to ensure the democratic and sustainable use of water, the national government will implement a National Plan of Irrigation.”
- Electricity and internet: “To ensure the a life with dignity and and better connectivity, the government will implement a National Plan of Rural Electrification and Connectivity.” The plan will strive to expand connection to the electric grid and rural access to the internet.
- Health services: There will be a improvement in health infrastructure and the more efficient use of technology, for example, Telemedicine. A gender based approach to the populations of women and children, focusing on prevention.
- Rural Education: Government commits to universal primary education, flexible education models that fit needs of the communities, and improvement of schools. Rural schools will incorporate a technical education on agriculture in a student’s final two years of high school. Increase rural population’s access to universities by providing credit to poorest populations and opening more spots for rural students.
Subsidies, credit, and commercialization
One of the biggest obstacles for Colombia’s small agricultural producer is the lack of infrastructure and the intermediaries that essentially take advantage of the farmers to bring their products to a market. Of the final price of a product, might get only 20%.
The document states the important and urgency in creating cooperatives and associations that allow farmers to band together and promote good practices and organic farming. These associations will be key in executing the development projects in the sectors of infrastructure, health, education, etc.
The accord between FARC and the government outlines a National Plan to provide technical assistance and support to cooperatives and associations.
Point 3.3.2.B is monumental in that the state will be committed to support native seeds and seed banks in rural areas. The document states that, “the national government must take whatever measures necessary to protect genetically native seeds and biodiversity as sovereign resources.”
Colombia’s government will also finance and construct warehouses that will improve the infrastructure for the national food system. These warehouses will be able to receive agricultural products and facilitate the transport of products to markets.
Many of the policies outlined in the document are focused on the small producer and the development of the local markets. This focus goes in like with UN suggestions to focus on small producers and sustainable organic agriculture. These measures will ensure food security in the rural regions of the country and allow for a more equitable development among farmers.
The document on rural development states in point 3.3.5 that Colombia should institute campaigns to end child labor and inform the rural population of their rights.
If the peace deal is agreed upon, the government will create mobile units of labor inspection to ensure that employees are complying with the law and not abusing their workers.
All projects relating to rural development will be done with labor from the region to contribute to the employment and development of its inhabitants.
The Integral Rural Reform accord reads as an incredible recognition of the roots of the Colombian armed conflict. Many recognize that the root of the conflict has been land. This is the reason Colombia has the second highest number of displaced people in the world behind Sudan.
Displacement was not an effect of war, but rather an objective of it. There are still many armed groups in Colombia that oppose land restitution and actively threaten and murder land right activists.
In a recent study by the Colombian NGO Forjando Futuros, so far only 500 legal decisions have been passed down out of over 66,000 requests from victims for land restitution. Colombian law and bureaucracy has been slow to restitute land to victims and the released document on the FARC and government rural reform accord is committing the state to take on more responsibilities when they can hardly handle the amount they have right now.
The big elephant in the room is the financing of all of the ambitious projects the document outlines. The proposed rural reforms in the peace deal will prove to be quite expensive. However, the last note in the document clearly states that, “the government has to fully commit to financing all of the compromises reached in this accord, which will be discussed at the sixth point of the agenda.” It remains to be seen how the financing of the rural development plans will play out.
- Draft Rural Reform (Negotiation Table )
- 500 sentencias de restitución son el resultado de las 66 mil solicitudes de las víctimas (Canal Capital)