The Colombian government orders its Institute for Rural Development, Incoder, to accelerate the return of stolen land to farmers, local media reported Monday
So far this year, Incoder has overseen the return of 313,000 hectares of land to those who had been previously forced to abandon their homes during Colombia’s conflict.
Despite the claimed successes of the first half of the year, Agriculture Minister Juan Camilo Restrepo Salazar said that Incoder “must accelerate the pace” of land restitution if Colombia is to meet its target of returning 500,000 hectares of land to its rightful owners before the end of the year.
Newspaper El Espectador published a number of other statistics demonstrating the recent success of the government’s land restitution project. These include the return of 984,000 hectares of land to displaced peasants between August 7, 2010 and May 10, 2011 and 109,197 hectares returned to indigenous communities during the same period. It was also announced last month that Incoder would be overseeing the return of approximately 420,000 acres of land to 3,650 Afro-Colombian families on the Caribbean coast.
Despite some successes, the land restitution process itself has in some cases been marred by violence. For example last March, 63,000 hectares were returned to Afro-Colombian communities in Choco, western Colombia, only to be raided and torched hours later by illegal armed groups. Several leaders of displaced farmers have been murdered.
In the face of such security threats, the government announced the establishment of a new security body, the Integrated Center of Intelligence for Land Restitution (CI2-RT) within the Ministry of Defence to help guarantee security for all parties involved in land restitution projects.
Land restitution is one of the schemes outlined by Colombia’s Victims Law, aimed at regulating compensation offered to individuals and communities affected by country’s conflict.