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2016-08_dc

30 D+C  e-Paper  August 2016 promotes dialogue between civil-society groups and state institutions. The goal is to cooperate on draft- ing sustainable peace strategies with locally-specific solutions. In line with Colombia’s national peace agenda and taking local specifics into account, the programme focuses on victims participation and repa- ration, citizens’ security and peaceful coexistence. Because rural Colombia is quite diverse and the victims of the war are a most heterogeneous group, there is often a lack of reliable information, which in turn makes it difficult to draft well-targeted strategies. Responding to this challenge, the scholars analysed the regional economy and assessed the victims’ situ- ation. The area under investigation comprises Marque- talia, Norcasia, Pensilvania and Samaná, four munici- palities in the eastern part of the Caldas department. Armed conflict is largely a thing of the past in this rural areas, so it was possible to do research. Caldas is a coffee-producing region, and coffee continues to be among its most important agricul- tural products. Cocoa, avocados, plantains, sugar cane and natural rubber are also cultivated. In some places, extensive livestock farming and forestry play a role too. Beyond agriculture, there are very few sources of income. Colombia has lately been importing more food, and this trend is putting significant pressure on the domestic agriculture, which is acutely felt in Caldas. Farms are becoming less and less profitable because of poor infrastructure, high transport costs and the dependence on middlemen. In 2013, small farmers from across the country aired their grievances in one of the largest social protest movements that Colombia had seen in years. Civil-war victims living in Caldas are in a similarly precarious situation as rural Colombians in general. Unlike their neighbours, however, only few displaced people own enough cultivable land to regain a foot- hold as farmers. Moreover, it is common for victims to have become dependent on state aid, the indiscrimi- nate distribution of which has ultimately kept them from taking individual initiatives to improve their situation. It compounds problems that, lacking psychosocial support, many people are still struggling to cope with traumatic war experiences. The victims tend to with- draw from social live and hardly participate in public affairs. Their mental suffering typically keeps them from developing an entrepreneurial spirit. What difference the farmers’ market makes The crucial question, therefore, is what will make all actors cooperate on solutions. Especially in rural areas, it is essential that agriculture and trade flourish at the local and regional levels. In view of this need, the municipal administration of Pensilvania has set up the “mercado libre campesino” in cooperation with local producer organisations and interest groups. This farmers’ market has become a space for the marketing of local goods in the town centre. For years, goods brought in from Bogotá domi- nated the local market, even though local produc- ers could have satisfied the local demand. Because Gregor Maaß works as a consultant and trainer with an emphasis on conflict transformation and peacebuilding. [email protected] Hope for millions of victims of Colombia’s civil war After a half-century of civil war, the guer- rilla organisation FARC and the Colombian government seem closer than ever to signing peace agreements. In over three years of talks, the two sides have dis- cussed key causes of the conflict. Not coincidentally, they focused on rural areas first. After all, rural poverty was what trig- gered the rebels’ armed insurrection dec- ades ago – and it continues to shape Colombia today. Apart from the Colombian military and the FARC, the rebel group ELN, paramilitary organisations and criminal groups are involved in the armed conflict. Large num- bers of people have died or been dis- placed. Rural areas are affected in particu- lar. As of June 2016, the National Victims Unit had registered 8 million affected people, approximately 6.8 million of whom are internally displaced persons (IDPs). Only Syria has more IDPs currently. In spite of the ongoing civil war, the gov- ernment has begun implementing a repa- ration policy in recent years. It is meant to restore the rights of victims and provide socio-economic stability. Colombia’s law concerning war victims has earned the country international recognition, but it has yet to be implemented. Last year, a critical report by the Comptroller General of the Republic of Colombia highlighted the worrisome situation of the war victims and drew attention to the widespread massive and systematic impoverishment that affects them. Symbolic reconciliation activity of victims of the violent conflict in Colombia. Pilz

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