After decades of armed conflict, FRB’s Colombia-Sincelejo program seeks to support human rights and peace building through training in sustainable agriculture, water management, organizational capacity building, and community transformation.The population suffered heavy personal losses during the nearly 50 years of conflict, as a result of the country-wide violence, displacement, corruption, and environmental degradation.
Colombia is now in the process of peace dialogues, and local program staff is committed to standing with the people in meetings between local governments and community leaders as they express their citizenship and speak out for their rights and for collective reparations.
Community members are encouraged to be proactive in finding solutions to their own problems, coming to their government and leaders with proposals and the ability to negotiate with them. Standing up for themselves encourages feelings of hope rather than hopelessness, in a time when all of Colombia is actively looking for solutions with the expectation that many will be found.
Some communities more than others have prioritized the sociopolitical work, but in all areas the productive agricultural training continues. The common goal is to build sustainable communities where families have enough to eat and sufficient income to realize their visions of healthy, productive lives. The idea is to build on the experience and interests of the individual farmers, since results improve when participants know how to do their work and are able to enjoy it as well. Buy-in like this gives participants the incentive, for example, to grow organic crops, save and recover those seeds, and cultivate native species, because these activities are part of their cultural identity.
According to a recent program report, “For all community organizations that have suffered the consequences of the armed conflict in Colombia, it’s a big challenge to overcome the problems and reconstruct the lives of families and communities. The work in Sincelejo is more than just a project, it’s an impulse towards life in community, a push to say things can be different and it’s necessary to continue working to realize our dreams.
Julio, a participant farmer, comments, ‘It’s gratifying to know that we’re not alone. Even though so much happened to us in our town, there is still hope to do things and to be better than we were before. I’m happy with our collective crop of yuca (a tuber). Before, no one gave a hand to help, but now we are a community united against the difficulties, thanks to the churches and organizations that stand alongside us.’”
Colombia-Sincelejo encompasses 7 communities, 397 households, and 1750 individuals.