Global Guidelines on Land Tenure Making Headway in Latin America
In terms of land ownership, two percent of farmers own 57 percent of the land, while 92 percent own just 22 percent.
As a result of the progress made, 80 percent of the aspects tackled in discussions in the country were incorporated in the 2014 national agrarian policy plan.
But the 2015 political crisis brought the process to a halt, although the FAO hopes to get things moving again.
In Colombia, meanwhile, land questions are at the heart of the armed conflict that has shaken the country for over half a century, and resolving this problem is essential to achieving peace, and to ensuring compliance with a preliminary agreement on justice and reparations reached Dec. 15 in the peace talks between the government and the FARC insurgents in Havana.
An estimated 6.6 million hectares – roughly 15 percent of Colombia’s farmland – were stolen or abandoned when the families were forcibly displaced since the early 1990s. Today, 77 percent of the land in the conflict-torn country of 48 million people is in the hands of 13 percent of owners, while just 3.6 percent own a full 30 percent of the land.
“In Colombia, land is a hot issue, and it is key to the peace agreement” expected to arise from the peace talks in the Cuban capital, Gómez said.
He added that the authorities “have passed a few laws to restore land to people who were forced off it, who number in the tens of thousands. But now we’re entering another phase, based on a project for cooperation with the European Union, as part of the peace process.”
On the road to implementation of the Guidelines, the FAO has discussed holding regional workshops and has stressed the need for local involvement.
Nury Martínez, a leader of FENSUAGRO, the largest agricultural workers union in Colombia, which has contributed to the process aimed at implementing the Guidelines, said some of the points included in the Guidelines “are very important to us as peasant farmers…and are tools of struggle.”
But to use a tool it is necessary to be familiar with it. With that aim, the Food Sovereignty Alliance drew up a popular manual on the Guidelines, “aimed at helping people understand them better and enabling peasant farmers and indigenous people to make them their own,” Martínez, who is also a regional leader of the international peasant movement Vía Campesina, told IPS from Bogotá.
In Chile, meanwhile, the FAO has worked in the southern region of La Araucanía, where the Mapuche indigenous people have long been fighting for their right to land.
In the Southern Cone country of 17.6 million people, forestry companies own 2.8 million hectares of land, with just two corporations owning 1.8 million hectares.
José Aylwin, co-director of the Citizen Observatory, a Chilean NGO, told IPS that in Chile, “there is no other case, except private conservation projects, of such heavy concentration of land in so few hands.”
He added that the context surrounding the conflict in southern Chile “is that of a people who lived and owned that land and the natural resources, and a state and private interests that came in later and stripped the Mapuche people of a large part of their territory.”
Despite the polarisation of groups in the area, the FAO managed to bring together 67 people, including Mapuche and business community leaders, in May 2015.
Aylwin said these talks demonstrated “the timeliness of the Guidelines” with respect to conflicts generated by the concentration of land in the hands of the forest industry.
“The conflicts in La Araucanía do no one any good; solutions are needed, and the Guidelines provide essential orientation,” he said.
Despite the difficulties, Gómez predicted that the Guidelines would increasingly be applied in the region. “So although we feel distressed that faster progress isn’t being made, we’ll have Guidelines for several decades.”
With additional reporting by Constanza Viera in Bogotá.
Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes
Pictures for this story
This story includes downloadable print-quality images — Copyright IPS, to be used exclusively with this story.
- A meeting to discuss the restoration of land in Colombia to rural victims of the half-century armed conflict – a situation that the voluntary guidelines on land tenure can help solve. Credit: Helda Martínez/IPS
- This Mapuche couple, Luis Aillapán and his wife Catalina Marileo, were tried and convicted under an anti-terrorism law for protesting the construction of a road across their land, which violated their land rights. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS
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