CALDONO, Colombia – In Colombia’s Cauca province, the heart of the territory formerly controlled by the FARC guerrillas, a group of 120 ex-rebels and members of the Nasa indigenous community graduated from their agricultural training program as part of their reintegration into civil society.
The dozens of former members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) have finished their training at the Los Monos Training and Reincorporation Territorial Space (ETCR), in the village of Santa Rosa, some four hours’ travel from the closest city: Cali.
There, the training focuses on aquaculture, craftmaking and agriculture, including growing tomatoes and Hass avocadoes with an eye toward exporting the crops.
The coordinator for Cauca for the Reincorporation and Normalization Agency (ARM), Angela Medina, said she thinks that the key for the future of these projects is in getting the government institutions to work with them.
The French Embassy in Colombia, for instance, directly finances the training of ex-guerrillas with a subsidy of 250,000 euros ($282,000).
In remarks to EFE, the embassy’s political adviser, Pauline Younes Moreno, said that the agricultural training courses are the basis for achieving a “stable and durable” peace, but she added that it is too early to speak about exporting any crops.
In spite of that, one of the graduates specializing in growing Hass avocadoes – Delio Valencia – said that these initiatives hold “everybody’s future, as a collective and as a community.”
Many of the trainees are optimistic about the future, due to the help they are receiving to rejoin civil society after years in the bush, but Matilda Chocue – who joined the guerrillas as a teen – said that “The danger is at a peak for us. Before (the army) didn’t know where we were, but now they have us right here. They could kill us at any time.”
Valencia is also is somewhat pessimistic, saying that “there’s lack of security for us because they keep killing social leaders and people who were our comrades.”