LA ESMERALDA, Colombia – In southern Colombia, disabled farmer Abraham Cuaran waits with renewed hope to harvest his pepper crop on a small farm called “El Regalo,” or “The Gift,” a patch of land from which he was displaced 16 years ago by guerrillas and paramilitaries.
His eyes light up when he talks about the land he works like any other farmer in the region despite missing his left arm, which he lost in an accident in his youth.
Cuaran is one of the many victims of Colombia’s longstanding armed conflict who is receiving aid from the Land Restitution program, established by the national government.
The program, created through legislation signed five years ago by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, returns land and other property to those who were displaced by the Andean nation’s different illegal armed groups.
“They don’t give me work because I have only one hand. That’s why I had to return to work on the land I bought (about 15 hectares), and here I am,” Cuaran told EFE.
The 67-year-old farmer said the Land Restitution Unit gave him 1,200 pepper plants to cultivate, an amount that has multiplied on his farm located in La Esmeralda, a town in the southwestern province of Putumayo near the border with Ecuador.
“I was offered pepper or cattle, but I’m too old to handle cattle. I can do better with pepper,” Cuaran said.
The farmer, who used to cultivate coca before being driven from his land, said his four children were his main motivation for continuing to work.
Their mother – and his partner – died in 2010.
When he and his family returned to La Esmeralda, he said “we found everything destroyed. The house was empty, the doors were open, the animals were gone and only two dogs turned up.”
Now, 16 years after that ordeal and 47 years after losing his left arm when it was crushed by a falling palm tree, Cuaran eagerly awaits the time to harvest not only pepper but also cacao, convinced that peace comes from God and having his own home.