Hundreds of farmers and their supporters from human rights groups and non-governmental organizations gathered in celebratory witness as the Colombian Institute for Rural Development legally recognized the Cimitarra Valley as a Campesino Reserve Zone (ZRC) on 16 February.
The revival of ZRCs under Colombia’s current President Santos is good news for many communities in the Magdalena Medio region where CPT is based. Created in 1996 as a way to prevent concentration of land ownership and agricultural oligarchy, but ignored by the previous Uribe administration, the ZRCs commit the government to support development projects for small producers. Reviving the farming sector and preserving ownership of small rural properties will help stabilize communities and strengthen their economies, thus undercutting the causes of social conflict affecting the Colombian countryside.
For years, CPT has partnered with the Association of Campesinos of the Cimitarra Valley (ACVC) and accompanied many of the communities within the Cimitarra Valley ZRC which covers 184,000 hectares (455,000 acres) and benefits nearly 9,000 families.
ACVC director Miguel Cifuentes affirmed the importance of the government’s commitment to small farmers who, he said “have already established a development plan.”
In addition to reviving the ZRCs, President Santos has proposed restoring two million hectares (nearly 5 million acres) of land seized by illegal armed groups to their rightful owners. So far title transfers have been completed for about 220,000 hectares (more than 543,000 acres).