Photo: EFE

With an illicit crop substitution program just beginning, the Colombian government and the FARC-EP are undertaking another joint campaign, following previous efforts to clear several territories of the country of landmines.

The initial aim is to eradicate some 50,000 hectares of coca and replace these with other crops during the first year of the program, the two sides confirmed.

The purpose of this plan is to contribute to solving the problem of illicit drug trafficking through a new approach, which prioritizes the voluntary participation of rural communities.

The project will be led by the presidency of the Republic, while the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army (FARC-EP) will be responsible for accompanying and directly promoting the initiative in those areas most affected.

In this way the executive branch, the guerrilla movement currently in the demobilization phase, and local residents, will take the first step toward the structural transformation of the countryside, an indispensable condition in the construction of a stable and lasting peace, as campaign coordinators explained.

According to the plans, farmers involved in this program will receive one million pesos a month, (equivalent to about 300 dollars), for a period of up to 12 months, for crop substitution and land preparation activities, or for public works, as well as a one-time sum of 1,800,000 pesos (more than 500 dollars), for the application of strategies aimed at self-sustainability and food security.

This initiative foresees the granting of financing for the implementation of so-called short-cycle and quick-income projects such as poultry farming, among others.

Starting in the second year, the Colombian government will invest up to 10 million pesos (about $3,300 per family), in productive initiatives, create a special line of credit and guarantee technical assistance, among other benefits, an official statement outlined.

Colombia is the world’s largest supplier of cocaine, as such progressively replacing the coca growing economy by providing legal sources of income to the rural population is one of the priorities contained in the peace agreement signed with the FARC-EP.

On November 24, 2016, President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC-EP leader Timoleón Jiménez, signed the peace accord with which they pledged to end the long confrontation between the two sides.

After its validation by Congress, the post-conflict period began, that is the implementation of all agreed points.

During a press conference, government and FARC-EP representatives discussed the challenges of this new stage, aimed at changing the landscape of the countryside nationwide.

The conference with Colombian journalists and correspondents of foreign agencies was presided by FARC-EP commander Pastor Alape, and Rafael Pardo, Post-Conflict minister.

There are already encouraging experiences in the country as farmers in the department of Putumayo stopped harvesting the coca leaf and began planting pepper, a spice in great demand in this South American nation.

The first measure developed jointly by the Colombian government and the FARC-EP was the removal of landmines from the village of El Orejón, Briceño municipality, in the department of Antioquia, a humanitarian mission that began before the end of the peace talks to aid the inhabitants of sites that had been severely affected by the conflict.