Lack of access to land by rural populations has been a cause and a consequence of Colombia's five-decade-old conflict – and will be a focus of today's FARC-Colombia peace talks in Cuba.
Maria la Baja, Colombia
The earth in this part of northern Colombia is dark, rich, and fertile. Spit out a seed of any type of fruit or vegetable, the peasants here say, and a plant will sprout wherever it lands.
Gabriel Pulido and his family have worked this land for generations, though they have never owned any of it. Mr. Pulido remembers when Maria la Baja, a municipality that lies on the edge of the Montes de Maria mountains, used to be considered the breadbasket of the region, providing corn, rice, plantains, yucca, and a tuber known as ñame to the cities.
But after decades of guerrilla and paramilitary violence, forced displacement, and land grabs, today thousands of peasants are landless, and much of the food production has been replaced with oil palm plantations. Often now it is cheaper to buy staple foods from distributors who bring them from elsewhere in the country.
The lack of access to land by the rural population has been both a cause and consequence of Colombia's five-decade-old conflict. And it will be the first point of discussion when negotiators from the government and leftist rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) sit down today in Havana, Cuba, to try to reach a deal to put an end to the war.
By tackling one of the country’s thorniest issues first, the FARC want to show they still have a political agenda after years of being labeled little more than narcoterrorists because of their involvement in the drug trade. The government, meanwhile, wants to show it is serious about finding lasting solutions to the conflict, analysts say.
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