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The FARC-Government Agreement on Agriculture

The FARC-Government Agreement on Agriculture

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Published by: lasillavacia on Jun 05, 2013
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08/03/2013

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The Farc-Government agreement on agriculture: a win-win
By: Juanita León, Mon, 2013-05-27 02:32Collaborator:Andrés Bermúdez Liévano
TranslatedforLa SillaVacíabyMatildaVillarraga
The FARC and the Colombian Government announced today in Havana, through a joint communiqué,that they reached an agreement on the first point of the negotiating agenda. The following will be thepolitical participation of the FARC. Associated Press Photo
The first substantial agreement reached by the FARC and the Government onagricultural issues sends a hopeful sign for the future of this peace negotiation. Notonly because it is the first to which both parties arrive throughout its history butbecause it gives a specific idea of the nature of this process: to identify significantsocial changes without affecting the established legal powers, which makes it moreviable.Although the devil is in the details and up to now we don't know the minutiae of theagreements reached in the matter of agriculture between the FARC and theGovernment, according to what both parties explained, these are aimed at creatingthe tools to solve the structural problems of the backwardness of the countrysidethat have fuelled the war.On the one hand, the State is committed to undertake "a vigorous program of formalization of land", perhaps the most revolutionary point of the agreement giventhe level of informality that rural property has.A study by Ana MaríaIbáñez, the Dean of Economics of the Universidad de losAndes and one of the major experts on land in Colombia, estimates that one-fifth of all rural properties in the country have problems of qualification. "The informality inthe land of small farmers is 48 percent," saidIbáñez to La SillaVacía. "Of each twosmall-scale farmers, only one has formal rights over their land."This informality makes it impossible to have a real land market and significantinvestments in the countryside. To put it simply, people just invest in a home whenit’s their own, never when it leased. Withoutveracity of titles, there is no incentiveto invest, andneither is there collateralto borrow money.
 
This situation of informality also facilitated the theft of land, another of thepositions that this peace agreement would reverse.More thanhalf -55 percent –of the people dispossessedduring the conflict hadaccess to land before being displaced, according to Ibáñez’ studies. Most were smallfarmers whose plots were on average13 hectares. Now, one of the major pitfallsfor their return reposes on the high level of land informality. According to Ibáñez,only one in three displaced peasants havea formal title to their land."If we can only manage the formalization of land, it would be already a greatachievement," says Ibáñez. "This is fundamental for the land market to function".Precisely because this measure would allow the existence of a land market inColombia, which moves forward, the great powers (at least the legal) will see thisreform with good eyes and they would not oppose it.From the perspective of the FARC, the formalization of land attached to the laborformalization (where farmers are paid a minimum wage, have vacation, severancepay, health insurance) is a vindication the peasants have been doing for decadesand it’s a first signal the guerrillas send that this negotiation will not be anagreement between two elites but that some of the ideals which inspired 'Tirofijo'more than 40 years ago will be finally appreciated by the peasants."It’s that there are six million Colombians on the countryside who do not even haveid, theydo not exist. This formalization at all levels is one way of paying off ahistorical debt with them," explained Ricardo Téllez, spokesperson of the FARC, toLa SillaVacía.It’s easieragreed, than done.
This map, prepared by the economist Ana Maria Ibáñez, shows the percentage on land informality. Inorange and red appear the municipalities where at least 24 percent of the rural land is not formallytitled. Photo map
The World Bank has provided the resources to make these land registries in othercountries and will surely do it also in Colombia. Fiscally feasible, says Ibáñez.Obviously, for this point to become reality will not be easy. The country lacks a truerural cadaster. It does not have an updated inventory with maps showing who ownseach lot. Doing so will be one of the first stages of the implementation of thisagreement. And that demarcation will generate multiple agrarian conflicts.
 
Then again beyond money, what is also needed a strong rural institutionalframework,which we lack. The Instituto Geográfico Agustin Codazzi (IGAC) today isa disaster, according tothose who know this institute. The Office of Registrationand Public Instruments, the notaries and Incoder, three other key actors for thisagreement to become a reality, wereinfiltrated for years precisely because bythose who stole the land. And while in the past few years a debugging has beencarried out, at the regional level,the paras still have their people in key locationsand look fortricksto avoid that these lands go back to thefarmers’ hands.
The head of the Government negotiating team, Humbertode la Calle, said that the agreement willallow radically transforming the state of the Colombian countryside.
Photo
In order to resolve conflicts arising from this formalization of lands, the agreementbetween FARC and Government also provides for a new agrarian jurisdiction.Already thelaw of victims createdjudges for the restitution of the land,but thisagreement would passthe solution of all conflicts that have arisen around the landissue-which are now in the hands of civilian judges –tojudges specialized inagricultural issues.This agreement, which seems rather bureaucratic, if done rightcan have hugeeffects deactivating oneof the main sources of power of the illegal armed groups,and in particular, of the guerrillas.As the Farc have threatened to the judges of many rural areas, and the State neverhas never put a foot in these places, in practice one of the key social functions thatthe guerrillas has playedis to be the de facto judge of conflicts between peasantfarmers. And in many cases, these conflicts arise around the land issue: how far theland covers, the cows, which are crossing from one side to another; andobligations.The justice meted out by the FARC is arbitrary because it depends on the humorand the dexterity of the guerrilla-judge and not on objective and foreseeable rules.But, it is always effective. In this way of dispensing justice, is that the guerrillasendgaining some social legitimacy in their areas.If theagricultural judgeswork, it would shut down this route of entry ofthe illegalarmedin rural life. But, again, to create this new jurisdiction constitutes a greatchallenge as it has become evident with the judges of land restitution.

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