The Farc-Government agreement on agriculture: a win-win
By: Juanita León, Mon, 2013-05-27 02:32 Collaborator: Andrés Bermúdez Liévano
Translatedfor La SillaVacíabyMatilda Villarraga
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 the political participation of the FARC. Associated Press Photo
The first substantial agreement reached by the FARC and the Government on agricultural issues sends a hopeful sign for the future of this peace negotiation. Not only because it is the first to which both parties arrive throughout its history but because it gives a specific idea of the nature of this process: to identify significant social changes without affecting the established legal powers, which makes it more viable. Although the devil is in the details and up to now we don't know the minutiae of the agreements reached in the matter of agriculture between the FARC and the Government, according to what both parties explained, these are aimed at creating the tools to solve the structural problems of the backwardness of the countryside that 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 given the level of informality that rural property has. A study by Ana María Ibáñez, the Dean of Economics of the Universidad de los Andes 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 in the land of small farmers is 48 percent," said Ibáñez to La SillaVacía. "Of each two small-scale farmers, only one has formal rights over their land." This informality makes it impossible to have a real land market and significant investments in the countryside. To put it simply, people just invest in a home when it’s their own, never when it leased. Withoutveracity of titles, there is no incentive to invest, andneither is there collateral to borrow money.
This situation of informality also facilitated the theft of land, another of the positions that this peace agreement would reverse. More than half - 55 percent – of the people dispossessed during the conflict had access to land before being displaced, according to Ibáñez’ studies. Most were small farmers whose plots were on average 13 hectares. Now, one of the major pitfalls for their return reposes on the high level of land informality. According to Ibáñez, only one in three displaced peasants have a formal title to their land. "If we can only manage the formalization of land, it would be already a great achievement," says Ibáñez. "This is fundamental for the land market to function". Precisely because this measure would allow the existence of a land market in Colombia, which moves forward, the great powers (at least the legal) will see this reform with good eyes and they would not oppose it. From the perspective of the FARC, the formalization of land attached to the labor formalization (where farmers are paid a minimum wage, have vacation, severance pay, health insurance) is a vindication the peasants have been doing for decades and it’s a first signal the guerrillas send that this negotiation will not be an agreement 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 have id, they do not exist. This formalization at all levels is one way of paying off a historical debt with them," explained Ricardo Téllez, spokesperson of the FARC, to La SillaVacía. It’s easier agreed, than done.
This map, prepared by the economist Ana Maria Ibáñez, shows the percentage on land informality. In orange and red appear the municipalities where at least 24 percent of the rural land is not formally titled. Photo map
The World Bank has provided the resources to make these land registries in other countries 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 true rural cadaster. It does not have an updated inventory with maps showing who owns each lot. Doing so will be one of the first stages of the implementation of this agreement. And that demarcation will generate multiple agrarian conflicts.
Then again beyond money, what is also needed a strong rural institutional framework, which we lack. The Instituto Geográfico Agustin Codazzi (IGAC) today is a disaster, according to those who know this institute. The Office of Registration and Public Instruments, the notaries and Incoder, three other key actors for this agreement to become a reality, were infiltrated for years precisely because by those who stole the land. And while in the past few years a debugging has been carried out, at the regional level, the paras still have their people in key locations and look for tricks to avoid that these lands go back to the farmers’ hands.
The head of the Government negotiating team, Humberto de la Calle, said that the agreement will allow radically transforming the state of the Colombian countryside.Photo
In order to resolve conflicts arising from this formalization of lands, the agreement between FARC and Government also provides for a new agrarian jurisdiction. Already the law of victims created judges for the restitution of the land, but this agreement would pass the solution of all conflicts that have arisen around the land issue - which are now in the hands of civilian judges – to judges specialized in agricultural issues. This agreement, which seems rather bureaucratic, if done right can have huge effects deactivating one of 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 never has never put a foot in these places, in practice one of the key social functions that the guerrillas has played is to be the de facto judge of conflicts between peasant farmers. And in many cases, these conflicts arise around the land issue: how far the land covers, the cows, which are crossing from one side to another; and obligations. The justice meted out by the FARC is arbitrary because it depends on the humor and 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 guerrillas end gaining some social legitimacy in their areas. If theagricultural judges work, it would shut down this route of entry of the illegal armed in rural life. But, again, to create this new jurisdiction constitutes a great challenge as it has become evident with the judges of land restitution.
The access to land
The third great agreement reached is to aim that "the greatest number of inhabitants from the countryside without land or with insufficient land, gain access to it, through the creation of a Land Fund for Peace." The creation of this Land Fund for Peace was a proposal made by the FARC since the beginning of the negotiations. As the daily newspaper El Tiempo explained, they proposed to nurture such a fund withunproductive or seized land for distribution between 'landless peasants and women, as a priority'. "They say, timely, that the fund would have 'lands from unproductive latifundia, idle or improperly exploited, uncultivated land, appropriated land through the use of violence and dispossession, and lands seized from drug trafficking', wrote the journalist from Havana. This proposal to create a Land Fund has been used in other countries and it’s a practical way to allocate and distribute land to peasants while avoiding the practical complications of land reform and taking land from those who already have more. Thus it was, for example, the colonization of the Wild West in the United States. As explained in Public Reason by the economist of Universidad Nacional,Yesid Castro Forero, "a substantial percentage of the large rural property in Colombia has no legitimate source and therefore has no constitutional protection". And they could go to this Fund: the land of the narcos and the paras, the idle and uncultivated illegally privatized through the judicial process of belonging and falsification of documents, and vacant land awarded in violation of the legal procedures. Castro Forero explains that the agrarian law also allows to extinguish administratively land not exploited economically, those that violate environmental standards that are dedicated to growing coca. In other words, if there is political will, there is much land which the State could lay hands on without having to touch a hectare of any landowner. This would close the gap of inequality that exists in the countryside and also promote their productivity. Because the concentration of land not only increases disparity, but also the efficiency of its use as a high percentage of large farms are not exploited adequately or are intended for extensive cattle raising. According to the calculations made by Ibanez, that minor use is equivalent to a loss of 3.5 percent in the agricultural sector contribution to the GDP annually.
The controversial points
With the conclusion of the agreement on land issues is the deadline of Juan CamiloRestrepo to stay at the forefront of the Ministry of Agriculture. The allocation of vacant land is done by Incoder, which directs Miriam Villegas. The formalization of land is in charge of the program for the formalization of the rural property of the ministry under the leadership of Gloria Barney. Photos
There are two points of the Agreement that could generate resistance on the part of the Establishment depending on how they have been written in the Agreement and through which the Farc could pursue sideways some of their positions against the economic model. "Thinking about the future generations of Colombians, the agreement delineates the agricultural frontier, protecting the areas of special environmental interest," said the joint statement. In conversation with Téllez, FARC spokesman said to La SillaVacía that this point sought to "close the agricultural frontier" and avoid further "deforestation, poisoning from the large-scale mining, logging of forests and wetlands, the occupation of the national parks". Does this mean in practice a limit to the conquest of the High Plains where investors and major 'bigwigs' have made huge investments? Does this argument curb infrastructure projects? Will it restrict mining in regions such as the fluvial star of the Inírida River? The other point of contention is that of the peasant reserves. "The peasant reserve zones are strengthened and recognized in their fundamental purpose of promoting the peasant economy, to contribute to food production and protection of areas of forest reserve." The peasant reserve zones had become a point of contention between the FARC and the government (the minister Juan CamiloRestrepo used to call them "small republics") although there are six for a decade ago, and there are six othersaspiring to be. As La Silla explained, the original idea of these areas of peasant reserve was to prevent that within these territories activities will be carried out that would harm
the peasant economy, as monocultures, the concentration of land or mining.But also to promote small scale rural economy, which a study of Fedesarrollo led by José Leibovich -an economist closer to orthodoxy - concluded it is more productive than the more extensive. However, as most of these areas coincide in the areas where the FARC are present, during Uribe's government were stigmatized as "nests of subversion". These areas have the advantage or limitation (depending on the perspective from where you look) that exclude these lands from the market and that somehow do not encourage productivity. In any case, the agreement was that they would not have the autonomy of indigenous territories, which was the largest point of resistance for the Establishment.
Far from law 001
At the Seventh National Conference of the FARC in 1982, the guerrilla -with its legalistic spirit and when they still had confidence that they could make the revolution by force - "issued" the law 001 of revolutionary land reform that allegedly sought to benefit all the peasants without land. Its second article read: "All properties or conceptions of foreign companies, oil, mining, banana, timber, etc.., are abolished from the enactment of this Act and pass under the control of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, Army (FARC-EP). Likewise are abolished all personal property of the landowners or those supported by corporations, limited, limited partnership or deed and pass under the control of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, People's Army (FARC-EP), who according to the Agrarian Program of The Guerrillas, will give in usufruct to the landless peasants, on the basis of economic units that the National Committee for Agrarian Reform point. If this "law" was the starting point of the guerrillas, the agreement reached by the Government with the FARC is historic because it avoids the idea of taking from some to give to others. And it’s because, in essence, everyone, -except those who have stolen the land- wins. It’s not a transaction between the parties; it seeks to create the conditions for the transformation of a real source of the armed conflict.
The agro-industrial entrepreneurs will benefit because - if some day implementing these agreements - finally there will be a true land market in Colombia, something vital to be competitive globally. Small farmers will begin to be treated as worthy Colombians because not only they will have access to basic services in education, health and infrastructure, but a legal wage and a title to their lands. And it would remove one of the big flags waved by the FARC to justify their insurgency. It will be seen if the points failed to agree will be strong enough to put an end to the bliss. 'We have made progress in the construction of a specific agreement with timely exceptions that must necessarily be revisited before the realization of a final agreement', said Ivan Marquez, in a statement read out to journalists gathered in the Palace of Conventions, venue for the talks and following the joint statement. A high official involved in the talks told the Associated Press that the last points of disagreement on land reform revolve around for example a rebel demand to limit the size of foreign property, among other things. "According to the official these outstanding issues will be reviewed while the parties discuss other subjects, that is not expected to be so contentious as this first point," reported the Associated Press, an aspect which the majority of Colombian media chose to ignore. Although the Farc are famous for never renouncing their central points and revive the discussion that the counterpart had already believed closed, Téllez told La Silla: "If it depended on us, we would already confiscate the land of the landowners. But the government cannot make us the revolution by decree. We are optimistic because there were some hopeful developments, some tools that allow a great popular mobilization, that the peasantry knows that it can hunt this retarding sector. They are advances to stop this conflict and to build peace".