A town of peace amid conflict in Colombia

Communities in Colombia are subject to one of the longest running conflicts in the world. Local actors are reported to be especially at risk.

World Disasters Report

World Disasters Report

Focus on local actors, the key to effective humanitarian action

By Sandra Ramírez, Colombian Red Cross

Communities in Colombia are subject to one of the longest running conflicts in the world. Local actors are reported to be especially at risk, as those with high-profile roles in the community – including social leaders, political activists, human rights campaigners and trade unionists—are likely to be targets of violence. 

Nevertheless, Colombian Red Cross volunteers have consistently provided humanitarian assistance to communities suffering because of the internal armed conflicts and other situations of violence.

In Santander de Quilichao, more than 600 families have more secure liveliehoods thanks to local initiatives in agronomy. Santander de Quilichao is a warm municipality which shines not only under the midday sun but also the joy of families finally able to subsist, bringing dignity and security amidst the protracted crisis. 

These families struggled day in and day out to find the means to survive. But Colombian Red Cross is turning the tide on entrenched poverity and displacement through projecta to support Trapiches Rurales del Cauca—rural mills, and Artisans.

The first project involves the cultivation of sugar cane which started in 2011 and is produced in the mountains. “Panela is not only a sweetener, it is also a food which provides vitamins and energy to the body during the day,” says Jose who runs Trapiches Rurales del Cauca administration . There are a total of 50 mills which help guarantee the livelihood of nearly 300 families in all of the region. Additionally many community members now occupy an important space in the Federation of Paneleros in Cauca.

Because Colombian Red Cross staff and volunteers are from the very communities they serve and have a unique understanding of the context and the obstacles caused by the conflicts and violence in Colombia, they are able to map and negotiate solutions specific to the needs of communities in Colombia.

Through its Municipal Unit in Santander de Quilichao, the Colombian Red Cross deploys health brigade to the different rural mills, where they provide basic health care, general medicine, odontology, optometry, nutrition, among other health services, for the workers and their families. Moreover they are provided with training in order to incorporate health standards to the manufacturing process, which are required to commercialize the product to other departments in the country.

The Artisan initiative from Colombian Red Cross benefits nearly 300 families. The programme allows artisans to share their crafts in a space in the town’s park, where they sell crafts carved from glass, purses, jewellery, accessories made with cane  and other materials available in the region. The majority of the families involved in the programme have been displaced due to armed conflict who have come from nearby departments in search of new opportunities and a better quality of life.

One artisan, Maria, was forced to leave her home because of the conflict. “I am displaced person from the department of Caqueta, I arrived with my family a couple of months ago and immediately got involved with the Colombian Red Cross. I have learned to produce some crafts  which I also sell in Cali. My profits bring a plate of food to my family every day,” she said.

Also available in: French, Spanish

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A town of peace amid conflict in Colombia