The Art of Starting Over

Photo by: USAID Colombia Land and Rural Development

For women in Colombia, new land brings a new beginning

Originally published on Exposure.

OVER 3 MILLION WOMEN WERE DISPLACED DURING COLOMBIA’S ARMED CONFLICT.

Many abandoned their land under the threat of extreme violence, leaving their possessions, homes, and farms behind. Luz Esmeralda, a 52-year-old mother of two, was one of them.

Luz and her family enjoyed a peaceful, happy life on their farm, until conflict swept through their community. Luz clearly remembers the day armed soldiers appeared on her property.

“When the guerrillas came to our village, they told us to arm ourselves and join their ranks, or leave. They stole our cattle, machinery, everything. We were forced to leave our land. It was very very hard.”

STRENGTH IN NUMBERS

Luz and her family traveled from town to town, searching for a place to call home. Eventually they landed in Meta—a region of Colombia known for its rich pasture land. In town, Luz met other displaced women, many of whom were female farmers with agriculture skills that were not being put to use. Like Luz, they were desperate for work, shelter, and income.
Luz was determined to find a way to lift these women out of poverty, and refused to let war, displacement, and poverty be the storyline that defined their lives. She knew they had the collective skills they needed to start and grow a successful farming business. The women banned together under the leadership of Luz Esmeralda, and AgroEmpo—a farming association of 21 war widows—was born.

Read the full photo essay on Exposure.

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