LRDP Monthly Highlights: March 2016

The Land and Rural Development Program (LRDP) is a five-year task order funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) under the Strengthening Tenure and Resource Rights (STARR) Indefinite Quantity Contract. LRDP is intended to assist the government of Colombia to strengthen its institutional capacity to develop tools, systems, and skills that will enable it to fulfill its mandate to resolve land issues at the heart of Colombia’s decades-long internal conflict.


Community knowledge of women’s land rights strengthened through 12 radio dramas about formalization, restitution, and rural development written and performed by female victims of the armed conflict

Women in Colombia have been disproportionately affected by the armed conflict, and more than half of the estimated 6 million internally displaced people in Colombia are female—many of whom are now widows. To give voice to women and families who were forced to abandon their homes during the war, LRDP collaborated with 59 female survivors of conflict in Cauca, Cesar, Meta, Montes de Maria, and Tolima to write and produce 12 radio dramas that narrate stories on women’s access to land. The stories were written to increase awareness among rural communities about women’s right to land and to provide information about the ways government institutions can support them to claim this right. They also demystify the processes of land restitution and formalization for rural women by discussing the procedures for both in simple, easy to understand language.

The dramas use relevant stories, language, and scenarios familiar to local communities, ensuring that they are culturally appropriate and effective. They were developed in collaboration with local government institutions, including the Land Restitution Unit and the Secretariat of Women. They will air on community radio stations throughout the country over the course of 2016, and will also be disseminated through other community channels. Through USAID activities, 50% of the beneficiaries of land restitution and formalization will be women.


82 Afro-descendant families stand to benefit from collective restitution ruling

During Colombia’s conflict, thousands of indigenous and Afro-Colombian people were displaced from their land. This population was disproportionately affected by the conflict, and poverty rates among this landless group are some of the highest in Colombia. Before the war, the Eladio Ariza community, a group of Afro-descendants located on the western fringe of Montes de María, consisted of 200 families with rights to 1,600 hectares of land. Post-conflict, the community has been reduced to less than half of its original population and holds a fraction of its land. The Eladio Ariza community has been trying to use restitution to regain its territorial rights for many years, without success. The restitution claim process requires a high volume of detailed property information, and communities involved in these complex collective cases often do not have the tools or capacity to develop the robust case file needed to successfully win their case. To date, only 20 ethnic restitution claims have been submitted to judges in Colombia. Of these, only two have completed the process and received a ruling.

In 2014, LRDP began supporting Eladio Ariza to file a collective restitution claim—the first of its kind in the entire Caribbean Coast. Working with trusted experts, community leaders, and the Land Restitution Unit (LRU), USAID used GPS and social cartography to identify and document the community’s territorial boundaries. LRDP then gathered and compiled the information needed for the 82 families involved in the restitution claim and built LRU capacity to document and process this and other similar cases in the future, ensuring the protection of this vulnerable group.

In December 2015, after many years of waiting, the Eladio Ariza Community Council’s collective claim was successfully admitted by restitution judges—a groundbreaking advancement in the protection of their rights. Although the case has yet to be ruled on, its admission in court marks a promising step toward guaranteeing the land rights and economic future of the 82 families involved in this case.

Further Reading