We are the community of Tierra Grata. Former Guerilleros of the FARC-EP, who put down our weapons to help build peace in our country, who has suffered armed conflict for the last 60 years.
After signing the peace treaty with the government, we came down from the mountains and moved in to the community of Tierra Grata.
Reunited once again with our families and loved ones, the community grew.
We feel motivated to strengthen the place we live and the region that surrounds it, work for change in our country through democratic means, and show a model for solidarity and community building to be followed by the rest of the country, and we believe we can do this.
The only problem; we have no water.
And without water, there is no life, there is no growth and there is no building of anything.
We ask you to show solidarity with our project and help us raise enough funds, so we can implement a hose, directing water to our village from a mountain well, and start building together, for each other, for Colombia and Latin America.
Give a meter of hose, to the water of Tierra Grata!
To start telling about our community, situation and future, we have to start at the peace treaty. Signed between us (FARC-EP) and the Colombian Government on the 24 of November 2016, ending more than 54 years of armed conflict.
More than 7 years of negotiating led to an agreement that, among other things, was supposed to secure rights and reforms for the Colombian people, such as a rural reform, guaranties for political participation, a plan against drug production and trafficking, and a transitional system for justice and truth.
The peace treaty is also supposed to secure that the right people are held responsible for their crimes during this period. For the majority of us, who had little to no responsibility during the conflict, this means we received amnesty for our actions, as long as we signed a contract stating we would contribute to the trials and speak the truth about our experiences in the special peace tribunal (Jurisdicción Especial para la Paz). Most of our commanders are up for trial and will serve for the crimes they are convicted.
Spaces for reintegration
A different part of the peace treaty, is about us as ex-guerrillas, our disarmament and reintegration back into society. After a long game of tug-of-war, the negotiations ended on the solution of 28 Transitional Village Zones for Normalization (Zonas Veredales Transitorias de Normalización) all around the country, mostly in places where FARC-EP operated before.
In our case, this place turned out to be a spot called Tierra Grata in the Perijá Mountains in the Northeastern Colombia (in the state of César), where we gathered 150 ex guerrillas and started building a small village, that mostly looked like our good old FARC-EP military camps.
After some months the government provided us with building materials, so we could build the barracks you can see in the photos below. During these first eight months of building our small village, the disarming process was still in motion, and the place was filled with UN-observers, the perimeters where guarded by the army and none of us where allowed to leave, until there was certainty we had handed over all our weapons and belongings from conflict days.
The first of august 2017 that process ended and the name of the zones was changed into Territorial Places of Capacity building and Reintegration (Espacios Territoriales de Capacitación y Reintegración). After that, the doors where opened, the last guns were driven away, and we were free to do, as we felt best.
An uncertain future
Some comrades left to find jobs, to stay with family or to be alone, but a great part of us chose to stay here in Tierra Grata. Our community has grown from the 150 ex-guerrillas who came, to a population of 292 people, as many of our relatives have arrived and as 21 babies have been born. This community is our family now, we have established friendships with our neighbors and we see our future here.
For the government, for their part, it was never clear how long the Reintegration Spaces were supposed to exist. The spaces are all located on land leased by the government for the purpose.
The leasing contract have been prolonged several times, and the latest dues until august 2019. After that date, we have no idea what will happen.
Here in Tierra Grata we are very near at least, to a partial solution to the land problem, as we are planning to buy 25 ha of the land here in the village, where we are living. We will buy this land by our own means (with no help from the government) with the money that each of us have been able to save up and partly through a bank loan.
We are projecting several productive projects with support from international NGO’s and according to the peace treaty, the government have promised resources for a productive project for every one of us.
These projects have been met by a myriad of obstacles and reasons for delay, but here in Tierra Grata our main problem is the water scarcity. We are motivated to work, to cultivate and to create development in this community, but without water, we are stuck.
The main obstacle for us here in Tierra Grata to carry out our life project is the water scarcity!
So far, trucks have delivered water to the village on a daily basis, but this situation is unsustainable as well as insufficient.
The water does not cover our basic needs. It is merely enough to drink, cook, bath ourselves and do cleaning. Even though we all do our best to save water and even though the water is turned off several hours a day, often there is no water left in the afternoon.
So you can imagine that there is by no means water enough for our productive projects. In this region, cultivation requires irrigation, so practically, we cannot cultivate anything. Animals require water and if we want to improve our houses, mixing cement for example requires water.
When the contract for the Reintegration Space ends in august 2019, the water delivery does as well. This delivery cost 830.000 Colombian pesos a day, corresponding to 234 euros, an amount that we are unable to pay.
So soon, it is not even an option to endure with the little water we actually have.
However, there might be a solution!
Technical studies have proven the viability of establishing a gravity driven aqueduct from a location called El Alto de la Virgen. This solution has a cost of 245 million Colombian pesos corresponding roughly to 68.700 euros, including everything from the water source to Tierra Grata, and can benefit neighboring communities. A minimum solution, that bring the water to Tierra Grata, requires 10 kilometers of hose and has the cost of 80 million Colombian pesos corresponding to 22.400 euros.
Simultaneously, we carry out a local and national campaign, where people can donate directly in cash or to our bank account. On our weekly meeting, we have decided that everyone of us living in Tierra Grata are obligated to donate, and furthermore we expect to raise funds from local government institutions, companies, NGO’s and national organizations who stand in solidarity with our situation.
We are convinced we can do it; that we can assure a sustainable solution to water in Tierra Grata, but we really need your help in doing so.
We thank you in advance for your help!
And remember, you can help us in many ways. If you can’t donate, you can share this campaign, talk to your local political party or workers union, and help raise awareness of this campaign and our situation.
Thank you very much!
[See top of page for link to donate to the campaign]