Six years ago, the Colombian government and guerrillas signed peace accords to make an effort to end the conflict throughout the country. While in a lot of places the fighting stopped, it did not automatically guarantee peace. From former coca farmers to women in the community to ex-FARC combatants, the people of Guaviare are an example of peace as something that does not just happen when violence stops, but something they are working toward every day. Below are their stories.
Geotours, a tour group in Guaviare, takes tourists to hikes, lagoons, waterfalls and other tourist attractions on people’s land to build a better community in Guaviare. This business generates income for the community members in a sustainable, ethical way.
Alongside Geotours, the Foundation for Conservation and Development is an organization working with the community members to rebuild the Amazon. They teach farmers and families how to reconnect the forest, regrow and replant wildlife, work sustainably and appreciate the land they live on.
Many of the people in Guaviare expressed that during the conflict, everyone in Colombia was divided. The farmers grew coca individually, other families processed coca individually, and combatants were either in hiding or combat. So, it has been a difficult transition to working together and trusting each other on tourism projects, and they have come a long way.
The first farm belongs to a former coca farmer, who transitioned to tourism as a way of providing for his family by bringing tourists on a hike in the Amazon. He lives comfortably with his family now with the help of Geotours, after struggling to find another way to make a living besides selling coca.
After the peace accords were signed, he joined a government program that was supposed to compensate farmers for destroying all their coca crops, but after six years, he has still not received the full compensation he was promised.
The next farmer committed his life to conserving the Amazon after abusing the land for many years. He originally moved to the rural areas of Guaviare to grow coca and cattle farm to provide for his family.
He said he has learned to love his land, and he hopes to die on it. Now, he has a greenhouse where he grows trees to replant and reconnect the Amazon Forest, while he lives on the land with his family.
A family who lives on the edge of the Amazon Forest cooks dinner while their kids play outside of the kitchen. They have a beautiful waterfall in their backyard, and they just recently transitioned to tourism with Geotours and the foundation.
The farmers said that during the conflict, growing coca and processing cocaine was the only way they could survive. “No one was doing it to become wealthy; everyone was trying to survive,” they said.
In between two of the farms, a women’s collective is using Amazonian fruits to make ice cream and baked goods, a sustainable business for the Amazon Forest. The project is facilitated by the Foundation for Conservation and Development to not only conserve the Amazon, but also help employ the women of Guaviare.
The son of a campesino in Guaviare dreams of being a singer when he grows up, something that would not be possible without the transition to tourism and community building in Guaviare.
When the boy’s father was around his age, his family taught him how to process cocaine, but he decided he wanted a better life for his son. Now, they educate tourists on the dangers of cocaine consumption to reconcile with those they hurt during the conflict.
A trans rights organization gives sanctuary to trans sex workers, giving them a place to read and sleep. They have a bright, beautiful energy, despite continuing to struggle even after the peace accords were implemented.
This ex-FARC combatant was recruited by and joined the FARC when he was 12; he stayed in combat for 36 years. After the peace accords were signed, he became project manager for the ex-combatant community, and he lives with his partner and son in a green and yellow house.
The ex-combatant currently has ten projects underway, including a food processing plant, where the camp can work with farmers and other community members to sell food in the closest city, San Hose del Guaviare. This project would generate sustainable, ethical income for the farmers, ex-combatant community members and families in the rural areas of Guaviare.
Published in the Burr
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