There are signs that the Santos government and the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC) are coming to an agreement regarding the agrarian question in Colombia. Based on the information known about the present agreement, if implemented, this would realize the century-long goal of transforming the land tenure system. What is filtering from the peace talks in Havana is that in addition to 250,000 landless peasants, hundreds of thousands more will benefit from the accord in terms of land ownership, expansion of services, and, more importantly, the establishment of a Land Bank. The latter will function as a deposit for all the lands that were illegally obtained by cattle ranchers, landowners involved in the drug trade ( what I coined as narcobourgeoisie), and private companies to then be distributed or restituted to the original owners or the poor peasants.
There are no accurate figures of the scope of land-area that could be affected by the accords, but it can reach a rough estimate of three to six million hectares, which is most likely a bit more of what the agricultural land occupies today—about 4.9 million hectares. Another critical component of the anticipated agreement between FARC and the state is the Peasant Reserves, which I have discussed in a previous blog. The FARC’s demand of the expansion of the Peasant Reserves from a 811,000 to 9.4 million hectares to be legally protected against the encroachments of different incarnations of capital (mining, speculative, bio-fuels, cattle ranching, etc.). The objective is expansion of agricultural production with a land tenure system based on small land properties that do not exceed two units of family-based production. A single-family agricultural unit ranges between three hectares and eight hectares depending on land potential productivity. Consequently, consolidating the small peasant economy, which is the cornerstone of food production and security. Keep in mind that Peasant Reserves were created by Law 160 of 1994. What is in the balance is nothing short than the future of Colombia and its durable peace with social justice and food security.
Today Sunday May 26 the negotiators of the Colombian government and the FARC announced a historic accord on the agrarian problem, the first and may be most complicated item of the six points agenda. See http://www.eltiempo.com/politica/gobierno-y-farc-logran-primer-acuerdo-d...
Nazih Richani is the Director of Latin American studies at Kean University. He blogs at nacla.org/blog/cuadernos-colombianos.