One Sunday afternoon a family invited me to plant peppers with them, the husband went first using a pole to create holes in the ground, while the daughter filled the holes with pepper seeds, and the mother covered them with dirt. A neighbor and I decided to help with this work and while I was planting I didn’t realize that in one of the pots there wasn’t pepper but rather a branch of a type of nettle and when the family saw what I had done they explained to me with a smile the difference between peppers and nettle. As I felt the stinging in my hand I thought, how could it be so obvious to them yet so difficult for me? That day we planted 2000 plants and I pray to God that all of mine were actually peppers.
Despite the important role that farmers play in our country, the national policies continue threatening the sustainability of the farming economy and Colombian social well-being:
a) Free trade:
We live in a context of openness towards free trade which floods our market with low cost products with which our farmers don’t have the capacity to compete. This reality has been seen strongly in the community of Pichilin with the arrival of corn from other countries, our own corn although of a better quality is not sold or the farmers prefer not to sell it because it brings a very low price, however despite this reality corn is still cultivated for family consumption and for the chickens. In this way, cultivating corn has turned into a small practice of resistance.
b) The lack of technological development in the rural areas:
Farming with hand tools, such as hoes, when machines that could increase the productive capacity exist, but that the community does not have; confronting the severe climate due to a lack of drainage systems; situations which make the harvest unstable; these are some of the situations that demonstrate that the rural sector has been abandoned and forgotten.
c) The continuing war:
While the government talks of a stable and lasting peace, in the countryside they live with the continuing threat of confrontation. How can you speak of the post-conflict in a society that still lives in conflict? How do you put in place a project of transitional justice? When the armed persons change their name but remain in the territory as is the case with the bacrim (criminal gangs), how can peace be constructed when there is no social justice?
One time I heard it said that we place higher value on the doctors who visit us perhaps once a month, and the lawyers whom we need only in concrete situations, but we undervalue the farmer who we need at least three times a day… As we are a country so rich and fruitful, I ask, “Why then is the farmer undervalued and obligated to leave his profession and why do we expose ourselves as a country to lose our sovereignty of food supply?”