The presentation by the National Federation of Agricultural Workers (FENSUAGRO) focused on how small farmers and labourers have been forced off their land to make room for corporate farming. As part of the government’s plan to expand Colombia’s export production, 3.5 million rural residents have been displaced in the last 10 years.
“Our aim is land reform, and to do that we must get back the land taken by the paramilitaries,” said representatives of FENSUAGRO. “It is like rowing against the current always, but we will continue to row. One day we will change the direction of the current.”
Currently, about 10% of the agricultural land in Colombia is cultivated by campesinos who produce 40% of the agricultural output annually. Over 60% of the land is in the hands of large landowners, and they produce about 10% of the national output.
The FENSUAGRO is a member of the United Workers Central (the equivalent of the Canadian Labour Congress) and they have received support from the United Food and Commercial Workers in Canada and the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Union.
Barbara Moore (Local 3912, Part time Faculty at Dalhousie, St. Mary’s and Mount St. Vincent Universities) and Tracy Fall (Local 3324, Paramedic with Island EMS, Charlottetown), were part of the tour that brought CUPE, CUPW and PSAC together to visit Colombia.
The participants in the tour met with public sector counterparts working in Colombia’s post office, municipal services and health care. They also met human rights activists such those working in a women’s organization that is providing support to victims of the paramilitaries. Two other groups the tour included are being training in how to deal with the human rights abuses they have experienced at the hands of the paramilitaries.