HAVANA – Colombia’s government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, guerrilla group on Friday announced a pilot plan for the voluntary replacement of illicit crops with other agricultural products, an initiative that will be launched in a section of the northwestern province of Antioquia.
Government and rebel delegates to the peace talks said in a statement in Havana, the permanent venue for the negotiations, that the project would be implemented beginning July 10 in the hamlets of Orejon, Pueblo Nuevo, La Calera, La America, El Pescado, La Mina, Buena Vista, Altos De Chiri, Roblal and Palmichal.
A project was launched in that region a year ago to clear landmines and is to be expanded to the rest of the country.
The pilot will cover a 400-hectare (1.5-sq.-mile) area and benefit some 450 families, according to sources close to the peace process.
A group of supervisors made up of the government, the FARC and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime will accompany the initiative.
As part of the program, a project will be launched to develop productive projects and advise the targeted communities, which will play a key role in executing and verifying the crop-substitution plan.
“Peasants only need – as they have demanded and struggled for over decades – alternative socioeconomic development plans that allow them to leave behind the illegality they fell into due to poverty and abandonment,” the FARC’s lead negotiator in the peace talks, Ivan Marquez, said in a statement to the press.
The FARC’s No. 2 said “it was never just to pursue the weakest link in the chain, the impoverished peasant,” adding that until now “no government had attempted a concerted political solution to this problem with the communities.”
The Colombian government and the FARC have reached agreement on several key issues since launching the peace talks in late 2012, including land reform, political participation for former rebels, the elimination of illicit drug production and redress for the nearly 7 million victims of the strife.
The two sides only need to reach consensus on the final point on the agenda, the FARC’s disarmament and demobilization, to clear the way for the signing of a final deal.