PUEBLO BELLO, Colombia – President Juan Manuel Santos said during a ceremony this weekend in an Indian community in northern Colombia that the nation must look to make peace with nature after reaching an agreement to silence the guns of the FARC rebel group.
The president made his remarks Saturday in Puerto Bello, a city in the northern province of Cesar.
“We have achieved the peace we wanted, but peace is built, what we achieved was to silence the rifles, the FARC is now in camps and will surrender its arms in the coming months, returning to civilian life,” Santos said.
The president said Colombia now must “act on another front, peace with nature, we have to embrace nature and reconcile with her.”
Santos turned over the title to 500 hectares (1,234 acres) of land to residents in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta for a forest protection program.
The project, which was developed by the Arhuaca people of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains, seeks to protect and restore threatened ecosystems.
The Arhuacos, a highland Colombian indigenous people, have been victims of forced displacement.
Many members of this Indian group have been forced in recent decades to flee their ancestral lands, located in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, forced out by the encroachment of farmers and loggers, as well as harassment by guerrillas, paramilitaries and growers of marijuana and coca, the raw material of cocaine.
The Sierra Nevada, a mountain range near the Caribbean Sea, sprawls over about 17,000 sq. kilometers (6,560 sq. miles) and spans three provinces.
The range is the source of 35 hydrographic basins and 650 micro-basins, making it a “water factory” that supplies 1.5 million people and a vast farming area on surrounding plains.
For centuries, the Arhuacos – instantly recognizable with their traditional white robes and tanned, weather-beaten faces – have been the sole guardians of the watersheds and forests of the Sierra Nevada, the world’s highest coastal mountain range.