The theme of land is a priority for the people of Nariño, and so their participation was massive in the National Congress of Lands, Territories and Sovereignties in the University of Valle, Cali, Colombia from September 30th to October 4th, where it was decided that Mother Earth belongs to those that take care of it, the territories are the villages and the sovereignty is the working class. More than six hundred people from peasant social, student, Afro-descendant, women and indigenous organizations in the Nariño district situated in the southwest of Colombia, participated in the Congress.
In Nariño, 57% of the population lives in poverty (compared to the national level of 46%), because only 20% of the proprietors have 67.7% of the land. Nariño is characterized by its rurality – 54% of the inhabitants live in rural zones (compared to 24% at a national level) – and by its agricultural activity, which makes up 39.5% of departmental GDP. It is subsistence agriculture, so more than 80% of the landowners have less than 5 hectares (about 12.4 acres), and from that 48.04% have less than one hectare (2.5 acres.) Various agricultural sectors, especially the small and medium producers, have been hit hard by the political state due to economic liberalization and privatization or elimination of supporting institutions. Because of this, without mentioning the armed conflict and forced displacement, many small farmers have lost their way of living and have had to migrate to the cities and other districts, some changing their economic activity to growing illegal crops.
Land possession is a major concern of the people of Nariño. Their land has been negatively by the armed groups, economic politics and the entrance of multinationals and monoculture projects and mining; also by the agribusiness change in vocation from the country by part of the neoliberal administrations towards the energy generation in order to alleviate the necessities of fuel that the capital requires. According to Sidley Ruano, form CIMA-CAN, “they want a country without peasants, but we are an emphatic opposition and that motivates us to take to the Congress of Lands in defense of our territory, our identity and the future of our children.”
Although a department of agricultural and livestock vocation, the National Plan of Desarrollo 2010-2014 “Towards only one Colombia; path to democratic prosperity,” expresses in the regional strategic planning of homogeneous areas that the new mining vocation is to achieve economic growth, generation of employment and poverty reduction, among other things. According to information from Ingeominas, there are currently 992 applications for licenses, certificates or legalization of mining projects in 52 of the 64 municipalities of Nariño. A third area of the district, some 333,000 hectares, is in danger of being subjected to the environmental degradation that large-scale mining brings. Nariño is the fourth district in the nation in priority mining, after Antioquia, Chocó and Cauca. The largest companies that are present there are AngoGold Ashanti, Anglo American Colombia Exploration, and the Canadian mining company Gran Colombia Gold and Eco Oro Minerales, formerly called Greystar.
The government of Santos’ most important economic motor (or locomotive as he calls them) is also the biggest concern of the people of Nariño. “Following this model,” says Luzmila Ruano of the Integration Committee of Macizo Colombiano (CIMA) and the National Agrarian Coordinator (CAN), “we will turn into mining day laborers instead of property-owners and producers. This will bring social, economic and environmental problems. With the presence of large-scale mining comes the presence of armed groups, who bring outrage, violation of human rights, threats to leaders, land dispossession, death and displacement. Before the coming of the transnational corporations, one did not see the presence of the paramilitaries.”
Organization and mobilization of the Nariño community
With respect to the twin problems of mining and water, the Nariño social movements declared in the first Departmental Forum of Water and Mining, an event that occurred in the city Pasto in July this year, “no to large-scale mining in our territories, it threatens the life of our communities, ecosystems and our spiritual and ancestral being.” The Forum of Water and Mining was one of the events prepared in the region by CNTTS, with the participation of more than 500 delegates and delegates from the peasant, black, indigenous and urban communities. They and others present formed a committee for dialogue with government and community spokespeople where the agreed initiatives presented address the issue of water and mining in the Nariño district.
They came to the decision that the communities have the right to define their life plans in the territory, thus promoting towns’ self-determination in order to ensure their economic activities be a possibility for a good life, not to be imposed on by economic policy and management from foreign interests. The result was a commitment by participants to reject categorically and emphatically the entry of multinationals through actions of mobilization and participatory nature, a proposal that the people of Nariño would take to CNTTS to be declared a mandate there.
In preparation for the National Congress of Lands, the villages of Nariño organized promotional tours, preparatory meetings, forums with the accompaniment of Fedeagromisbol and a youth camp in the municipality Samaniego, in which 90 youths participated, stressing the problems that impact them, and resolving to declare themselves concientous objectors, defenders of the land, linked by their identity to the territory, and committed to safeguard it. Meetings were held on many indigenous reservations, where people did not know the Congress and did not have much chance to get out.
Preparation was not limited to awareness and formation, it also manifested in action. On the 20th of August, two hundred people mobilized against large-scale mining in Arboleday and San Lorenzo, municipalities in the north of Nariño, where Gran Colombia God has been in stages of exploration since the start of the year.
Six hundred people from Nariño traveled to Cali for the Congress of Lands, Territories and Sovereignties in Calí. People came with various organizations from Nariño – five hundred were from the Integration Committee of Macizo Colombiano (CIMA), the Integration Committee of Galeras (CIGA), the Nariño Agrarian Coordinator of the southwest from the department and the Red of Agro Sowers and Chagreros of the Nariño Range – the Nariño organizations that make part of the National Agrarian Coordinator (can). Some one hundred members of other organizations also from Nariño participated, like the Women’s Convergence, Student Identity, the Country Women’s Federation of Nariño, the Farmers National Coordinator, Joint Force, a Youth Movement in Nariño, teachers who are part of the teachers' union, the council of Santa Cruz Guachaves Grassland, MAIZE (an organization of farmers in Samaniego,) agrifood schools from Túquerres, and from the coastal foothills farmers and afro-descendants of the Process of Black Communities (PCN,) and indigenous people from the indigenous council Awa de Tumaco, also from the coastal foothills.
Nariño’s social movements have successfully looked for integration of various social sectors – indigenous, afro-descendants, farmers and students. “They are the same fights for everyone, so we looked for that unity in order to be firmer, stronger,” said Mario Anama, a supply governor in Cabildo of Guachaves.
The participants from Nariño in the Congress prioritized four thematic cores that they hit on and coincided with their political platform: mining and energy, water, rural economy, identity and knowledge, lands and territories.
The CNTTS mining and energy committee proposed a national civic strike as the unifying strategy of the communities. 65% of the territory in the Andina zone will be affected by the locomotive mining, according to Robert Daza – conducive to ensuring the brake multinational projects (?) They also stressed the need to strengthen the artisanal and small mining, though ideally one day replace mining with food production, “because gold is for vanity and not to eat,” says Luzmila Ruano of CIMA. “It is criminalizing the small mining like how they did with milk, eggs and seeds. The possibility of mining extraction and production is controlled by the multinationals through forced laws and prevents small production,” explained Daza.
In accordance with the Nariño communities, the Congress of Lands mandated to prohibit large-scale mining and to carry out the steps necessary to impede its presence. They are planning to have a strike next year; as it is not a national strike, the people of Nariño have the power to form a district strike, and if they managed to involve a large number of grassroots organizations then they would have the ability to block most of the transport between Colombia and Ecuador, says Mario Anama. “Surely they declare the strike illegal, but it is legitimate because this land is ours,” said Roberta Daza.
Against the privatization of water and for food sovereignty
A related topic is the privatization of water, which the people in Nariño are completely against. Because the of the district water plans, which try to privatize water sources that have been obtained by the efforts and negotiations of the communities themselves, public property is converted to private. This allows indiscriminate use of water for large-scale mining and the expansion of agroindustry and megaprojects, while drinking water does not reach many families. Delegations from Nariño proposed a strategy in Congress to strengthen community water supply networks, as well as communal property of micro-watersheds and wilderness. “The government has appropriated everything from the soil, groundwater and air, to the electromagnetic spectrum, and can now negotiate these community assets, but they are the property of the nation, not the state,” said Daza. Congress mandated the social organizations and communities as protectors of the water, who will address the handling, management and protection of water sources, confronting privatization and degradation.
Another very important subject for the Nariño delegations, that fits into the political platforms of CAN and other participating organizations, is the matter of food sovereignty, and rural and personal economy. As the Congress political commission declared, capitalism is an economy that exists more in the world of financial speculation than in the real production world, and in order to fight this, the citizens of Nariño propose an economic base in farming, not in the extraction of primary material and agribusiness, but in the production of healthy food, without pesticides and GMOs, to feed the population.
Globalization and attempts at free commercialism have impeded the advance of this goal, but it continues being a principal point for Nariño delegations, who brought experiences from can in seed rescue and rescue of ancient peasant economy. With other organizations in the country, Congress mandated the construction of their own economy and articulated from the villages, not subjected to the global market, which guarantees sovereignty and food autonomy and the knowledge associated with seeds, plant, and food; it also prevents the presence of agro fuels and monocultures that threaten land and food sovereignty, as well as promote the strengthening of production practices, processing, exchange and culturally appropriate consumption, socially just and in harmony with life.
The committee for identity and knowledge was also a focus point for Nariño, in the search to rescue and vindicate its rural and productive identity. María Duby Ordoñez from the CIMA and ANC explained, “as farmers, we want to be recognized as having rights, although we are not identified in the constitution like the Afro-descendants and indigenous peoples, we contribute to the economy and societal construction and we want to fight for the farmer to be recognized.”
And, finally, the committee for lands and territories was fundamental for the Nariño delegations, where the majority of the population consists of small holders, and they know that, although the government wants to bring mining, there will be no economy and no power with this model. They discussed a participatory land reform and Congress declared that it would not permit that in place of large estates of drug trafficking and paramilitaries, which should be dismantled, install the large estate of agribusiness conglomerates. On the contrary, they must restore the lands – stolen hundreds of years ago from indigenous, peasant and Afro-descendants – to communities. “If there is no territory, there is nothing. We must recover the land to recover everything,” expressed Mario Anima de Guachaves. María Duby Ordoñez added: “As farmers, we share a much of the concept of territory with the natives; it is sacred land for us as well – it is where we produce, where we eat, where we live, where we dream and where we build our life plan.”