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Giving Rural Residents a Voice in Montes de Maria, Colombia

Published 10/08/2013 by Global Communities

Giving Rural Residents a Voice in Montes de Maria, Colombia
The award-winning radio program, Voices and Sounds of Montes de Maria, is recognized as the only program in Colombia produced and broadcast by local residents themselves. Set up through the USAID-funded Colombia Responde program, the community radio initiative is proving to be a valuable tool for rural communities who are isolated and often lack access to information.
The broadcasts are providing residents with a forum to discuss pressing social and economic issues. Such topics include the challenges of resettlement, land ownership initiatives, and other concerns of rural farmers. Beyond just sharing information about government programs, the broadcasts allow residents to share their personal stories and dreams and the histories of their communities. Having experienced some of the worst violence and massive population displacement during Colombia’s decades-long civil conflict, these outlets for communication and sharing are extremely cathartic for residents of Montes de Maria.
Last month, Voices and Sounds of Montes de Maria aired a special broadcast dedicated to discussing the issue of Special Rural Reserve Zones. A reserve zone is a specified area of land set up to benefit small-scale farmers by preventing the concentration of land ownership. These zones were first created in 1994 by the government to help farmers by declaring conflict-prone areas as reserves for them. The residents of these areas were thus protected from land grabs and could benefit from rural development efforts.
The main benefits of rural reserve zones are twofold. In a region that has seen so much displacement, the zones provide small farmers with a form of security. In the reserve zones, landownership is restricted to a certain size, so wealthier individuals or private companies cannot seize large plots of land. Additionally, the zones help provide economic opportunities for the farmers. Once farmers have titles to the land, they can use their land as collateral for loans, or as credit for seeds and tools. It also motivates farmers to make long-term investments and improvements, while fostering a sense of ownership and stake in the larger community.