A town of peace amid conflict

Published: 20 November 2014 4:14 CET


By Sandra Ramírez, External Communication Officer,  Colombian Red Cross

During the Global Community Resilience Forum, delegates from 40 countries visited two production projects sponsored by the Colombian Red Cross in Santander de Quilichao. These projects have benefitted more than 600 families, victims of the internal armed conflicts and other situations of violence in the Valle de Cauca, Cali, Colombia.

Santander de Quilichao is a warm municipality located in the department of Cauca. It is a place that shines due not only to the midday sun but also because of the joy of its people who struggle day in and day out, to find the economical means to dignify their life and that of their families in amid a context of violence. One of the best means of promoting this dignity has been through the development of these production programmes, specifically the  routes to reach it has been through the development of production programmes; the most emblematic in this case are the “Trapiches Rurales del Cauca” (Rural Mills) and  “Artisans”.

The first project involves the cultivation of sugar cane which started in 2011 and is produced in the mountains. The cane is grown on the mountains due to the fact that the natural phenomenon of el niño of that year ruined many of the crops This seriously affected the livelihoods of many in the community given that they were not able to guarantee the production of a vital product “Panela” produced from the sugar cane. The product is a staple food in the region and is exported to a number of other municipalities making it a key source of livelihood for many.

“Panela is not only a sweetener, it is also a food which provides vitamins and energy to the body during the day” assures Jose who is in charge of administration the mill which is the closest to Santander de Quilichao. There are a total of 50 mills which help guarantee the livelihood of nearly 300 families in all of the region. Additionally many community members now occupy an important space in the Federation of Paneleros in Cauca.

Through its Municipal Unit in Santander de Quilichao, the Colombian Red Cross deploys health brigade to the different rural mills, where they provide basic health care, general medicine, odontology, optometry, nutrition, among other health services, for the workers and their families. Moreover they are provided with training in order to incorporate health standards to the manufacturing process, which are required to commercialize the product to other departments in the country.

The other production programme promoted by the Colombian Red Cross benefits nearly 300 families. The programme allows artisans to share their crafts in a space in the town’s park, where they sell crafts carved from glass, purses, jewellery, accessories made with cane  and other materials available in the region. The majority of the families involved in the programme have been displaced due to armed conflict who have come from nearby departments in search of new opportunities and a better quality of life.

“I am displaced person from the department of Caqueta, I arrived with my family a couple of months ago and immediately got involved with the Colombian Red Cross, with whom I have learned to produce some crafts  which I also sell in Cali, and which allows me to  bring a plate of food to my family every day” shares Maria  a local resident as she received the visit from this delegation of visitors in the principal plaza of Santander de Quilichao.