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 permanent here

The anguish is

Celina is a single mother to three children. In her two-floor house, made with planks of wood, there is a warm, caring atmosphere. This is reflected in the love she has for her children and in the pride she has for her culture through the food they grow and eat.

Celina grows bananas, yucca, and yams. Her day starts early. “When you work in the fields, you bring your food prepared from home. I make breakfast and lunch. The land is ploughed manually and we fish to eat,” she explains.

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Celina cultivates food crops to feed her family. She likes to grow her family’s food, because it is healthy and saves money. She sells a portion of the produce, and with the money she makes, she helps other people in her town. In the midst of material scarcity, the generosity of the community is abundant.

Life here  is generally peaceful. Boys and girls in high spirits run and play. They skim stones on the river water while laughing.

But in rural areas of Colombia like this, lockdowns are frequent. They’re implemented not by the government due to the pandemic, but by armed groups attempting to intimidate and control the population. Land mines and restrictions on movement limit access to food and water, and the well-being of Celina, her family and her community.

People in the town live with anxiety. During lockdowns, residents cannot access the crops which are their only source of food. The armed groups also place restrictions on traveling freely by boat, and those who break the rules risk fines or putting their lives at risk. This further impacts the community’s ability to access food:

"It is distressing to see that we are involved as farmers in a problem that we have nothing to do with."

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The armed groups also place restrictions on traveling freely by boat, and those who break the rules risk fines or putting their lives at risk. This further impacts the community’s ability to access food:

 

“For us, the river is the only source of transport. If we go to a nearby town to buy food, we cross the river,” she explains. The armed groups implement schedules and restrict the passage of boats as a way of controlling the territory. Those who break those rules risk fines or put their life in risk.

The town's agricultural school was filled with mines. This was where Celina learned how to sow when she was a child. Plantains, bananas, and cassava grow there.

Fortunately, some months ago, the school was de-mined by the state. Celina, along with a group of young people, organised the effort to bring food production back. When the school was mined, Celina’s main concern was that the planting and food legacy of her people's culture would be lost. “Corn rice, carimañolas [cassava cakes], sancocho [chicken soup], fish and tapado [seafood soup] are prepared there. That is our food culture,” says Celina while smiling.

"Corn rice,

carimañolas

[cassava cakes], sancocho [chicken soup], fish and tapado [seafood soup] are prepared there. That is our food culture," says Celina while smiling.

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Despite the difficulties, Celina yearns for a prosperous future for her town, full of professionals in different areas of knowledge who, after completing their studies, return to practice at home. She dreams of taking care of nature, avoiding the felling of trees, and teaching the community not to throw garbage into the river.

She also longs to live in peace. “It is our right to live in peace. We are involved in a conflict, and we have nothing to do with it.”

Thanks to the generosity of the European Union, Celina and her community received food and health journals. They also participated in activities to learn about their rights, strengthen their community, prevent mine accidents, and promote hygiene habits.

You can help people like Celina and her community who are affected by the armed conflict in Colombia. Share and make this story visible.

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