The Agencia Nacional de Tierras of Colombia is the highest land authority in the country and works to consolidate and maintain the social order of rural property to improve the living conditions of the population. By 2030, the National Land Agency will have socially ordered the entire rural territory of Colombia. Last week, the agency recognized the work and effort of four leaders from different regions of Colombia that promote transformative rural processes, protect the territory and preserve rural knowledge and traditions.
“Rural women represent a quarter of the world’s population. Most are farmers, entrepreneurs or work as wage earners. However, less than 20 per cent of landowners in the world are women and the gender pay gap in rural areas is estimated to be as high as 40 per cent,” reports, Semana.
This problem is latent in Colombia and has been increased by the new reality that the pandemic generated. The role of women in agriculture is fundamental, since they are in charge of many of the agricultural tasks of crops and food security.
The Agencia Nacional de Tierras launched a series of strategies to make visible the invaluable efforts of rural women in remote regions of Colombia. Just this week the first edition of the Women Transformers of Rural Colombia Award was held, a recognition of those who have contributed to the economic strengthening and transformation of the countryside.
The call for the award had a large participation across all regions. More than 80 women were nominated, of which four were elected from the departments of Sucre, Huila, Nariño and Valle del Cauca. The committee in charge of the selection highlighted the finalists’ strength and leadership. In fact, their life stories were documented in a book on the defense of the territory and ancestral customs related to agricultural practices, gastronomic and cultural traditions.
Woman Who Works the Land Legally Awards
In a ceremony held in Bogotá, the work of four women was recognized in two categories. In the first one, “Woman Who Works the Land Legally,” Rosa Amalia Villada, beneficiary of the SIDRA Comprehensive Subsidy program, was highlighted for the work carried out in her community. Villada leads a group of four women in the municipality of Albán, Nariño, who harvest different types of food.
She represents a small group of female heads of household. Her project focuses on the cultivation of coffee and thanks to it she has generated employment for more people in her community.
Similarly, she also produces avocado, mandarins and tomatoes on the farm, which she uses for the food security of her family nucleus.
“As rural women we work both in the house and in the sowing, in the harvest. Being a rural woman has many meanings. We work together through a project called, SIDRA and from there we are four families, four women, mothers who are heads of households with whom we did this project and have taken it forward. All our families and neighbors depend on our work. Working the land employs many people. Here, we are happy because we are women from the countryside. When we go to the city we don’t feel at home. Where we feel we belong is in the fields, working the land.”
Alba Gladys Ossa also won in the Women Who Work the Land Legally category. Ossa is dedicated to growing the Ambiente y Café enterprise, in the municipality of Isnos, Huila. This business idea, which consists of offering a coffee experience to tourists, has had a favorable impact on the family economy and that of its environment.
Alba Gladys Ossa Castillo, from the municipality of San José de Isnos, in Huila is a coffee entrepreneur and mother of four daughters, who participated in the Formalization Program of the National Land Agency.
“We run a specialty coffee shop. Ambiente Café is a company where my daughters and my granddaughters work 100%. We are all women. Coffee is harvested, fermented and dried. We grow our coffee and manage and operate the same coffee shop. We are country women and nothing is too difficult for us. In the fields, my daughters have learned to be enterprising women. Their businesses is coffee.”
In 2018, she was given the title to her property, where she created the production project, Ambiente y café, in which she offers customers the coffee that they grow and produce in an artisanal way. The farm also has an orchard where they produce fruits also for the sale of juices.
Protective Woman of the Territory
In the category of Protective Woman of the Territory, recognition went to Celis María Reyes, from Sucre. The National Land Agency rewarded her efforts to guarantee food security for her community.
“Being a rural woman is for me is to be a transforming woman. To be a woman made for charging ahead and to be a woman who eradicates, in part, rural poverty. I wake up at 4 in the morning, I make my breakfast, I have chickens in my yard, a pig farm, and I have also continued with these traditions because my grandparents, my parents, taught me all that I know, and I have continued to transmit this knowledge to my daughters. To all the rural women of my country I say, we can make our Colombia a better country.”
Olivia Balanta, from Valle del Cauca was also awarded under this category for her work as an educator and leader of the El Cerrito municipality:
“The earth is life. The earth is a woman. We have a greenhouse where we plant horizontally and vertically. We plant tomatoes, peppers and chili peppers and thanks to the greenhouse we can work year round, whether there is rain or if there is sun.”
“We have no problems during the year. For me, being a rural woman means continuing with our ancestral traditions. It means that all our knowledge is not lost over time and our children can carry out our traditions,” shared Balanta.
The National Award “Mujeres Transformadoras de la Colombia Rural” was held in Bogotá, on April 14, 2021 and was organized by the National Land Agency, with the support of international cooperation organizations such as the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the International Organization for Migration – IOM, the Canadian Embassy, the global organization, Mercy Corps and, the Sergio Arboleda University. Extraordinary rural women from Sucre, Huila, Nariño and Valle del Cauca were the winners.
The National Land Agency’s ceremony was headed by its director, Myriam Carolina Martínez. During the award ceremony, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Rodolfo Zea, expressed the Government’s commitment to continue working for gender equality and announced a new special credit line for rural women and youth.
“I am very happy to be here to celebrate the work of these women. Our philosophy is that our farmers are businesswomen and entrepreneurs. During these last years we have been working for them, especially rural women and this is reflected in the property titles that have been delivered in their name, which amount to 49% of the 23,000 titles awarded in this government,” added Zea.
The event featured a discussion, which brought together the four award winners, along with the Minister of Agriculture Rodolfo Zea, and the director of the National Land Agency Myriam Martínez, who spoke about the importance of women in the Colombian countryside and being landowners of their properties.
“Having your own land means trust and security, it means being able to access credit, invest in improvements and guarantee the safety of the families,” said Celis María Reyes. Likewise, Olivia Balanta, assured that having a property title is “the reflection of all of us in the countryside and the desire to want to preserve the ancestral aspects of our cultures. As my father used to say, the land gives to us and that is why we also have to give to it.”
Soledad Quartucci | Latina Republic
Dr. Soledad Quartucci is the founder and CEO of Latina Republic, a 501(C)3 California-based nonprofit organization. Latina Republic is a reporting, research, advocacy and charitable organization advancing human rights in the Americas. We fill the void in coverage of urgent social, political, human rights, economic and gender inequalities affecting the Americas. Through our allies in Latin America, we highlight contributions, heritage, history, leadership and innovation. Latina Republic reports on stories that integrate local strategies to the betterment of the region. We make space for and empower unheard voices and celebrate the rich histories of Latin America.