Recreating Rural, Growing Organic For Medellin's Displaced

The Colombian city hosts the most citizens displaced from rural areas by the country's ongoing civil conflict. A special program allows these domestic refugees to farm in the city.

Mural in Bogota, Colombia - Artist: 9Polar at Muros Libres
Mural in Bogota, Colombia - Artist: 9Polar at Muros Libres
María Luna Mendoza

MEDELLIN — In 2002, Aura Mosquera's life changed forever. Civil unrest forced her from her home in a rural area of Antioquia, in northeastern Colombia. She arrived with her five children in Pinares de Oriente, a settlement in Medellin’s Comuna 8 neighborhood that was founded to host victims of forced displacement.

Like 650 others, Mosquera has been benefiting from a unique project spearheaded by the Architecture School of the Medellin branch of the Colombian National University. The project aims to use new urban agriculture techniques to partially reconstruct the rural social and cultural fabric for Medellin’s growing community of refugees from the countryside.

The new system of urban agriculture, which focuses on agricultural ecology and organic processes, has been the most important tool in the process of creating a collective “cultural memory” for more than 180 families of peasants who have been forcibly displaced from various parts of the country and settled in Medellin.

In Cali, Colombia — Photo: Neil Palmer (CIAT)

In 2012, Medellin had 37,938 residents who had been forced from their land in rural areas by armed groups — the most of any city in Colombia.

Carrying knowledge

Students, teachers and the displaced peasants work together to plant vegetable gardens, native plants and fruit trees. Building gardens and raising poultry and rabbits has both increased the communities food security and created a stronger community that has made Pinares de Oriente an oasis of peace within a sometimes dangerous part of the city, explained Guisela Quintero, a community resident.

“This project is key component in improving quality of life and environmental quality for an extremely vulnerable population,” explained professor Rafael Rueda Bedoya, the initiative leader.

For the past five years, residents in Pinares de Oriente have actively participated in workshops offered by the team from the National University. They have learned reforestation techniques, how to prepare organic fertilizer and construct sustainable habitats that contribute to repairing the environment in the area where the settlement is located.

Isela Quintero, who works with displaced peasants in Medellin’s Comuna 8, says that this project has allowed hundreds of people to reclaim their identity as farmers. Most importantly, it has given them hope that they will be able to start their lives over.

“When people are displaced, they carry knowledge with them, knowledge about how to care for and cultivate the land, and that knowledge should be preserved,” Rafael Rueda concluded.

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A Mother In Spain Denied Child Custody Because She Lives In Rural Area

A court in Spain usurps custody of the one-year-old boy living with his mother in the "deep" part of the Galicia region, forced to instead live with his father in the southern city of Marbella, which the judge says is "cosmopolitan" with good schools and medical care. Women's rights groups have taken up the mother's case.

A child in Galician countryside

Laure Gautherin

A Spanish court has ordered the withdrawal of a mother's custody of her one-year-old boy because she is living in the countryside in northwestern Spain, where the judge says the child won't have "opportunities for the proper development of his personality."

The case, reported Monday in La Voz de Galicia, has sparked outrage from a women's rights association but has also set off reactions from politicians of different stripes across the province of Galicia, defending the values of rural life.

Judge María Belén Ureña Carazo, of the family court of Marbella, a city on the southern coast of 141,000 people, has ordered the toddler to stay with father who lives in the city rather than with his mother because she was living in "deep Galicia" where the child would lack opportunities to "grow up in a happy environment."

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - October 25, 2021

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - Monday 25 October, 2021

La Voz de Galicia

Better in a "cosmopolitan" city?

The judge said Marbella, where the father lives, was a "cosmopolitan city" with "a good hospital" as well as "all kinds of schools" and thus provided a better environment for the child to thrive.

The mother has submitted a formal complaint to the General Council of the Judiciary that the family court magistrate had acted with "absolute contempt," her lawyer told La Voz de Galicia.

The mother quickly accumulated support from local politicians and civic organizations. The Clara Campoamor association described the judge's arguments as offensive, intolerable and typical of "an ignorant person who has not traveled much."

The Xunta de Galicia, the regional government, has addressed the case, saying that any place in Galicia meets the conditions to educate a minor. The Socialist party politician Pablo Arangüena tweeted that "it would not hurt part of the judiciary to spend a summer in Galicia."

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