Rural Alternative Schools (ERA) | Manaure, Colombia

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The Rural Alternative School of Manaure is located in the department of Cesar, near the Perijá Mountain Range (considered the last stretch of the Andes Mountain Range in Colombia). This ERA supports two spaces within the area: the Tierra Grata Territorial Training and Reincorporation Space (ETCR) and the 200 hectares of the Borja farm, located near the ETCR.

The ERA of Manaure has organized small teams to establish and take care of orchards located in house courtyards or in common areas of the ETCR. The project includes growing fruits and vegetables which are, little by little, integrated into ex-combatant diets. They are also consumed by local families or used by other projects, such as the space’s restaurant. To deal with the difficulties associated with farming and establishing productive projects on land that gets scarce rainfall, participants use organic fertilizer, reuse water from local houses, use rainwater collection tanks and natural repellents to care for the crops. They receive daily support from the ERA´s agricultural technician.

The success of ETCR productive projects in Tierra Grata has led ERA Manaure to support the Peace Housing project. Thanks to machinery donated by Paso Colombia and the help of Haces Hábitat experts, an assisted self-building housing project for ETCR residents was established. Initial design was carried out by architects and engineers that were in constant communication with the local communities, striving to design housing that met rural settlement needs (with large work and recreation areas). Construction was carried out using local materials and technologies, such as compressed earth blocks (CEB), which are affordable for the communities. Participants were encouraged and trained to participate in building their own homes and community spaces.

Other production projects will also benefit from the reorganization of homes and spaces in Manaure, and participants will have access to facilities that are better adapted to their needs and reincorporation process. In collaboration with Hermeco, PASO Colombia worked on a textile production process at the ETCR by providing sewing and efficient design process classes. This way, participants could grow their brand and compete with large clothing companies.