Rural Alternative Schools (ERA) | Puerto Guzman, Colombia

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The Rural Alternative School of Puerto Guzmán, Putumayo, is a space that supports the reincorporation process of 136 members of the COOMUCCON cooperative. These ex-combatants live in the La Carmelita Territorial Training and Reincorporation Space (ETCR) in Puerto Asís, where it is difficult to access land and develop their own production projects. That is why – after receiving a gratuitous loan from the Puerto Guzmán City Hall – they decided to move from the ETCR to a 16-hectares farm that belongs to the municipality, where they are allowed to live and work. The ERA of Puerto Guzmán functions within this space, which is also associated with five people from neighboring communities. This collaboration platform has support from the International Committee for the Development of People (CISP), the NGO Natura Amazonas, Puerto Guzmán City Hall, and the UN Verification Mission in Colombia. 

The main productive component of this ERA is its fish farming project, which the ex-combatants presented to the National Reincorporation Council. PASO provided support to establish a protein bank to produce fish feed and crops to ensure participants´ food self-sufficiency.

In order to develop the productive projects, every 15 days, ERA participants take turns maintaining the land and crops, maintaining the farm, cleaning the land, recovering abandoned ponds, sowing the land (yucca, banana and corn plots, among others), starting up the biofactory and maintaining existing crops.

Successful ERA activities have incentivized work exchanges with peasants from an association of banana farmers whose land borders the ERA’s land. The peasant community started to recover their land by improving current crops and by participating in ERA training sessions. Thanks to these interactions – which build trust over time – strengthening commercialization and product exchanges with the local community is expected in the medium term.