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Colombia: Fighting for their right to the land

Jozefa, legal representative for the communities in Chocó, ColombiaSeptember 2010

Afro-Colombian communities in Chocó have been waiting 11 years to receive collective titles for their ancestral lands, despite the Colombian Constitution formally recognising their land rights.

Christian Aid is working with partner Diócesis de Quibdó to push the legal process forward and lobby on the communities' behalf.

The communities' history...

Imagine your ancestors settling in a place where they build their homes and raise their children. 500 years later, your generation claim ownership of the land - a claim which, despite its legality, is denied. You are still waiting to be recognised as the owner. This is exactly what a community in Colombia is facing.

'It has been 15 years since our right to these ancestral territories was recognised in the Colombian Constitution but we are still struggling to get the land titled.'
Jozefa, legal representative

Since 1999, 46 Afro-descendant communities living in Chocó, one of the poorest and most deprived regions of Colombia, have been fighting to obtain collective titles for their ancestral territory.  Around 3,200 families - 12,000 people - of African descent live in 172,000 hectares of  land. They  have occupied this area for 500 years, making a living mostly through rudimentary gold mining.

The Colombian constitution formally recognises the ancestral land rights of Afro-Colombians and indigenous people but little is being done to support and uphold these rights. After 11 years of campaigning, the local communities are still waiting for their land rights to be upheld.

Economic interests block progress

The communities have tried to obtain legal rights, but all their efforts have been in vain - economic interests by multinationals, especially mining companies, have got in the way. Some of these companies have been given concessions to work in these territories. While the communities wait for their situation to be resolved, companies are carrying out illegal logging, causing environmental devastation and putting the communities' livelihoods at risk.

'We are fighting hard for our right to live peacefully and productively on our lands. It has been 15 years since our right to these ancestral territories was recognised in the Colombian Constitution but we are still struggling to get the land titled.'
Jozefa, legal representative for the community.

Christian Aid's work

Christian Aid has been supporting our partner Diócesis de Quibdó, which has been helping to push forward the legal processes needed for land titling. Christian Aid has also been advocating and lobbying on their behalf in the hope that the communities can one day be owners of the land they have inhabited for generations.

Let's wait and see.



More about our work:

Country profile: Colombia

Christian Aid's work on rights and justice

Eyewitness accounts from the Americas

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Country:  Colombia

Region:  The Americas

Issue:  Rights and justice

Partner: Diócesis de Quibdó

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