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Video: Protecting indigenous lands in Colombia

Colombia, May 11, 2010

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  • Video: Protecting indigenous lands in Colombia

Start with a nationwide war fought largely to acquire land. Then add overlapping titles, valuable natural resources, a sparsely populated region and an inefficient government, and you've got all the ingredients for boundary disputes.

In Colombia's rugged Darién region, Mercy Corps is offering an alternative to the traditional forms of justice and the threat of violence. Our land-conflict resolution program is training communities how to solve their disputes over land peacefully. In most cases, we're giving marginalized indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities the training they need to defend their titled lands.

Our local partner, Fundación Darien, has assembled a team of a dozen mediators, lawyers, topographers and GPS specialists. We're also getting counsel and support from Mercy Corps staff in Guatemala, who've successfully mediated hundreds of land conflicts between indigenous communities and large landholders.

On Sunday we visited the indigenous Embera Katio Chidima, whose leaders believe our program can help them protect their sacred lands from encroachment by coca growers, cattle ranchers and timber interests.