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Building the world, one project in Colombia |

A pot is simmering on an open-air wood fire at a holiday destination in Serrania del Perija, in the mountainous countryside of northern Colombia. More than a hundred people, including ex-combatants from the rebel group of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as FARC, their families and local residents, as well as soldiers of the Colombian National Army, work together on the brink.

They carry three-inch diameter hoses over nearly nine kilometers of steep terrain as part of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)-supported a project to improve water supply.

It took months of hard work to lift the hose, set it in place, bury it and connect it to the local river, which provides a reliable supply of water.

The most beautiful thing I remember is how the army, our former enemy, the community, the former rebels and local authorities worked together, despite the past that separated us.” says Yarledis Olaya, a native of Bari who spent 20 years fighting for the disbanded FARC rebel group.

The FARC guerrillas waged a half century of civil war against the Colombian authorities, which officially ended with the signing of the historic Final Peace Agreement in 2016.

Marcos Guevara

Yarledis Olaya (left) is working with other ex-combatants and local residents to lay a water pipeline.

New life in a pleasant country

Yarledis Olaya is one of some 13,000 ex-combatants who have dedicated themselves to the cause of peace in Colombia and started a new life in places like Tierra Grata.

“I envision my future here; I imagine myself getting old,” she says. — This process was not easy. We have seen our comrades killed in the past. it allowed me to start my own family, be able to spend time with them and open my house for my daughters..

That’s why we want to keep building and betting on the world. Not only for the rebels reintegrated into society, but also for the collective peace in the country..”

In the nearby city of San José de Oriente, locals feared that violence would start again when ex-combatants arrived in the region, but opinion changed when they brought a just peace and a willingness to work on community projects.

Yarledis Olaya arrived in Tierra Grata in November 2016 in a truck along with 120 other fighters, most of whom were armed. She was dressed in a camouflage uniform, boots, a black T-shirt, carried a backpack and a rifle on her shoulder; she covered her face with a green scarf, not wanting to be identified.

“There was a lot of distrust. I felt that we were withdrawn, gloomy, and that the local people looked at us differently.” It was two months before the peace agreement between the government and FARC was signed.

“It was not a personal decision, it was a collective decision,” she says. – I thought, let’s continue, but live differently. It’s good that I didn’t have to see my comrades fall anymore, which is normal.” during the war”.

Monitoring of the ceasefire

It was an isolated place; the old farmhouse stood next to dense vegetation, including the native plant frailejones. A piece of land was cleared to make way for the construction of a reintegration camp; there were army and Colombian police around.


Yarledis Olaya addresses the Tierra Grata Public Action Council, of which she is president.

Yarledis Olaya addresses the Tierra Grata Public Action Council, of which she is president. , Marcos Guevara

In a nearby area, the United Nations set up tents where ceasefire experts checked the laying down of weapons. Between March and September 2017, the UN mission in Colombia received 8,994 weapons from FARC from across the country, including Tierra del Fuego.

It took six months to build the camp, which had 158 living quarters. Ex-combatants were supposed to go through a reintegration process there and then move on to a more permanent place of residence, but most of them had nowhere to go, and they stayed.

Daughters of War and Peace

Today, Tierra Grata is a formalized village of about 300 ex-combatants and their families. Some were born there, while others joined their families.

Yarledis Olaya left her newborn Yakana with a relative when she joined the FARC and was reunited two months after arriving on Tierra Grata. Two years later, she gave birth to another daughter, Yakelin, one of 65 children born in the new settlement.

“Jakana is my daughter from the war, and Yaquelin is my daughter from the world,” she says.

Yarledis Olaya continues to work on community projects, building permanent structures and providing water and electricity to the village. “As women during the war, we played a fundamental role,” she says, “and now, in this new moment, we are helping to build peace.because we feel that this is our process; That is why we are ready to put the last drop of sweat into this future.”


SDG 16: Peace, justice and strong institutions.

SDG 16: Peace, justice and strong institutions

  • Sustainable Development Goal 16 recognizes that conflict, insecurity, weak institutions and limited access to justice remain a major threat to sustainable development.
  • It aims to reduce all forms of violence and the deaths caused by this violence. It aims to end the abuse, exploitation, torture and trafficking of children.
  • UN Verification Mission in Colombia the UN was created Security Advisor in 2017 to support the peace process in Colombia.
  • He worked closely with national authorities and ex-combatants to promote progress on reintegration and security issues.

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