Braulio lives in Argelia, Colombia. He is a coffee farmer, and a landmine survivor.
Braulio was walking with a friend 10 minutes from his home, when the person who accompanied him (also a coffee farmer) stepped on a landmine and died instantly. He was hospitalized for wounds he suffered through the accident, but the emotional scars remain.
Victims of Conflict
In 2008, with support from the U.S. Department of State’s PM/WRA, the Polus Center and the Federation Nacional De Cafeteros De Colombia (FNC) piloted a program to support landmine victims in remote coffee communities in the Caldas and Nariño departments, helping landmine victims in rural areas access rehabilitation services and economic support.
Using the FNC’s well-established infrastructure from the national to local level through their regional committees (where agronomists, also called “extensionistas,” work closely with small hold coffee farmers), the Polus Center uses a “person-centered holistic approach” toward improving the standard of living for coffee farming communities.
Agronomists were trained to learn specific approaches for outreach to victims and identify their needs, and then to help farmers with fertilizers, new disease-resistant plants, physical rehabilitation, housing and loans to help farmers make it past the “thin months” and much more. Using this model, the Polus Center has provided victim assistance services in the departments of Nariño and Caldas for more than eight years, supporting hundreds of landmine survivors and their families.
The Polus Center provided victim assistance training for agronomists in Antioquia in October of 2015. The training included actual team interviews with individual landmine survivors and family members within their homes. Teams often traveled for hours to reach survivors that lived in remote areas. When the interviews were completed team members developed individual personal profiles. Individual profiles included intervention strategies that addressed each person’s most pressing needs.
The Polus Center met with members of DAICMA and the FNC, who both confirmed that one of the priority areas for victim assistance is Antioquia, with an estimated 65 landmine survivors and thousands of landmine victims in the region who were displaced because of mines and IEDs. The Polus Center returned to Antioquia in May 2016 for a follow-up visit to observe the impact of the support previously provided to landmine survivors, and to identify new victims who need support for income generation activities, housing improvements and farm improvement services.
The Polus Center has developed a unique partnership with the coffee industry to address victim assistance for coffee-growing communities in Colombia. Since 2008, the Polus Center has administered the Coffeelands Trust, a public-private partnership developed through a small grant from PM/WRA, which engages the international coffee industry in victim assistance for coffee communities. The Coffeelands Trust has helped hundreds of coffee farmers who have been impacted by armed conflict with support from major coffee companies and the Federacion Nacional Cafeteros de Colombia (FNC).
The FNC is a Colombian non-government cooperative with a membership of more than 500,000 small-hold coffee farmers throughout Colombia. The Polus Center has long been closely connected to the FNC and the coffee industry, not only receiving donor support, but partnering in direct victim assistance projects through the provision of coffee production equipment, replanting disease-resistant coffee plants, and helping victims of conflict find employment within the coffee industry value chain. The FNC provides hundreds of thousands of dollars of support for coffee farmers who have been directly impacted by the conflict in Colombia annually, and provides an established infrastructure, security, and volunteer agronomists who work directly with landmine victims in the implementation of projects such as the one proposed.
This partnership with Polus, DAICMA and the FNC, as well as other Colombian partners has helped victims of ERW/landmines in Colombia who are small-hold coffee farmers to not only improve their coffee production and thereby ability to support themselves and their families, and has also improved people’s living situations through housing renovation projects, alternative income generation, rehabilitation services, and both formal and informal educational opportunities that can improve their standard of living and overall quality of life.
Landmine Victims and Coffee Farmers in Colombia
Colombia is the second largest coffee producer and the biggest producer of Arabica coffee. The cultivation, processing, trading, transportation and marketing of coffee provide employment to many people in Colombia, with over 570,000 producers cultivating coffee on 2.2 million acres of Colombian highlands. Small coffee farmers in Colombia belong to the Colombian Coffee Federation, or Federation Nacional De Cafeteros De Colombia (FNC), considered the most successful and experienced coffee federations. 1
According to the Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor, 11,021 casualties were recorded in 31 of Colombia’s 32 departments from 1999 to 2014, with at least 8,814 survivors in Colombia as of June 2015.
Landmine survivors face serious obstacles in accessing emergency medical attention, ongoing medical care, and physical rehabilitation because these services have traditionally been available only in major cities, while most mine incidents occur in rural and remote areas, as well as in conflict zones.2
The number of victims of the conflict in Colombia is much larger, encompassing the survivor’s family as well as the millions of people who have been displaced and impacted by the longest civil war in history.
Braulio Antonio Osorio Rendon
One of the survivors supported by the Polus Center includes 64 year old coffee farmer Braulio Antonio Osorio Rendon, who has been married for 42 years and has six children
Fleeing from violence in El Tesoro, leaving behind everything he had, he went to Algeria and lived with friends who helped them through difficult times. Eventually he bought property in the village Algeria, where he lives and where he suffered his accident.
Braulio was walking with a friend 10 minutes from his home, when the person who accompanied him (also a coffee farmer) stepped on a landmine and died instantly. He was hospitalized for wounds he suffered through the accident, but the emotional scars remain. During the following months he was very afraid of what might happen to have encountered the landmine and violence.
Braulio's concerns included the health of his wife and the high cost of drugs that the insurance does not cover. He was afraid of losing his home and wants to continue working in the coffee industry. The Polus Center and the FNC worked with Braulio to provide mini-grants to help with education and farm improvement, fertilizer, and equipment that enabled him to keep his home and earn the income necessary to cover his wife’s medical bills.
The Polus Center’s work in Colombia has been funded and supported in part by the Coffeelands Trust, which engages the coffee industry in addressing the needs of coffee farmers in Colombia and other coffee communities throughout the world.
Learn more about how the coffee industry and Polus Center are partnering to help coffee farmers impacted by landmines through the Coffeelands Trust.
1 TED Case Study, Coffee Market and Colombia, http://www1.american.edu/ted/coffecolombia.htm
2 The Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor, December 8, 2015.