Last weekend (18-20 of November 2011), I was able to participate in the II Festival for urban-rural dialogue in the barrio La Joya in Bucaramanga, Colombia. The festival was visited by peasants (such as fishers, women groups, and farmers), indigenous groups as well as knowledge brokers from all over Colombia, Costa Rica, Venezuela and Cuba. In addition, urban citizens from Bucaramanga, and La Joya in particularly, participated in the event. This mix of participants created a valuable learning environment for everyone (including me), and resulted in new ideas and organisations amongst the participants. In a way, this festival reminded me of the rural cafés I visited in the Westerkwartier, the Netherlands.
The overall theme of the event was the environmental conflicts in rural Colombia resulting on the one hand from the numerous (and often multinational) economic exploitation activities (e.g. gold mining, hydroelectric power activities and monoculture) and on the other hand from conservation activities.
To start the festival, a carnival procession was organized to raise awareness for the festival in the city of Bucaramanga.The second day was all about facilitating dialogue between the participants, sharing experiences and knowledge. Several themed workshops were organized in which the effects of mining activities and water power plants were illustrated and discussed. The socio-economic pressures on peasants resulting from the exploitative economic activities on the one hand and from the attempted, counterbalancing nature conservation activities on the other hand were particularly striking. In some parts of Colombia, like the bajo atrato region in the department of Choco, exploitation activities are linked to the armed conflict. The video “Bajo la palma” (in Spanish, Part 1 of 3, at the bottom of the page) shown at the festival describes this situation very colourful.
The festival was enriched with several cultural activities, including folkloric dances of youth groups, musical performances, poetry and films. On the last day, an agro-fair was organized where the participants could offer their products and foods from the different regions of Colombia could be tasted. This was the first time I ate the meat of a cocoa fruit (which is white and the seeds that make the chocolate are purple!)- Delicious! 🙂
I would like to close this blog with a citation of Jorge Velosa, a famous Colombian singer who joined the event for a day: “The peasants exist as if they do not exist”. Thinking about EU policies, this statement seems not only true for Colombia….