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Palms, pineapple farming giving new life to Colombians affected by violence

Gladys Ortega Rodríguez, cultivadora de palma, durante una entrevista con Efe en El Carmen de Viboral (Colombia). Con 60 años, su esposo y uno de sus hijos asesinados por paramilitares, pero con siete nietos que la alientan, Gladys Ortega Rodríguez es una campesina que contra todo pronóstico logró salir del espiral de violencia que la rodeaba y ahora es una pequeña pero exitosa empresaria de palma en Colombia. La alianza tiene como foco a productores de cacao, tilapia, carne bovina, lácteos, palma, aguacate Hass, mango y piña para que exporten a Europa, Estados Unidos y Canadá. EFE

El Carmen de Viboral, Colombia, Feb 4 (EFE).– Sixty-year-old Gladys Ortega Rodriguez, whose husband and one of her sons were killed by Colombian paramilitaries, is a rural resident who has managed to get out of the spiral of violence that surrounded her and is now a small, but successful, palm grower.

With a lively face and short hair, she is one of 11,000 peasants who decided to take advantage of the government’s “El Agro Exporta” program, whereby farmers in 200 towns – 70 of them located in zones heavily affected by violence – are improving their agricultural productivity and quality and are exporting their products.

The local economic alliance, which was formed this past week in the town of Carmen de Viboral, in northwestern Antioquia province,. is focused on producers of cocoa, tilapia, beef, dairy products, palm products, Hass avocadoes, mango and pineapple for export to Europe, the US and Canada.

“In 2000, I lost everything, my family, my husband, my son and a stepson. The paramilitaries killed them,” said Gladys, who lives on a little plot of land in the Campo Tres sector in the town of Tibu in Norte de Santander province.

After her tragic losses, Gladys fled the region and ended up in Bogota, where she found herself in dire economnic straits, but she said she knew that the government was helping people who had suffered from violence and so she returned to her land because “It’s mine.”

“It was difficult to start again,” she said, but – with one of her sons and other neighbors – she planted 7.5 hectares of palm trees and those trees today produce excellent clusters of fruit.
She said that with her earnings from her palm fruit export business, she bought herself “a new car.”

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