We met Yolanda* for the first time in December 2018 in a rural area of Tumaco. That same day, she recounted to us an unimaginable situation: it had already been a year since she eradicated her coca crops and she still hadn’t received the first food assistance payment. Since the arrival of the PNIS in the area, not a day has passed without Yolanda having to fight with officials about the lack of payments. In the different conversations we had concerning her situation, Yolanda repeats, “everything has been problematic with this programme.”
Like other participants in the PNIS, Yolanda has been suspended from the programme due to data issues with her SISBEN (The System of Identification of Social Programme Beneficiaries). Officials have also told her that there were inconsistencies in the checks that the UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime) conducted concerning the removal of her crops. “We’ve sent paperwork to Bogotá out of our own pockets, and nothing”.
Faced with the possibility of suspension, the programme’s officials recommended that various documents be sent as evidence, with the aim of resolving these inconsistencies. In Yolanda’s case, she had to send the coordinates and photos of her farm to prove that there were no longer any illicit crops. She also had to provide certificates from the board of the community council that would accredit her membership to the council and to the rural division. The cost of these procedures needed to sign the paperwork, including transportation, came out of their own pockets. Efforts which, after so many years, leave the situation unresolved. In fact, it’s the opposite: the last notification that others in a similar situation in the rural division received was that they had been expulsed from the programme.
The years go by and the failure to fulfil the agreement is becoming a reality. All this time, Yolanda has been waiting for payments and for the programme to fulfil its other commitments, notably the food security project and various short and long-term projects. This is why she wanted to make her own chicken coop, so that when the chickens from the food security project arrived, there would already be a place to keep them. Yolanda insists that,
“the programme has given me nothing directly, what I do have is because I set about building the chicken coop before the chickens arrived, but they’ve given nothing to me.”
Based on what Yolanda has told us, cacao can be a sustainable crop (depending on the price that it fetches). However, the deterioration of the soil quality of this land following the glyphosate fumigations has led to a bad cacao crop.
Yolanda continues to hope for better opportunities for her children, to enable them to move forward in life. Although the circumstances surrounding the breach in the agreement make an optimistic evaluation of the situation impossible, Yolanda reminds us, “we still dream of this, only after dying do you stop dreaming”.
*Name has been changed to protect anonymity.