Mar 03.17

Peace Pioneers

Ethical Buying

Co-operatively growing organic crops, The Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, Colombia quietly resists the political violence in their country with the hope of building a conflict-free future. We proudly support this peaceful protest by purchasing their cocoa beans at Fair Trade prices. On March 23rd, we are honoring the community’s 17th anniversary and standing in solidarity to face the challenges still to come. Below is a sneak peek of the full story, which will be featured in the upcoming edition of the LUSH Times.

On a cold London morning, LUSH UK’s Campaigns and Buying team met Jesús Emilio and Arley Tuberquía, two representatives from the internal council of the Communidad de Paz de San José de Apartadó, in north-west Colombia. The Community is one of our most extraordinary suppliers; in spite of the ongoing conflict in the area, they continue to live peacefully and grow and harvest cocoa beans used in LUSH products like the Peace Massage Bar.

The Peace Community was founded against a backdrop of violence and intimidation by the army, leftist guerilla fighters and right-wing paramilitary groups. A group of around 2,100 farmers pledged themselves to non-violence; all they ask is that those around them respect their right to peace and non-involvement in the conflict under international human rights law. The community also abides by a number of shared rules: not taking up arms; not associating with or supporting armed groups; equal rights for everyone; and not carrying any drugs or alcohol.

Perversely, in exempting themselves from conflict, the community has become a target for those seeking control of their land. They have lost 261 members - men, women and children- as a result. The murders, disappearances and multiple forced displacements have so far remained unaddressed and unacknowledged by the Colombian government, yet community leaders like Jesús Emilio and Arley continue to demand justice internationally.

Photo compliments of Charlotte Kesl 

“The paramilitaries are still acting, ever more openly, supported by different State institutions, especially the police and army,” explains Jesús Emilio. “On November 18, 2013, the paramilitaries stormed one of the Community settlements, called Arenas Altas, and they took six people, five of whom were adolescents. This is linked to the forced disappearance of the young farmer Buenaventura Hoyos on August 31– whose whereabouts are still unknown. The situation is critical.”

In spite of this huge instability, the community has remained firmly committed to peace and they exist in harmony with their surroundings. They cultivate a variety of crops to eat and to sell including bananas, avocados, corn, rice, beans, plantains, and, of course, cocoa beans.

On March 23, the community will gather to celebrate their 17th anniversary. “For the Community, the anniversary is a great moment, a very deep and spiritual moment,” explains Jésus Emilio. “It is a special time because people from all the settlements that make up the Community, as well as other friends and allies, come to commemorate the occasion. Together, we remember all the years we have had, and look forward to the challenges that we must face.”

Katy Cobb