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“We call this place Eden,” says Eduardo Rodríguez, gesturing to the location he has suggested for our interview.

It isn’t hard to see why. A small stream winds its way through lush tropical foliage and smooth boulders; long vines hang from the canopy and dip into the crystal-clear pool created where the stream cascades in a small waterfall. Every now and again, a brightly colored butterfly flutters past. Up near Rodríguez’s house, the temperature is pushing 38° C (100°F) but here, the air is fresh and cool.

Rodríguez views his farmland in the community of Vereda Brasilar, in the Montes de María region near Colombia's Caribbean coast, as a paradise today, but that hasn’t always been the case. 

His farm withstood the years of conflict that fractured his family and community in the early 2000s. But then a plague hit his avocado trees in 2008, followed by a devastating drought. The death of the trees left the soil exposed to the hot Caribbean sun, which, combined with the drought, killed whatever crops remained.

Rodríguez knew it was time to start doing things differently. “We saw a great necessity to protect the environment because we were in a very difficult situation,” he remembered. “We couldn’t find water, we couldn’t find animals, there were no birds.”

These changes to the climate not only threaten individual livelihoods, but the ripple effects can cause a fracturing of communities. When a major drought or flood knocks out a crop for the entire year, farmers may look elsewhere for money, including to illegal mining operations or armed groups. 

Rodríguez is part of a farmers’ association that, after the 2008 avocado tree blight, started seeking assistance from agricultural organizations in the area. The search eventually led them to MCC partner Sembrandopaz (short for Sembrando Semillas de Paz, Sowing Seeds of Peace). With Sembrandopaz’s support, Rodríguez and the other farmers have learned practices to support reforestation and sustainable agriculture that help build resilience to climate change. These strategies also help build peace, because in this region, climate resilience and peace are closely intertwined.

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