Colombian Army Improves Communities’ Roads

Colombian Army Improves Communities’ Roads

By Yolima Dussán/Diálogo
May 08, 2017

Until recently, the 350 families living in the communities of Las Ánimas, Piedrahita, San Andrés, La Correa, and El Romazón had a difficult time traveling to other areas in the municipality of Donmatias in the north of Antioquia department. That has changed thanks to troops from the Engineers Battalion No. 4 “General Pedro Nel Ospina” of the Colombian Army’s Fourth Brigade, who worked to build access roads to these towns. Now residents have the ability to travel and sell agricultural products and livestock, mainly pigs. The municipality of Donmatias is home to 23,000 people, and is the largest pork producer in Colombia. Improving the tertiary roads leading to these rural communities from the urban municipality meant opening stretches of road, maintaining sites chosen for laying roads, and adjusting drainage outlets. The work was done by the Seventh Division in conjunction with the active participation of the communities it benefitted. Working in conjunction with the community The work that the Fourth Brigade did on roads in the department of Antioquia meet the population’s needs, as expressed to them by local administrations with whom the Colombian Army has developed a relationship. “In these types of outreach programs, we provide help in accordance with the requirements of the municipal mayors’ offices, through their communal action boards,” Lieutenant Colonel Jhon Esteban Torres Ballén, commander of the Engineers Battalion No. 4, reported to Diálogo. “Once the need is identified, we organize joint work with the goal of creating solutions. In Donmatias, we laid 10 kilometers of road,” he added. During 18 days in March, troops serving in this Army unit worked alongside the community maintaining existing roads and opening new stretches as well. “We did some more work in the municipalities of Ituango and Valdivia, where we opened up 30 kilometers of new roads and did maintenance on another 10 kilometers. This benefitted 4,500 people who live in this extremely vulnerable area, where they are working hard to be able to substitute coca cultivation with something else,” Lt. Col. Torres Ballén said. With more than 1,200 service members, the Engineers Battalion is a tactical unit with jurisdiction in 13 municipalities. They support not only community development there by opening, maintaining, and improving roads (including road-bridge infrastructure), but they are also responsible for dealing with and preventing natural disasters and forest fires. The Army’s presence, a stimulus for the community The actions taken in concert with the community give the residents a lot of motivation, the Mayor of Donmatias Municipality, Marcela Peña Correa, told Diálogo. “We usually see the Army as a group of men that provide us with security, but their mission goes beyond that. We have developed work to show the population that this force is an entity with which we build community. Ever since residents of the municipality learned that the Army has these kinds of programs, they have even been motivated to collaborate and work with them during these outreach programs. They are conscious that everyone benefits,” she noted. The work of the military members has made it possible to develop several government programs, such as “Placa Huella,” which seeks to lay as many kilometers of road as possible in the department. “To do that, we count on them to work with us. The Army makes it possible to improve our residents’ quality of life,” Peña said. Faith in Colombia Repairing roads in Donmatias is part of what was envisioned for the “Fe en Colombia” campaign, an initiative that seeks to bring institutions and the community closer together. With an emphasis on the most vulnerable communities, the goal is to create “territories in peace” and to conduct activities that will improve their social well-being. The campaign foresees 18 lines of action under programs associated with the creation and/or strengthening of existing projects for economic development, infrastructure, the environment, social reintegration, deterring recruitment for crime, and policies for land restitution. “We know that the roadways improve the quality of life and development of every one of the regions,” Brigadier General Jorge Romero Pinzón, commander of the Colombian Army’s Fourth Brigade said in April during the dedication of the roads program that was developed in the jurisdiction of Antioquia. “It is gratifying to see the smiles of town residents when we build these kinds of roads. In the places we go, it is clear that these communities are willing to transition to legality through the resources that improve their capacity to transport their goods, to do their agriculture, and above all, to have a much better quality of life for themselves and their families,” he said. “Through this type of work, this outreach to the community, the development projects, we are gradually reaching every corner, everywhere in the department of Antioquia. Through institutionalism, the Colombian Army, and every other institution, wants to offer these capacities to all the townspeople in the region,” he added. In Antioquia, a department in the northwest of Colombia, almost 100,000 residents from Bajo Cauca, including Donmatias and Urabá, reap the benefits of the work and the programs developed by “Fe en Colombia.”
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