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THERE'S AN APP FOR THAT MAP

Colombia is using an app to return land to people displaced by war

AP Photo/Luis Robayo
Volunteers in Colombia are collecting data via a geographic imaging app so the government can speed up its complicated land redistribution process.
Ritoban Mukherjee
By Ritoban Mukherjee

Science journalist

After half a century of armed conflict, in 2016 the Colombian government signed a historic ceasefire with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. Both the government and the largest of the rebel groups agreed to lay down weapons, but the road to peace has so far not proved to be an easy one.

Even now in 2020, large crime syndicates are operating unrestricted across vast swathes of post-conflict territory. Several smaller rebel groups and dissidents of the peace accord have been violently active. The war, which began in the name of equality and freedom from oppression, has turned into the largest driving force for a widening rich-poor gap and a plethora of human rights violations.

As the country slowly tries to put itself back together, the government has taken an interest in solving one of the biggest obstacles to equality in the post-conflict region: redistributing the land seized from millions of private citizens by either side of the conflict. Following the war, which claimed some 260,000 human lives including at least 45,000 children, Colombia remains the country with the second-largest population of people forcibly removed from their homes due to conflict after Syria. Some of them were removed by the government, others by paramilitary forces, and yet others by rebels. In most cases, the displacement was sudden, with people finding themselves separated from families and communities as they fled for their lives. The current available number of displaced stands at around 8 million.

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