Peace Clears the Way in Mandé

13 Mar 2023

Peace Clears the Way in Mandé


  • Thanks to the Peace Agreement, former combatants and the community pave the way to reconciliation and hope in Mandé, a remote region in the municipality of Urrao, Antioquia.
  • Fifty-five residents of Mandé received diplomas from SENA, certifying them as operators in Livestock Production and Bakery Processes. The United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia attended the graduation ceremony with the entities and organizations of "Alianza por Mandé" (Alliance for Mandé). (Watch video).


Juan Ángel Cuesta received a certificate in Bakery Processes after successfully completing the course at SENA.

“If it weren’t for the Peace Agreement, the world wouldn’t know that Mandé exists. That's why we are giving it our all into entrepreneurship and education in this community." These are the words of Juan Ángel Cuesta—peace signatory and leader of Coomandé cooperative, which brings together people in reincorporation in this region—after receiving his fifth diploma from Servicio Nacional de Aprendizaje (National Training Service) (SENA).

“If it weren’t for the Peace Agreement, the world wouldn’t know that Mandé exists. That's why we are giving it our all into entrepreneurship and education in this community". 






The only way to reach Mandé, deep in the jungle between Antioquia and Chocó, is by mule. The journey to the urban area of the municipality of Urrao, in southwestern Antioquia, takes two to three days. The river is not navigable, and Mandé can only be accessed by helicopter. "Peace has been the way for everyone to find us, to not be a forgotten village, so to speak," said Juan Ángel.

There, a group of 55 men and women, 30 of them former combatants of FARC, most of them afro-descendants, received a certificate in Livestock Production and Bakery Processes after completing a training process led by SENA as part of the program “Arando la Educación” (Ploughing Education) implemented by the Norwegian Refugee Council.

Juan Ángel proudly shows his new diploma in Bakery. “I’m also a health promoter. Leaving the war behind was the best thing that could happen. Thanks to the Peace Agreement, now I can sleep peacefully, I have dreams, I can spend time with my family, receive an education, and prepare myself better to teach young children,” he said.

Livestock Production and Bakery Processes Graduation ceremony in Mandé.

María Inés Guzmán manages the bakery Ricuras Maneseñas along with other women from the community and peace signatories.

María Inés Guzmán, a mother and community leader, also graduated from SENA. Every day, she gets up early to work at the bakery Ricuras Mandeseñas. "It is an honour to graduate. I'm overjoyed because I just accomplished one of my goals. I'd like to thank everyone for supporting us in this bakery and livestock project," she said.

“Things have changed for the better in Mandé. Peace signatories have also helped us with our projects and other things. We are grateful to God and to everyone who has helped us,” she added.

Wilder Quejada, a peace signatory and treasurer of the community council, says that he hopes to have more opportunities: “This is something I never dreamed of achieving but we did it with the help of several entities because I didn't do it alone, but with my colleagues.”

During an emotional ceremony, the residents of Mandé received their academic diplomas.

An Alliance for Mandé

With the support of the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia, several entities and organizations created Alianza por Mandé to coordinate gender-sensitive and community-based reconciliation and economic reintegration actions. The aim is to offer institutional services to the community and former combatants. The alliance comprises Agencia para La Reintegración y la Normalización (Agency for Reintegration and Normalization) (ARN); the governorate of Antioquia (through the Secretariats of Agriculture, Women, Government, Peace, and Non-violence); the mayor’s office of Urrao; SENA, the Norwegian Refugee Council and Universidad de Antioquia. Delegations from the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) and international cooperation agencies have supported this work.

Girls playing in the Mandé river, Urrao, in southeastern Antioquia.

Thanks to the coordinated efforts and leadership of the community and former combatants, Mandé now has a women-led bakery called Ricuras Mandeseñas, a community garden, and other fish and pig farming projects. In the meantime, the Norwegian Refugee Council and SENA have expanded the educational offer.

Thanks to extra-budgetary funds from international cooperation, the United Nations Verification Mission and the United Nations Development Programme support productive and community projects in partnership with local entities and institutions. For example, the Truth Commission worked on a process to reconstruct historical memory, which concluded with the installation of Mandé’s Park for Peace and Reconciliation. The governorate of Antioquia and the mayor's office of Urrao financed the construction of a children's playground.

They also built and supplied a community convenience store with resources for purchasing products, food, construction materials and tools. Furthermore, a mill was recently installed with which people in reintegration hope to process food and strengthen the community's food security.

Likewise, they support the project “Jugando por la Paz” (Playing for Peace) in partnership with Universidad de Antioquia to foster reconciliation through leisure and recreational activities.

Through its air program, the Mission has enabled different entities and organizations of the Alliance for Mandé to enter the area.

“We support the Alliance for Mandé because we believe that the participation and commitment by local actors in spaces for reintegration with a community-based approach are key for the comprehensive implementation of the Peace Agreement. Thanks to these inter-institutional efforts, we are advancing the sustainability of multiple projects and initiatives,” said Enrique Sánchez, Head of the Medellín Regional Office of the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia.


Text and photos: Elizabeth Yarce Ospina
Strategic Communications Officer - Medellín Regional Office
United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia