How Colombia’s deforestation campaign targets subsistence farmers

This story was produced with support from the Rainforest Journalism Fund in partnership with the Pulitzer Center.

San Vicente del Caguan, Colombia – All that was left of Anayiber Pino’s home after the explosion were a few sheets of charred zinc that had once formed a roof.

In March, security forces landed a Black Hawk helicopter near Pino’s remote Amazon home. Her family had arrived at the farthest reaches of the jungle after having fled the conflict-ridden Cauca province seven years before.

As the family finished lunch that day, a throng of heavily armed police stormed in and accused Pino’s husband and son of crimes related to illegal deforestation and the invasion of a national park.

They gave the family three minutes to rescue what they could from the home, then detonated the shack in a blast, burning all that was left inside. Pino and her family were flown to a police station in Meta province, where her husband and son were ordered to attend a hearing before a judge. Pino and her teenage daughters were released – without a home to return to.

“I don’t have anything,” the 53-year-old farmer told Al Jazeera, clinging to a tan backpack she had saved from her home. “They left us in the street with nothing.”

Nayibe Pino, 53
Pino’s farm had small crops and a house made of wood [Andres Cardona/Al Jazeera]

Her family had arrived in the jungles of San Vicente del Caguan with little to their name, initially sleeping under a plastic tarp as they toiled on local ranches to save up for a home. When they finally completed the zinc-panelled roof just two weeks before the military operation, Pino felt a spark of hope.

Now, after learning they had been living on protected land, Pino said she felt regret, “If we had known that we couldn’t work here, we never would have come.”

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