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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

A step forward for sustainable island agriculture

Couple’s donation of their Ciales farm sets new standard for protecting arable lands

Nélida Agosto Cintrón and José Colón López

By The Star Staff

Post-industrial life might sometimes make us forget where everything comes from, as so much is completely automated and immediate, we tend to forget the simplicity of life and its origins.

Agriculture is still very important, no matter how much technology advances. Currently the Community Lands Trust is celebrating the receipt of its first land donation, about 32 acres of a farm in Ciales known as “Las Perdices.” The donation sets a new precedent in the creation of alternative models for protecting arable lands in Puerto Rico and providing access to farmers who can’t afford to own their own land. In other words, the acquisition will allow the conditions necessary for farmers to start their new projects.

“This donation by José Colón López and Nélida Agosto Cintrón is beautiful and powerful,” Érika Fontánez Torres, who chairs the board of the Community Lands Trust. “In terms of the island and its public policy, this only confirms that salvaging our lands is an urgent matter. We must open a just and common path.”

“The fact that we finalized [the donation of] the first farm demonstrates that there are legal models that allow us to design alternatives for the ends that we wish to meet and that the island urgently needs,” she added.

Fontánez Torres went on to explain the alternative model for establishing a legal precedent that allows the designing of a juridically sound agreement to be adopted by the Community Lands Trust and those who desire to donate their lands. The agreement will be adjusted to the needs of both sides, as long as they coincide with the fundamental principles of the Trust: Salvaging lands perpetually for agroecological purposes, putting them at the service of agricultural projects, governing them under democratic and participatory processes and preserving them properly for future generations.

Colón López and Agosto Cintrón will continue to live in the farmhouse under a 10-year lease.

“For several years now, my wife Nélida and I have wanted our farm and the house we built with our own hands to have a secure future in their natural environment,” Colón López said. “The Community Land Trust (for Sustainable Agriculture) has the purpose of securing land that will be available for agricultural cultivation by small farmers with agroecological practices and ensuring the integrity of mountainous lands in forests. We feel very pleased and proud for having made a concrete contribution to the production of food by Puerto Rican hands. Because they ‘will be the owners of the land.’ Because the land belongs to those who take care of it, protect it and cultivate it responsibly and without destroying it. Because conservation is a lifestyle.”

Since the transfer of Las Perdices farm was executed at the beginning of May, the Community Lands Trust has been working to actively develop a plan of integrated management and use of the farm. The intention is to create the necessary conditions for farmers who are integrating themselves into the Trust to begin to develop their agroecological projects without any major setbacks.

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