PRODES: Green economy generates income and employment
Title: Promoting sustainable economic development
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Lead executing agency: Colombian Presidential Agency of International Cooperation (APC-Colombia)
Overall term: 2014 to 31.12.2017
Colombia’s vast expanses of arable land and its good climate provide ideal conditions for the agricultural sector. However, farmers use much of this land exclusively for grazing, while other areas lie fallow.
Rural areas in Colombia are largely cut off from the country’s general economic development. As service and marketing centres, urban economies could generate considerable impetus for the development of rural areas. However, local and regional markets are not sufficiently well developed to meet the demand. Small-scale producers are usually poorly organised and are rarely integrated into value chains which ensure further processing.
Despite the existing ideas and visions for rural development in Colombia, many envisaged measures and projects do not progress beyond the planning stage to implementation. Available funding therefore remains unused.
Policy-makers have set out to promote ‘rural development based on a territorial approach’. This means taking the different sectors affecting rural development into account. In addition to crop and livestock farming, these include raw materials management, tourism, skilled manual trades and environmental protection.
The Colombian Government also expects substantial impetus for rural development from a potential peace agreement with the guerilla group Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC). An ‘integrated agricultural development policy’ was the first of five areas of negotiation in the talks initiated between the government and FARC to end the conflict, which has been ongoing for 50 years.
Medium-sized towns are a good potential market for the sale of regional products. Demand for organic foods is also on the rise. The project therefore aims to foster closer ties between rural and urban areas.
Local, regional and national stakeholders jointly develop models for inclusive and sustainable economic development in post-conflict regions. They incorporate lessons learned into the restructuring of policy and promotion programmes.
Alliances between local, regional and national stakeholders in the departments of Meta and Norte de Santander use specific examples to show how green and inclusive economic development can be achieved in rural areas. They thus demonstrate how income and employment opportunities are improved for poor population groups while simultaneously conserving natural resources. The measures include farmers’ markets as a means of direct marketing, alternative production methods in the buffer zones of nature parks and local ecotourism initiatives. The two departments are significantly affected by armed, political, social and environmental conflict. The project builds trust between the various stakeholders by bringing them together around a table and supporting their efforts to develop common objectives and specific work plans. It thereby also defuses potential conflicts. This results in new and environmentally sustainable business models and sales markets at the local and regional levels, which benefit the rural poor.
Owing to the close on-site collaboration of representatives from the National Planning Department, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Ministry of Commerce and Industry and Ministry of the Environment and Sustainable Development, including its ‘green business’ office, the lessons learned are incorporated into policy-making. In the communities, the project team works with the responsible officers at the local government and administrative levels, with the regional offices of the training service Servicio Nacional de Aprendizaje (SENA) and with the regional environmental authorities.
Other partners in the alliances include business-sector institutions, such as the associations for livestock farmers and vegetable growers, as well as universities.
These partnerships ensure that the concrete, jointly developed models are rolled out on a broad basis by both the state and the private sector – not only in additional communities in the project regions, but also in other parts of the country.
State project partners, the national training service SENA and the Colombian agriculture institute ICA, which previously had little or no presence in these regions, now advise local producers. A positive side-effect is that local people are now willing to place more trust in national authorities.
In conjunction with the regional environmental authorities, the Ministry of the Environment and Sustainable Development has set up a ‘green business window’ or contact point to advise local companies on the implementation of their green business ideas. This is a good example of how the project supports the efforts of national programmes to expand their outreach to other parts of the country.
It remains to be seen whether the project will boost income and employment for the population through the alliances, but the feedback from producers and service providers thus far gives cause for optimism. For example, producers in the buffer zone of Páramo Santurban nature park have tapped into new markets and started processing their products to sell delicious antipasti in environmentally friendly packaging.