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Partnership between FAO and Colombia intensifies as comprehensive rural reform is being realized


The commitment of the Government of Colombia to building sustainable peace translates into a series of funding agreements, called UTFs, with FAO to improve governance, land rights and rural development

10/10/2017 - 

Since the signing of the initial peace agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, or FARC) in August 2016, the Colombian government has been working ambitiously with FAO and other key partners on a comprehensive plan for rural reform to anchor and sustain peace in the country. The government is committed to financing the biggest part of the peace agreement from national resources. This commitment has translated into a series of dedicated Unilateral Trust Fund agreements (UTFs) with FAO, to the tune of about USD46 million, including ongoing and planned projects.

Land control, agricultural practices and livelihoods were strongly affected by more than 50 years of conflict that engulfed most of the country. The success of the peace process depends on support to the countryside, farming and land rights: as displaced communities come back to their lands, former fighters need to be integrated and productive communities built.

FAO’s many years of experience, technical expertise, credibility as neutral partner and presence on the ground made it a ‘partner of trust’ in implementing the first point of Colombia’s historic peace agreement with FARC – a plan for comprehensive rural reform – and contributing to a stable peace and prosperity in the country.

Boosting governance and development of rural areas

The plan for comprehensive rural reform aims to strengthen the State’s presence across the country, integrate the regions, close the gap between rural and urban areas, improve agricultural industry, protect the environment, and ensure that the right to food is progressively realized. For this purpose it sets forth

  • measures for land access and effective use; 
  • national plans to tackle poverty, stimulate rural, family-run and community-based primary production economies, and enhance rural development; 
  • systems for the gradual realization of the right to food for the rural population and proper nutrition; and
  • development programmes for regional transformation.

With its commitment to boosting the governance and development of rural areas, the Havana agreement – as the peace agreement is known – goes far beyond conventional peace agreements. This is due to the fact that Colombia’s rural areas were the staging ground and their inhabitants the main victims of the conflict. Rural reforms address the root causes of the conflict, such as rural poverty and food insecurity, and give people trust in the peace process by producing tangible benefits.

"It is a comprehensive agreement that seeks to transform rural life, and improve the living conditions of the populations of dispersed rural areas, where the conflict unfolded. Due to the conflict, the opportunities of Colombians in these regions are very inferior to those of Colombians living in the cities,” says Rafael Pardo, Colombia’s Minister of Post-Conflict, Human Rights and Security. The implementation of the peace agreement will need about 42 billion USD over 15 years. The Colombian Government set out to fund the biggest part of it from their own budget, with the majority of funds being earmarked for the comprehensive rural reform.

Not only did more than 220 000 Colombians die in the 53-year conflict, but eight million people were also uprooted; many were displaced from their lands and their possibilities to produce and develop were stymied. Due to a weak State presence in many rural areas, they remained under the control of FARC for a long time, leading, among other things, to unchecked plantation of illegal crops such as coca, and problematic management of natural resources. Historical developments as well as the protracted conflict also have created parts of society that are far from the State. 

FAO’s interventions thus are centred on institutional development for peace and rural development, land restitution and formalization, nutrition and inclusion, governance of natural resources, and the synergies between social, productive and environmental policies to help weave the fabric of Colombia's rural areas. “FAO has been working for the past nine years in conflict-affected areas, providing communities with the capacities and resources to recover food production. The presence of FAO teams in remote communities through years of violence, building resilience and providing technical assistance, has resulted in communities that are well prepared for the transition to the peace building process,” explains Rafael Zavala, FAO representative in Colombia.

Importance of UTFs in building a new rural Colombia

FAO provides a substantive part of its technical and policy advice services to Colombia by means of UTFs with the three national agencies that were created to carry forward the implementation of the peace agreement: the National Land Agency (ANT), the Rural Development Agency (ADR) and the Territorial Renovation Agency (ART). In the coming years the participation of local and regional authorities through UTFs will become increasingly important as part of FAO´s contribution to building a new rural Colombia.

A UTF of close to USD9 million was signed with ADR in June 2017. The cooperation promotes agricultural and rural development through the development of institutional capacities, the formulation of methodologies and instruments for territorial planning, the development of integral agricultural development projects and rural development, strengthening rural participation and partnership, and implementing the national agricultural technical assistance programme.

Another USD9 million UTF, this time with ART, followed in July 2017. FAO and ART work with 2 700 families in six municipalities to support the social and productive reactivation of their territories. The cooperation starts with promoting food security, but particularly focuses on improving household incomes and strengthening local economies by implementing projects for productivity and market linkages, while including climate risk adaptation measures.

A UTF with ANT for USD1.3 million has just been approved by the FAO Programme and Project Review Committee (PPRC) and will be ready for signature in October. This cooperation will be critical to provide methodological support to the national land cadastre and to formalize land ownership. Tenure issues are central to peace and economic recovery in a situation where displaced people are returning to their lands, former guerillas need to build new lives, and illegal coca cultivation and suboptimal land cultivation were widespread. A follow-on UTF with ADR for close to USD26 million is already in the first stages of the approval process, and is envisaged to be signed early next year.

More on FAO’s partnership with Colombia

The Government of Colombia and FAO have a long-standing partnership, which has been further intensified with the peace process. In August 2016, the Government of Colombia and FARC asked FAO to be one of the partners to collaborate in the implementation of the peace agreement.

“It is understandable that FAO Colombia was asked to continue supporting agriculture and rural development projects during this new phase of the implementation of the peace agreement: rural communities trust and rely on FAO and local, regional and national governments see FAO as a knowledgeable and prestigious partner in rural development,” notes Rafael Zavala. He adds: “FAO Colombia has a serious commitment with regard to the achievement of the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. All our work in the country is aligned to the SDGs and is focused on supporting the country in this task.” This work is particularly based on goals 1 and 2 (to end poverty and hunger), 5 (to achieve gender equality), 6 (to ensure clean water and sanitation), 10 (to reduce inequalities), 12 (to ensure responsible consumption and production), 14 and 15 (to conserve and promote life in water and on earth, respectively) and 17 (to strengthen global partnerships).

Further information about UTFs

A UTF is a funding modality for projects financed by a government in its own country, through the use of central and local government agencies managing the funds. FAO supports these authorities in the formulation of programmes or projects related to their areas of work, and in providing the technical and policy assistance services necessary. The funds managed in the context of a UTF can come from national resources, proceeds of grants, credits, or loans provided by international financial institutions (IFIs), bilateral grants (direct budget support), multilateral grants or loans.

FAO currently has nine UTF projects that are being implemented with Colombia: this includes, but is not limited to, the UTFs concluded to implement the peace agreement. Seven more UTF-based projects are at different stages of the conceptualizing and approval process. Taking into account all ongoing and pipeline projects, FAO is helping Colombia implement a portfolio of about USD50 million.

Additional information:

Article: Colombia asks FAO to collaborate in implementation of peace agreements
Article: Land access and restitution at the heart of peace-building in Colombia
Article: Rural development as a path to peace in Colombia is an example for the world
Article: Lasting peace in Colombia requires building strong rural and agricultural institutions
Article: FAO and the Colombian Territory Renewal Agency boost USD 8.8 million to support Peace Agreement
Article: Lasting peace in Colombia requires building strong rural and agricultural institutions
Podcast: TZH 15 - Colombia: Land rights, agriculture and the quest for peace
Webcast: FAO CONFERENCE 40TH SESSION. FAO's role in supporting the implementation of the Peace Agreement in Colombia: Advances and challenges
Webcast: Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos highlights rural development’s contribution to peace

Photo credit: ©Patrick Zachmann/Magnum Photos/FAO