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The outlook for agricultural opportunities in Colombia under the new peace process

13/01/2017

For the last fifty years the Colombian farmlands have been the main stage of the armed conflict. Today their economic and social development are one of the main topics in the peace agreements. The first interesting fact about these farmlands is the lack of agricultural use they have been put to. Only 20% of the farmlands discussed under the peace agreements are used for agriculture, the rest are vast prairies filled with very little agricultural use. Given this reality, there is clearly an enormous opportunity for the Colombian government to put the land to use and generate jobs, to fuel rural economic growth and to change the status quo with regards to the vast food imports the country now relies upon.

Throughout Latin America impressive growth rates have been seen after the end of internal conflicts, such as in El Salvador and Peru where GDP growth rates of 6.0% and 4.5% were achieved. After four years of complex negotiations in Habana, Cuba, the Colombian government and the FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) reached a first peace agreement that was presented to the Colombian people on 1st September 2016. This agreement was then subject to a popular vote in a plebiscite held on 2nd October 2016, the Plebiscite was held peacefully and the people of Colombia spoke. The result was a surprise win for the ‘No’ campaign, which secured slightly over 50% of the vote. This forced the government to open the negotiations to additional stakeholders and listen to their concerns and positions. After further negotiations in Habana, the second agreement was finalized and presented to all parties on 15th November 2016. This was then subjected to a vote by parliament on the 24th of November 2016, which successfully passed.

Now the implementation of the agreement has begun. Throughout the first quarter of 2017 we shall witness what will be the last march of the FARC to the designated free-arms concentration areas to drop their weapons and reenter the society. Currently, the chapter of the agreement detailing changes in the agricultural sector can be simplified into three main pillars; 1) the inclusion of farmers in agricultural reform, 2) the integration of different regions and 3) food security. The agreement determines that a national land fund will be created, with land currently owned by the government being the primary contributor, but also with land donations and illegally acquired lands being included. After this, a national land registry will be established to ensure that all of the land held in the fund will be correctly and properly registered with the corresponding tittles for its determined use. The agreement stipulates that special care will be taken with environmentally protected areas, and that any land disputes will be handled by the agricultural sector jurisdiction of interest. It further states that significant investment will be made in rural areas, including tertiary roads, irrigation systems, electricity distribution and internet infrastructure. There are provisions stating that drinking water will be made available to remote communities and that education and healthcare will be provided in places that were previously not reachable because of the violence. Programs such as cooperatives, economic family unity and community solidarity are set to be fomented to support the commerce of local produce.


The agreement also states that technical and technological assistance will be provided, such as seed banks, and social security access will be guaranteed to working rural farmers. Food security programs are set to be introduced to ensure that there will be no food scarcity in rural farm areas, aided by local credit applications that will be facilitated. Finally, the agreement stipulates that focus will be placed on development programs in areas most affected by violence and poverty. To know more about the peace process please visit: http://www.acuerdodepaz.gov.co None of the above will be easy to achieve and the agreement poses significant challenges to the government and the sector at large. Nevertheless, the agreement presents an enormous and unique opportunity that the Colombian people must make the most of. Change starts with our positive attitude and our will to help one another, and we must strive for the peace that we have desired for generations. It is up to us, the millennial generation, to unite in an everlasting and prosperous peace.

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