A coffee plantation in Manizales, Colombia.

6 December 2016, Rome – FAO will support Colombia in carrying out a comprehensive rural reform aimed at strengthening food security and peace, including measures which address issues of land access and restitution on behalf of the millions of farmers affected by the conflict that plagued the country for more than 50 years.

The support is based on the FAO-driven Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure , which have been developed  to assist governments in safeguarding people’s rights to property or access to land, forests and fisheries.

The topic was the focus today of a parallel event at the FAO Council – which represents the Member States of the Organization. In August, the Colombian government and the FARC requested FAO to support the implementation of the first point of the peace agreement, which focuses on hunger, rural development and comprehensive rural reform.

Addressing participants at today’s event, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva, welcomed the peace agreement, thanked the European Union for its support, and reiterated FAO’s commitment to promote sustainable rural development and food security.

“The (peace) agreement reached proposes a profound change in the rural areas of the country. It will enable production to diversify, improve incomes and promote governance of land and natural resource tenure,” the Director-General said.

“FAO has accumulated a great amount of experience in these areas that it can offer to the Colombian Government, but the solutions will be born from the real needs of the communities and from the exchange of their points of view,” he added.

Graziano da Silva pointed out that for reforms to be effective, they will need to involve civil society and institutions that have been “historically far from the state”.

FAO will promote cooperation to mobilize resources for Rapid Response Strategy projects, as defined by the Government of Colombia in its post-conflict policy.

Social protection

A key aspect to strengthen the impact of the peace agreement, Graziano da Silva stressed, will be to link social, productive and environmental policies so that they can help rebuild the fabric of Colombia’s rural areas, including agricultural activities and livelihoods.

FAO can contribute to this by monitoring and evaluating the social protection programmes that the Colombian government has already put in place to support people who are the most vulnerable. These programmes will be linked to family farming through public procurement.

“The success of this peace process also requires including those who have been left behind,”  the FAO Director-General said referring to indigenous and Afro-descendant communities, youth, and rural women. They “must make their voices heard and participate actively in the reconstruction of peace in Colombia,” he added.

Graziano da Silva underscored the need to involve in the peace process Colombia’s “magnificent universities” and research centres  and to mobilize resources that allow its sustainability.

The Director-General also noted the urgent need to create laws that guarantee the right to food, work and a decent life, a task in which, he said, the Colombian Parliamentary Front against Hunger should play a key role.

There is no peace without sustainable development, and there is no sustainable development without peace, reiterated the Director-General, emphasizing that both have a fundamental precondition: that all citizens have access to a dignified life and food necessary to lead a dignified life.

Building dialogue and solidarity to unlock rural potential

Colombia has the potential of more than 20 million hectares of arable land, according to the Colombian ambassador to Italy, Juan Mesa Zuleta. “Today Colombia has only 7 million hectares planted and we are importing food from the world that we could plant on our own soil,” he said speaking at today’s event at FAO. The ambassador placed Colombia among  the seven countries of the world “that can best contribute” to ending world hunger.

“We need to ensure that farmers can work the land, plant their products and market them. We must support the peasant at all stages of his activity. Only in this way can we ensure that their products are consumed by the community to which they belong, at a good price, managing to combat hunger and making the countryside an activity with technological advances, organized and profitable,” Mesa Zulueta said.

To that end,  FAO Representative in Colombia Rafael Zavala, said that “it is necessary to continue to build the dialogue, which also includes recovering solidarity between rural and urban areas, to build a lasting peace.”

Land rights

Also speaking at today’s event was César Jerez Martínez, of Colombia’s National Association of Peasant Reserve Zones, who stressed the importance of these areas, which he explained are the only ones that, have legal framework to grant rights and are, therefore, the ideal “scenario” to implement the agreements and to begin the process of securitization of 7 million hectares of land.

For his part, Pedro Nolasco Présiga, representing Colombia’s National Unitary Agricultural Federation,  noted that a lasting peace and social justice will only be achieved if poor farmers are ensured  their economic, social and political rights.

President Santos to participate in FAO event on rural women

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos is set to visit FAO   to participate in the high-level event, “Stepping It Up Together for Rural Women to End Hunger and Malnutrition,” which will take place 16 December in Rome. The event is  being co-organized by FAO, the Slovak Presidency of the Council of the European Union and the European Commission in close collaboration with key UN partners.

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