Moving towards peace

By Jemma Dyson - January 29th, 2021 | Posted in Article

Moving Towards Peace in Colombia

At the height of the conflict and social regeneration is continuing in areas that were severely impacted. While these areas are not ones that COLCO operate in these socioeconomic factors do have an impact across the country.

Designated as an official peace crop, cacao has been fundamental to supporting continued peace and stability within the region, giving farmers a source of income that is a welcome alternative to harvesting coca, the origin crop for cocaine.

COLCO – the Colombia Cocoa Control System – is working with Colombian farmers to transform cacao production and sustainability through developing technology solutions designed to support for the cacao farmers through increasing their yields and the improving the consistency of quality of their cacao.

The 2016 Peace Agreement 

After one of Colombia’s most violent periods of conflict, a peace agreement was signed on 24th November 2016 by the sitting president Juan Manuel Santos and Timoleón Jiménez, leader of the  Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

As part of the agreement, the Colombian Government planned to reduce the reliance on coca crops by designating cacao as an official peace crop. Given that Colombia offers perfect growing conditions for cacao, the crop was a largely untapped economic opportunity from the international trade perspective.

The shift to cacao has been steady, with some farmers holding preconceptions that there is no money to be made from cacao. Continued support from Government and other organisations will be essential to ensuring cacao can continue to offer a strong alternative to illicit crops.

The Impact on Farming

For individuals that were previously involved in production and cutting, the switch to cacao has offered them a stable and safer source of income which benefits their wider community.

Whilst coca does have legitimate uses in tea and to prevent altitude sickness, being the origin crop for cocaine, it is also used for illegitimate reasons and can fuel the local and international drug trade.

Coca farmers can be subject to violence and often live in fear of arrest with many seeing no way out. Growing cacao allows farmers to earn a living with less fear and get a fair price for their hard work.

Moving towards peace picture

Why Cacao?

With global demand on the rise and Colombia being the ideal climate for cacao cultivation, cacao offers a unique opportunity for Colombian farmers and the wider economy.

Colombia also produces a ‘cacao bean variety which is of a higher quality than other cacao beans produced elsewhere, and the demand for this higher quality bean continues to grow worldwide.

Challenges Faced 

Whilst strong progress has been made towards the adoption of cacao farming across the country, there are still economic and social challenges obstructing widespread acceptance which would promote peace across the region:

  • Coca – With the prospect of fast money, workers can be drawn to illegitimate and dangerous sources of income like working in the mines or cutting coca, which can lead to arrest and fuels the local drug trade. Some tribes also feel that not being able to grow coca means they will lose their way of life.
  • Mindset – Many farmers have preconceptions about cacao due to its and struggle to see a bright future with cacao. This is often due to farmers that have old plants in their plantations with low productivity as they do not manage pests and diseases adequately. This low profit is what causes discomfort. Production could be increased by 40% by just having the right management of pest and diseases in farm
  • Finances – Farmers live from harvest to harvest and rarely invest in training or technology to improve their situation. Additionally, there is an aversion to demonstrating you have property or income as it can leave you vulnerable to robbery, kidnapping or blackmail.
  • Environment – To counteract climate changes it is vital that farmers create effective water collection and irrigation systems to prevent drought and produce successful crops.
  • Aspirations – Farming is hard work and does not pay well. In addition, the violence sometimes seen in rural areas connected to the illegal crop production of coca makes this way of life an unattractive route. For this reason, many younger people and their families have aspirations beyond farming and instead pursue financial stability in cities.

How COLCO Supports the Journey Towards Peace

Through the supply chain, technology, innovation, policy and research organisations, COLCO is developing solutions to unlock growth potential for cacao production in Colombia.

By equipping farmers with the support, technology and expertise they require to make a living from cacao production, COLCO’s work can support those experiencing poverty and give families an alternative to illicit activities – supporting the journey towards peace.

Part of this work includes trying to improve cacao yield resilience in addition to increase in crop volume to ensure the crops provide a regular source of income, thus, making cacao farming more attractive to farmers.

Summary

Cacao poses a unique opportunity for moving towards peace in Colombia, but the support of Government and third-party organisations is vital to ensure farmers can see the economic value of cacao and practice farming methods that are sustainable.

Using expertise ranging from data science to service design, COLCO has joined forces with a consortium of cacao specialists, technologists and support experts in Colombia to support cacao farmers and unlock growth potential.

For more information about COLCO, or to explore opportunities for collaboration, contact us on 01235 428199 or email agriculture@sa.catapult.org.uk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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