A Vision for Sustainable Peace
PASO Colombia is a program of One Earth Future (OEF), an incubator of innovative peacebuilding programs, working hand-in-hand with communities affected by conflict to eliminate the root causes of war.
After years of work in the Colombian territories most affected by decades of armed conflict, PASO believes that peace is built by sharing time together, iterating with communities to help them find their own solutions to collective problems. In contrast to the aid rationale, which approaches people as beneficiaries, PASO works with the communities as partners, leaving installed capacities, generating business and employment under a cooperative model, and transforming them into drivers of the sustainable development of their territories. Unlike the individual entrepreneurship rationale, that turns community members into competitors, PASO promotes associative models in which people living in the same territory can cooperate to create scaled economies or find solutions to shared problems.
Working with communities that collaborate to collectively create economic opportunities to leave war behind, PASO has developed the Rural Alternative School (ERA) model that currently supports rural entrepreneurship in 22 regions throughout Colombia. With a bottom-up approach and a “learning by doing” method, ERAs have turned into collaboration platforms in which communities receive tailored training and technical support, while they work on their own productive projects, create markets, build collective productive infrastructures and strengthen their organizations.
Roughly 14,000 individuals have been served by PASO Colombia since 2018, generating: 2,368 jobs, more than 1.2 million dollars in sales, and $215K in savings through food production for the participating communities.
Besides creating viable livelihoods and contributing to the sustainable development of the territories in which they operate, the most important achievement of the ERA model is its success in helping restore the social fabric of territories affected by decades of armed conflict. In 2020, when the independent firm Cifras & Conceptos conducted the annual survey among ERA participants, 71% of community members responded that their trust in ex-combatants has improved as a result of their work in the ERAs. Similarly, 82% of ex-combatants stated that their trust in community members has grown. Trust in PASO Colombia has improved for 89% of respondents, and for 61%, their trust in other NGOs has increased. As for local governments, 35% of participants reported an increase in their trust and 20% towards the national government.
Combining local knowledge and a permanent technical support, PASO promotes different practices to make productive projects more profitable and environmentally friendly, prioritizing their sustainability in wide aspects. Thanks to organic fertilizers, nurseries, the use of agricultural sub-products, and productive reforestation, the communities have complemented their productive activities and diversified their income while protecting their environment.