In the rural municipality of Miranda, Cauca, the Alternative Peace Market (MERCAPAZ, as per its Spanish acronym) was launched, an initiative led by ex-combatants and campesinos (rural peasants) aimed at creating a fair trade venue for local produce. This is a project of CEPRODET and ASPROZONAC, social organizations that participate in the Rural Alternative School (ERA) of Miranda and are now taking another step to expand the commercialization chain of their products. MERCAPAZ brings together small producers from northern Cauca who wish to sell high-quality products directly to buyers, offering end consumers affordable prices and a wider portfolio of brands and services.
MERCAPAZ was designed by members of the cooperative CEPRODET and the association ASPROZONAC, under the principles of fair trade and with the purpose of strengthening local economies and the community’s social cohesion. For organizers, MERCAPAZ has a positive impact beyond economic benefits: the space serves to raise awareness and bring people together, gathering products that are not available in other venues. In the opening day, for example, Café Rubio had a special booth to offer samples to consumers and invite them to buy their product at the market. Café Rubio has been operating for several years, but despite its experience, it did not have access to any sales venues. Local campesinos also took their produce and were able to sell fresh seasonal products without intermediaries in the outer area of MERCAPAZ.
Among its initiatives, MERCAPAZ promotes the trade of environmentally sound products. Therefore, the ERA of Miranda has promoted the use of environmentally-friendly techniques, such as the production of natural fertilizers for soil improvement, the reuse of agricultural by-products, and the implementation of vegetable gardens to promote reforestation. Thanks to these activities, participants of the ERA have diversified agricultural production in the Campesino Reserve Zone of Miranda, and have improved their productive projects, achieving a better level of production to sell in MERCAPAZ.
This project is supported by the Catalan Association for Peace, the UN Verification Mission in Colombia, and PASO Colombia, and it hopes to become a replicable experience in other communities where work is currently underway to improve the sustainable economies of rural communities in the country.