As part of the first phase of the construction of the Guaviare Peace Network, the “Agricultural and Cultural Peace Show” was held in the municipality of El Capricho. With campesino (rural farmer) markets, clean production, crop diversification and organizational consolidation, PASO Colombia and different allies are building this Peace Network that will promote sustainable development by strengthening legal economies in the region. 1,200 families from 59 communities participate in this initiative, gathering ex-combatants, former coca-growing families, and local and international cooperation institutions.
The Guaviare Peace Network has the COOMFASOL cooperative, created within the framework of the Contingency Plan to Support Ex-Coca Grower Families, by former coca-growing women from the area, who work alongside PASO Colombia as a territorial link to share their experience on marketing and the creation of farmer markets. The University of Notre Dame is also a key partner in this project, accompanying the process and conducting a Study on the impact of this Network on the reduction of coca crops.
Building a territorial vision
In the words of COOMFASOL member Nery Sarmiento, “the peace network is meant to further unite us, because you always see this person is here, and the other guy is over there; that this one has the food and that the other one has the customer, that it’s the animal, but then we don't understand that we need each other. So, the peace network is meant to get to know what we have and then support the rural sector”.
The coordinated work proposed by the network allows its participants to obtain a more complete overview of their territory, connecting proposals and solving needs among different members. As recognized by Paola Salcedo, who accompanies the development of the project from PASO Colombia:
“Inside the market, we identified that the Triunfo Dos village is cultivating and producing Californian earthworms; during the socialization we had in Guacamayas, they expressed the need to have Californian earthworms for their organic fertilizers. Immediately, COOMFASOL connected the dots. We said, 'Hey, the Californian earthworms that Guacamayas need for their organic fertilizers are being sold in El Capricho.’"
These very connections between the different communities will allow the creation of marketing chains, the strengthening of farmer markets, meetings for seed exchange and training for clean agricultural production. "The Network's main objective is that the collaborative work builds a connection between them, builds networks between associations, between women, between leaders, between farmers and institutions," explained Salcedo.
Learning by doing
The “Agricultural and Cultural Peace Show” in the municipality of El Capricho is the first milestone for the Guaviare Peace Network. This farmer market, which served as a meeting point and socialization space for the participating organizations, was organized directly by campesino families already part of the initiative. 430 families participated in the event and over 5 million pesos (COP) in sales were managed; however, the event’s most important function was as a pedagogical workshop to identify key points to work on during the following months, with the purpose of strengthening the marketing axis of participating communities.
“There is one advantage and it’s that finally people are starting to feel empowered about learning to sell, because people do not really know how to sell their products. But also, the fact that it is organized by farmer communities also enables the recognition of the region’s leadership, social organizations, associations, cooperatives. That they don't always need to have an institution to make the farmer market happen, but that finally the communities themselves start to use this type of spaces. And that is something that’s being highlighted today, that the communities are here leading this market. I think it is an example of their own territorial vision taking place”, says Leyder, member of the COOJAPAL cooperative.
In this project, the marketing proposes to collectively and territorially articulate the entire community. For this reason, a diverse participation was prioritized in this first meeting, including initiatives such as Las Caprichosas (a cooperative of former coca-growing women) and the COOJAPAL cooperative, made up of ex-combatants who bet on the production of organic concentrates for animals, who shared their organizational and economic experiences.
As a whole, the objective of this paper is to show that it is possible to generate peace collaboratively through the construction of networks, by promoting conditions for farmers to develop other agricultural projects, diversify their income in the short and medium-term, and strengthen their organizational autonomy.