To continue sharing our learning with people and institutions interested in building peace through sustainable rural development in Colombia, in this installment of the series "Our Impact on Data" , we analyze why Alternative Rural Schools (ERA) are considered by 84% of the participants as a good alternative for socioeconomic reincorporation, based on the results of the chapter Future perspectives on the reincorporation process of the 2020 ERA Perception and Satisfaction Survey .
In the previous article we saw how one of the main motivations of those surveyed to remain in the peace process is to be able to contribute to social change in their region. After 5 years of development as spaces for collaboration, trust building and support for productive projects that promote sustainable rural economies, the ERA have become spaces that catalyze the creative and transformative energy of those reincorporated, influencing changes that in the short and medium term are already observed in the territories they inhabit. That is why 98% of them consider that the collaborative productive projects in which they participate have been important for their regions.
Economic reincorporation and collaborative reconstruction of the Colombian countryside
On November 24, 5 years have passed since the signing of the Peace Agreement between the Colombian State and the former FARC-EP guerrilla. While the dialogues were taking place, the One Earth Future Foundation designed the Sustainable Peace for Colombia program (PASO Colombia) with the aim of supporting the economic reincorporation of those who would lay down their weapons. Already in the field work, with an iterative method based on data, and in collaboration with reincorporated, peasant communities and public and private organizations, PASO Colombia developed the Alternative Rural Schools (ERA) model as educational and productive collaboration platforms to support productive projects that will have a positive impact on the social and economic well-being of reintegrated workers and peasants.
Recognizing that rural communities have been the most affected by the armed conflict, PASO Colombia assumed the territorial and multi-actor approach contemplated in the Comprehensive Rural Reform described in point 1 of the Peace Agreement, with the intention of contributing to the economic reincorporation of Those who lay down their arms will promote the necessary transformations for the consolidation of peace in dispersed rural areas. One of these transformations is the improvement of the living and working conditions of the peasants. Those who live in rural areas are affected by contexts of frequent insecurity, insufficient payment for their work, high transportation and input costs, and a lack of social protection for communities in general.
In this context, the ERA have been consolidated as platforms for the integration of actors through dialogues, daily collaborative work and long-term prioritized objectives through collective agreement processes. As a whole, the ERAs have fostered the creation of community ties among their participants: 76% of the community members feel that their relationship with the reincorporated has been positive or very positive, 83% of the peasants feel comfortable having a reincorporated as a neighbor and 70% report that they are part of a productive project with reincorporated.
In the communities that have emerged thanks to the ERA spaces, social reincorporation translates into the reduction of stigma, divisions and other obstacles to integration between the different actors. 89% of those reincorporated indicate that they have plans to continue working collaboratively with the surrounding communities and 91% of them feel satisfied with the reestablishment of their family ties.
The collective experiment of economic reincorporation
One of the novel characteristics of this Peace Agreement is the collective nature of the economic reincorporation. In this direction, the ERA promote associative models in which people who live in the same territory can cooperate to create economies of scale or find solutions to shared problems. 83% of the surveyed participants reported being part of a cooperative and 74% of them are active members of a cooperative associated with projects with the ERA. With its strengthening, the associations and cooperatives of reintegrated workers and peasants increase their capacity to create productive chains, participate together with other institutions in discussions about the development of their territories, and expand the marketing spaces for their projects.
The ERA model seeks to collaboratively articulate five fundamental components for the sustainability of prioritized productive projects with communities: markets, land, knowledge, work and capital. For their part, the participants surveyed agree that the most important supports for their reincorporation process are: having their own land (85% of importance), participating in productive projects (82%), and achieving the commercialization of their products (80% ). The collaborative and networking approach has proven to be effective in overcoming obstacles such as lack of land or access to markets. It also radiates its benefits in the surrounding communities.
For example, in 2016 the ERA de Miranda was established in the 5 hectares of common areas of the Campesino Reserve Zone (ZRC) of Miranda, thanks to a loan from the Peasant Association ASPROZONAC that partnered with the CEPRODET cooperative for reincorporated workers. At the beginning of the development of this ERA, only 10% of the 105 hectares of the Reserve Zone were areas cultivated with food. After five years of joint work, almost all of the arable areas of this reserve now have crops for self-consumption and local marketing. As part of this expansion of production, both by reintegrated workers and peasants, the Alternative Peace Market (MERCAPAZ) was created in the municipality of Miranda, as a space for the commercialization of locally produced agricultural products without intermediaries.
Another emblematic case is that of the ERA of San José del Guaviare , which began with the proposal for the production of organic concentrates to guarantee the feeding of the animal husbandry projects of the reincorporated, and now benefits the surrounding communities. These concentrates are made from the reuse of agricultural by-products and the use of local raw materials. Its implementation has encouraged the use of land for growing food, helps to recover soils degraded by deforestation and illicit crops, and makes the development of agricultural projects sustainable thanks to the reduction of costs and impact. environmental protection of inputs for animal husbandry. The reincorporated cooperatives that participate in the ERA ( COOJAPAL and COOAMACOL ) achieved a Collaborative Commercial Alliance with the peasant families of the Colinas village, to whom they sell food for their animals with a 30% discount. Likewise, the reincorporated supply these concentrates to the families that voluntarily substituted crops for illicit use with a 40% discount. Experts from SENA and the Universidad de los Llanos have been linked to the project to modernize production, which is in the scaling stage to triple its monthly production.
Expectations on the construction of peace
Our experience in these last 5 years of work shows us that collaborative spaces such as the ERA, built on multi-stakeholder alliances, working with reincorporated workers and peasant communities as partners, allow the creation of support networks for productive projects, enabling spaces for coexistence with better perceptions of security. , trust and more dialogue dynamics -as we discussed in previous installments of “Our Impact on Data” . The joint effort of recent years has allowed us to see a strengthening of the social fabric of communities affected by the armed conflict in different points at the national level where this model has been implemented. By 2020, 91% of reinstated ERA participants and 90% of community members say their ERA experience has been positive or very positive. In turn, 70% of the reincorporated who participate in them have an optimistic attitude towards the future of the reincorporation process, whose implementation has been proposed for 15 years and will be a continuous challenge for those who bet everything for the construction of peace.