The Guaviare Peace Network is a project created between campesino (rural farmers) communities in San José del Guaviare, One Earth Future’s PASO Colombia program, and the University of Notre Dame. Based on the model and experience developed in the Rural Alternative Schools (ERAs), the Guaviare Peace Network develops a program to create markets and generate income for 1,200 ex-coca growers families in Guaviare. The network proposes a model that leverages the assets and resources of local groups to promote collaborative work among different actors in the territory, allowing communities to participate in the sustainable development of their regions, as partners
This model is based on the organizational development of local communities by helping them identify and agree upon strategic actions that support long-term rural development in their territories. In order to strengthen community initiatives' capacity for agricultural production, collective productive infrastructure, marketing networks, and organizational skills, PASO Colombia supports the development of community initiatives with training, technical assistance, inputs, investment, and payment for work.
The University of Notre Dame monitors the process to assess how this collective, micro-focused model built alongside communities, can foster economic development and the restoration of social fabric in territories traditionally affected by illicit crops.
A model co-created with the communities
The armed conflict and deforestation in Colombia have particularly affected San José del Guaviare and its rural areas. The inequality between rural and urban areas, including informal land ownership, disputes over land use, a lack of infrastructure and basic services in dispersed rural areas are ongoing issues. Growing illicit crops like coca has long been one of the main sources of income for this region's economy. Communities have joined several initiatives in this situation to successfully transition to coca-free economies, sustainably productive projects, and the preservation of their region's diversity.
The Guaviare Peace Network is built with the help of local producer families who share their knowledge of what they are able to produce and, particularly, the goods and resources that are available within their territory. Highlighting their agricultural experience is essential to understanding the territory's potential for production, the challenges they have faced, their capacity to generate value from their products, and the strategies developed in order to bring these products to the end consumer. As a result of the organizational strengthening component, four associations that provide strategic services by and for communities were established. Additionally, they coordinate activities with local public and private actors, and encourage community participation.
The COOMFASOL cooperative, founded in 2020 by a group of 35 former coca farmers who took part in the Contingency Plan to Support Ex-coca Grower Families run by PASO Colombia and funded by the Multi-Donor Fund of the United Nations for Sustaining Peace in Colombia, is the implementing partner in the region. This cooperative's goals include encouraging the sale of agricultural products, achieving fair prices, cutting down on or doing away with intermediaries, and resolving issues with supply and demand chains. They approach communities using a gender perspective to strengthen female leadership and create new avenues for campesino women to earn money.
COOMFASOL shares its knowledge of collective work, as well as its experience in developing campesino markets and marketing plans. With the aid of this collaborative process, PASO, COOMFASOL, and local communities were able to pinpoint the competitive advantages of each location and determine how they could best use their own assets and expertise to support a broad development plan.
Peace Nodes: a strategy to leverage local resources
Territorial development planning is based on an understanding of the unique strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats that exist within the territory. The Guaviare Peace Network, taking into account these complexities, competitive advantages, and challenges, identified four intervention nucleus that bring together participating families in the municipalities of Calamar, El Retorno, and San José del Guaviare.
- Nucleus 1 (El Capricho, La Carpa y La Cristalina) is made up of 585 families. This nucleus is located near La Macarena Special Management Area -AMEM- and the Serranía del Chiribiquete National Park.
- Nucleus 2 (Guacamayas y San José del Guaviare) consists of 429 families, several of which are located in the Indigenous Reserve "La Fuga".
- Nucleus 3 (Boquerón – Charras) consists of 434 families located near the Nukak Maku, Caño Negro, and Barranco Colorado Indigenous Reservations.
- Nucleus 4 (Japón y La Libertad) is made up of 356 families.
At the same time, the model is based on the notion that in regions that have historically been impacted by illicit crops and violence, market development and income generation cannot advance in the absence of a strong social fabric.