Colombia’s nationwide quarantine brought on by the COVID-19 crisis has significantly limited mobility, work and trade throughout the country. These limitations have created uncertainty about ongoing access to food for rural areas. In response, PASO Colombia is strengthening the productivity and efficiency of the Rural Alternative School of Miranda, Cauca. The strengthening of local networks guarantees not only the production of food, but its sale and distribution amongst local populations as fair prices.
To contribute to increased food production, the farmers of ASPROZONAC, the rural farmers association that is part of this ERA, offered a 4-hectare plot for planting beans, corn, yucca and pumpkin. Through collaborative work known as minga, two hectares have already been sowed.
In conjunction with the development of 4-hectare plot, a factory and apiary are also being established. The factory will produce animal food, providing an alternative to expensive industrial options. The land, factory, and apiary are all being developed with the intent to provide opportunities for commercial distribution, promoted and supported by PASO Colombia.
In addition, the ERA of Miranda is expanding its operations and its workspace. Los Samanes, a farm neighboring the Peasant Reserve Zone, currently employs ex-combatants from the CEPRODET cooperative as well as rural farmers from the ASPROZONAC association. The farm will function as the second branch of the Miranda ERA.
At the Los Samanes branch, animal husbandry projects have been established including tilapia fish farming, pig breeding and cattle raising for milk production. Since outputs from these projects were only sold locally, quarantine restrictions brought on by the COVID-19 crisis have not affected demand and production. To be able to continue working during the quarantine, and to reduce the risk of contagion, six ex-combatants settled at Los Samanes farm, providing the necessary care to the animals and selling their products directly from this new branch.
The progress seen in the Miranda ERA has helped to strengthen the will of former combatants to maintain peace. It has given them hope despite facing difficulties during the implementation of the Final Peace Agreement, the uncertainty about their security, and the lack of land to establish long-term projects. Oscar Echeverry, representative of CEPRODET, says, "This is total chaos, but during these circumstances the process must be defended. With the projects that I am telling you [animal husbandry and crops for food security in the ERA], we have a cohesive staff here. I think that it is a good result, that in the middle of this situation we remain convinced that we have not gone wrong. That is interesting.”
The ERA of Miranda as a collaborative platform has not only contributed to building peace and reconciliation through agricultural entrepreneurships, but it also continues to address the food security challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.