In the last quarter of 2018, PASO Colombia developed three new Rural Alternative Schools (ERAs) in the border region with Venezuela, closing the year with nine of these schools fully established and another school currently in the development process. Together with the Collaborative Commercial Partnerships (CCPs) promoted within the ERAs, 1,123 jobs have been generated as well as US$11.5 million in product sales to be distributed among the participating social organizations. These CCPs include an agreement worth $11.3 million between the multinational company Illy Café and cooperatives of peasants and ex-combatants to purchase coffee above market prices, benefiting 890 producer families during the next five years. Other productive chains that have been articulated in these partnerships comprise chili peppers, cacao, castor beans, and sacha inchi.
In Filipinas, Arauca, the ERA is supporting 80 people in the processing of sacha inchi, building a 500 m2 solar dryer and providing training and technical assistance. To reduce the production costs of sacha inchi and other cultivations, the ERA also supports the production of organic fertilizers through training, infrastructure improvement, and providing the first inputs to kickstart the production. Besides this commercial entrepreneurship, the ERA will also contribute to strengthening the cultivation and breeding of other products oriented toward achieving food self-sufficiency in the area.
La Paz, Cesar
The ERA of La Paz, Cesar, began operating with 40 participants. In alliance with the World Food Program, this ERA supports the farming of vegetables to be sold to the regional School Feeding Program. The ERA provided the first seeds, seedlings, irrigation infrastructure, and training, and will provide technical assistance through the whole production and commercialization process.
In Fonseca, Guajira, the ERA supports the breeding of 400 laying hens in a semi-pasture system. The protein sources to produce the food for these hens will be cultivated by the ERA to minimize dependency on external supplies. PASO will be providing the first seeds, fertilizers, and infrastructures as well as training and technical assistance for the breeding and cultivation processes.
Successful Nationwide Model
The ten ERAs operating nationwide have been developed in collaboration with 34 social and governmental organizations, universities, banks, companies, and associations of ex-combatants and peasants, which contribute land, capital, training, technical assistance, task forces, and markets. The model of a collaboration hub that combines productive and training efforts to support peasants’ and ex-combatants’ entrepreneurship is a social innovation that has proven to be an effective way to build sustainable peace and promote development in places where state presence and private investment are very weak. Due to its flexible and organic nature the model has been able to evolve, adapting to the specific needs of each one of the territories and communities involved, and has been recognized as a replicable experience in international forums like the Build Peace Conference and the Concordia Americas Summit.