Rural Alternative Schools (ERA) | Tulua, Colombia

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The Rural Alternative School of Tuluá, Valle is the result of the work of 33 peasant families and 33 ex-combatants that decided to work together to develop the region’s agriculture. In addition to contributing to the reconciliation of a region affected by armed conflict, ERA participants have overcome the geographical difficulties of the central mountain range and the distance between the region’s hamlets.  This ERA currently has the support of institutions such as the Department of Peace of the Government of Valle, Tuluá City Hall, social organizations ASTRACAVA and ASOPROVENUS, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), and the UN Verification Mission in Colombia.

Tuluá ERA participants come from the following small towns: La Moralia, Monteloro, San Marcos, Venus, Santa Lucía, Los Aguacates, and La Alejandría. Due to the distance between the hamlets, the ERA is made up of seven hubs, each of which is staffed by peasant families and ex-combatants. Each hub runs a different production project, depending on soil characteristics and participant interests and experience. The different hubs cover everything from cow and pig livestock to blackberries, Quito oranges, sugarcane, avocados, and coffee crops. A supply center was built at Venus as an ERA integration point for both participants and agricultural products.

Thanks to the Collaborative Commercial Partnership promoted by PASO between the Colombian Association of Small Coffee Growers (ASCAFE) and Illy Café, Illy has committed to purchasing the coffee at a higher-than-market-average price. With this agreement, peasant organizations in the area have a purchase guarantee for the next five years. This agreement ensures a profit margin that has maintained crops and allows for purchases to be made from other peasant families.

The Tuluá ERA installed a Guardiola to improve coffee bean drying, installed a testing laboratory, and provided training sessions on topics related to coffee so participants can recognize and improve grain quality, pre-delivery processes, and the production potential of their land.