Rural Alternative Schools (ERAs) are productive and educational collaboration platforms where private, public and community resources are used to promote sustainable rural development. With the support of its network of partners, PASO Colombia has been able to set up 20 ERAs throughout the country. Through the ERAs, peasant communities, ex-combatants in the process of reincorporation, victims of armed conflict, Venezuelan migrants, families that have voluntarily substituted illicit crops, private companies, public entities, non-governmental organizations and international organizations all work together.
These collaboration platforms develop production projects providing what they need to be financially viable and sustainable: land, knowledge, capital, work, and markets. In addition, ERAs also set the foundations to develop Collaborative Commercial Partnerships (CCPs). CCPs connect local producers with domestic and international markets, investors, and credit sources. These partnership networks reduce investment risk, ensure fair selling prices, guarantee and strengthen technical knowledge, develop social and business fabric, and strengthen governance for territorial peace.
During these first two years in operation, the initiative has created 1,776 jobs for ex-combatants in the process of reincorporation and 448 jobs for members of beneficiary communities. It has also generated $11.5 million pesos (USD $3,378) in trade agreements and has enabled participants to save money through food self-sufficiency projects.