Promoting Peace, Substituting Illicit Crops and Strengthening Ag Commercialization

Two students stand in front of a table talking to a woman sitting on the other side of a table in a ag coop store in Colombia.

The Peace Network was established in 2019 by PASO Colombia to promote peace, the substitution of illicit crops, and food security in the department of Guaviare. The Peace Network benefits 1,200 ex-coca producers through associative and sustainable agriculture. In March 2024, in order to learn about the Network's achievements and challenges, our team of REEL students and advisers traveled to Guavaire to learn from a variety of key actors: farmers, government agencies, peace signatories, private companies and campesino associations.

The Peace Network established four campesino associations to manage its initiatives, and these are anchored by COOMFASOL. COOMFASOL leaders maintain links with companies and institutions to commercialize local products, manage hundreds of millions of pesos in grant funds, and have led workshops and talks at institutions such as the Externado University of Colombia.

We propose three recommendations to PASO Colombia to strengthen these commercialization efforts. Where applicable, we also provide tools to support the implementation of these recommendations.

Recommendation 1: To strengthen the economic sustainability of the Network's initiatives, PASO must take additional measures before and during the implementation of the projects. Among these are market studies and monitoring of financial indicators.

In particular, PASO should (1) ensure markets for Peace Network products prior to the development of new value chains, and (2) ensure that all actors in the value chain benefit economically from projects after accounting for costs.

Recommendation 2: To address persistent and systemic barriers to commercialization, PASO and COOMFASOL must continue to leverage their relationships with key actors and convene them in collective forums to achieve common goals, such as improving transportation infrastructure.

Given the success of PASO and COOMFASOL in coordinating actors to create institutional change, PASO should develop projects where its main function is to act as a convener of key actors (such as government agencies, companies, farmers associations, and other interest groups), to collectively drive institutional actions that address the systemic conditions that limit commercialization.

Recommendation 3: To consolidate and protect the successes of the Peace Network, PASO should increase its financial and technical support to the associations.

 In particular, PASO should:

  1. Provide an extensionista for each association to strengthen their processes

  2. Improve the communication chain that links producers with associations and COOMFASOL

  3. Establish budgeting processes to pay farmers for the work they do for their associations (such as counting inventory and packaging products)