FAO will work with Colombia in strengthening rural development and building a durable peace in the country’s post-conflict stage, said Director-General José Graziano da Silva during a recent high-level visit to the Latin American nation.

The current cease-fire and peace negotiations present a unique and immediate opportunity for political leaders to reverse decades of rural economic decline, according to the head of the Food and Agricultural Organizations of the United Nations.

“Peace begins in the fields, and there can be no peace without food security nor food security without peace,” Graziano da Silva said at his meeting with President Manuel Santos. He presented a joint working plan, saying “Armed conflict always leads to food insecurity and hunger, and vice versa.”

The current negotiations in Havana between the government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC-EP) began three years ago. It is now widely expected that the two sides, at war for more than 50 years, can conclude a Final Accord in the first half of 2016. FAO is eager to contribute to the efforts of national and local authorities, with the support of the international community, to build and consolidate peace, which in turn inextricably depends on lives free from hunger.

"Colombia has for the past 50 years had to drive with the brakes on," said President Santos. "FAO knows better than anyone how much global food production needs to grow, and I am sure that peace will allow our country to turn into a provider." 

Field visit

President Santos, Graziano da Silva and Rafael Pardo, Colombia’s Post-Conflict Minister, traveled to about 500 kilometers east of Bogotá to visit Orocué, a town in the department de Casanare.

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While there, FAO’s leader signed an agreement with the Post-Conflict Ministry that establishes a mutual cooperation scheme designed to improve the technical capacities for policies and programs linked to rural development, land tenure, food security, access to markets and economic and social infrastructure. The agreement includes the joint work plan between FAO and Colombia to promote peace, rural development and food security.

Global experience shows that the immediate aftermath of a new peace accord ending a long-running conflict is an inherently fragile period. FAO’s intention is to roll out fast-track projects designed to have a rapid tangible impact while contributing to sustainable development and food security.

Colombia has enormous food production potential, with some 22 million hectares of arable farmland, of which only 5 million are currently under cultivation.

FAO will make available its technical leadership in agricultural and food security policies, focusing on three pillars: promoting more stability in land management; supporting food and livestock production in rural areas targeted by the government’s rural development and land restitution plan; support for the eradication of hunger and chronic childhood malnutrition.

Working together

In recent years, FAO and the government of Colombia have collaborated on programs and projects linked to family farming, food systems, water basin management, land restoration and the bolstering of information systems supporting agricultural and livestock production. FAO has a track record of supporting programs aimed at mitigating the impact of armed conflict by enabling farmers and herders to access adequate inputs as well as technical and financial resources. The Organization has also conducted training and evaluation programs for public food security and nutrition policies.

During his visit to Colombia, Graziano da Silva met with representatives of civil society, the private sector and exponents of the cooperative moment to discuss ways to assure an inclusive economic growth path for post-conflict rural areas.