With millions of Colombian farmers affected by the violent conflict that plagued the Latin American country for more than 50 years, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) will support a comprehensive rural reform strategy, aimed at strengthening food security and peace, including measures which address issues of land access and restitution.
“There is no peace without sustainable development, and there is no sustainable development without peace, emphasizing that both have a fundamental precondition: that all citizens have access to a dignified life and food necessary to lead a dignified life,” FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said yesterday in a news release.
The Colombian Government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People's Army (FARC-EP), the main opposition group, have agreed an historic peace accord meant to end the Western Hemisphere's longest running conflict. That deal was the culmination of four years of talks between the two sides, and led to a cessation of hostilities and agreements on key issues such as political participation, illicit drugs and victims' rights, transitional justice and land rights, which was the focus of a parallel event at a meeting of the FAO Council.
Mr. Graziano da Silva stressed that "the peace agreement, proposes a profound change in the rural areas of the country. It will enable production to diversify, improve incomes and promote governance of land and natural resource tenure."
FAO’s support to the peace accord’s land reform plank is based on the agency’s Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure, assisting the government of Colombia on safeguarding people's rights to property or access to land, forests and fisheries, which has been one of the topics of the peace agreement.
The UN agriculture agency will also offer its expertise by monitoring and evaluating of Colombia’s social protection programmes. These programmes will be linked to family farming through public procurement.
Civil society and institutions that have been "historically far from the State" will have to be involved, according to Mr. da Silva, for reforms to be effective.
He added that FAO has accumulated a great amount of experience in these areas that it can offer to the Colombian Government.
At the FAO event, the Colombian Ambassador to Italy stressed that the Latin American country has more than 20 million hectares of arable land, only seven million hectares of which are planted.
Ambassador Juan Mesa Zuleta said that Colombia is among the seven countries of the world "that can best contribute" to ending world hunger, adding that the transcontinental country itself imports food from the world that “we could plant on our own soil”.