Juan David Ferreira
The rural development discussion tables brought new ideas and initiatives to work for the improvement of rural development in Colombia amidst current peace agreements
In April and May, the Association of Corporate and Family Foundation - AFE Colombia, conducted rural development tables in four cities of Colombia: Bogota, Medellin, Cali and Barranquilla. The purpose of these dialogues was to invite member foundations and other actors to engage in discussions on how to have more impact in rural development, and showcase examples of the projects currently being implemented to improve the living conditions of people in living in rural areas.
AFE partnered with Santiago Perry, former deputy minister of agriculture, director of Corporación PBA, and board member of the Mission to Transform Rurality, an initiative sponsored by the government for experts to provide recommendations on how to properly develop the Colombian rural sector.
Santiago Perry’s main recommendations from the ‘Mission to Transform Rurality’, can be summarized in three points: participatory territorial focus, rural development as a comprehensive process seeking the inclusion of all rural inhabitants and the adequate provision of basic services instead of relying on subsidies and assistentialism. Other presentations included Fundación Ideas para la Paz which focused on the first point of the peace agreements: rurality as an entry point.
Youth was one of the main issues discussed in the rural development tables, particularly the challenges arising from a younger population leaving rural areas to work in cities, and the lack of education and employment opportunities available for young people in rural area aside from agricultural work. This brought us all to reflect on how to make rurality, not just agriculture, attractive to young people.
Following the discussion on youth development in rural, we also addressed the need to improve the access to quality education in rural areas. There are several member foundations working on this issue such as Fundación Smurfit Kappa or Dividendo por Colombia. The latter have pioneered methodologies that have had a positive impact in the rural communities they work with, moreover, other AFE Foundations work to improve the quality of infrastructure of education centers or sponsor scholarships for rural students. It was also mentioned, that the new peace agreement is giving new possibility for the government to improve the coverage and quality of education in rural areas that were inaccessible during the conflict.
Lastly, we discussed diversifying the income and employment opportunities for rural inhabitants beyond agriculture. The attendees highlighted the importance of fostering new areas of work in formerly deprived rural areas and the necessity of leaving installed capacities for these areas of work in the communities to have as a result a sustainable diversification of the economy in rural areas.
Overall, I believe the rural development discussion tables were very fruitful as it brought new ideas and initiatives to work for the improvement of rural development amidst current peace agreements. Indeed, it is evident that philanthropy faces many challenges in Colombia, which is why at AFE Colombia we work on identifying possible solutions and collaborations to address these issues.
Juan David Ferreira is a consultant at Asociación de Fundaciones Empresariales y Familiares-AFE Colombia.
Photo Credit: Santiago La Rotta