After a 50-year-long civil war, Colombia has entered a newly found period of peace. Decades of conflict and instability, however, severely impacted locals in many ways, one of them being food security. At this point, 43 percent of Colombians live with food insecurity and the majority of those affected reside in rural areas. Rural development is a priority in peacekeeping initiatives and will aid in reducing both poverty and food insecurity in Colombia.
Malnutrition in Colombia
An individual is considered food insecure when they experience hunger daily or are unable to afford consistent meals for themselves or their family. It can lead to a number of physical and mental health issues, with malnutrition as the main concern. In Colombia, more than 13 percent of children under the age of five suffer from malnutrition, which can inhibit proper development at a young age. Internally displaced persons or those from an ethnic minority are more likely to live with food insecurity and to be malnourished.
In November 2016, President Juan Manuel Santos signed the peace agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). With this promise of peace and security came a commitment to developing the agriculture sector and investing in programs aimed at poverty reduction in rural areas. In a comment, President Santos highlighted rural poverty as a result of the war and its impact on the farming industry stating that the country fields were also victims of the armed conflict that stripped the rural sector of its productivity, increased the social gap with the urban areas and deepened inequities in the country.
Of those living in rural regions, 40 percent are impoverished, and this geographic group also makes up the majority of individuals affected by food insecurity in Colombia. By encouraging the development of new farms, the government could reduce poverty, food insecurity and reliance on food imports, while benefiting the economy and employment rates.
Agriculture makes up 6.9 percent of Colombia’s GDP while offering employment to 15.8 percent of the population. Less than 30 percent of its arable land, however, is currently being used. Government initiatives to solve this issues include building road, irrigation systems, seed distribution networks for previously underutilized regions and implementing nutrition security programs and agricultural subsidies.
Groups such as the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), a specialized United Nations agency, are also working towards alleviating food insecurity in Colombia. IFAD supports small-scale agriculture and entrepreneurs in rural areas, with the goal of increasing efficiency and productivity. They work with the government to secure loans and implement public policy. Currently, IFAD has four projects in Colombia with the total funding of $163 million. These programs impact 94,400 families.
Action Against Hunger, a global nonprofit organization, has been active in Colombia since 1998 and continues to shape their efforts according to the political climate. Their services include emergency food distribution, nutritional support for children and training in vulnerable communities. Since the Peace Accords in 2016, they have incorporated peace-building work into their programs. In 2017 alone, their Nutrition and Health programs reached 2,878 people and their Food Security and Livelihood programs reached 10,462 people.
These are just two examples of international efforts to support the government’s goal of rural development and reducing food insecurity in Colombia.
As the country transitions away from conflict, continued work towards poverty reduction and advancement in the agricultural sector is necessary for security and economic growth.
– Georgia Orenstein