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    AHRC funding awarded for work to seek resolutions to agricultural conflict in Colombia.

    Posted 7 December 2020

    “Our Colombian colleagues bring to the project in-depth local knowledge of the agricultural potential and social/cultural environment. Harper Adams staff bring modelling expertise and experience with economic development in Africa, Asia and other parts of Latin America.”

    Harper Adams University (HAU) researchers are partnering with counterparts in Colombia to seek solutions to agricultural conflicts in the Ariari region of Colombia in the eastern foothills of the Andes Mountains.

    This effort will be supported with a grant of £179,531 from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) Conflict Intersections Development Awards.

    “This collaboration combines rigorous quantitative analysis with participatory research methods to seek solutions to one of the persistence sources of conflict in Colombia,” said Professor James Lowenberg-DeBoer of Harper Adams University.

    “Our Colombian colleagues bring to the project in-depth local knowledge of the agricultural potential and social/cultural environment. Harper Adams staff bring modelling expertise and experience with economic development in Africa, Asia and other parts of Latin America.”

    The Ariari region is an exceptionally fertile area of the Orinocco River basin east of the Andes Mountains. Large plantations of oil palm and other tree crops, mechanized rice farms, extensive cattle ranches, medium and small family farms focused on dairy and horticulture, and indigenous subsistence agriculture all compete for resources.

    Family farms are the majority of farms, but only control a small proportion of the land. To add to the economic and social complexity of the area, about 30% of Colombian petroleum production occurs there. The economic competition between these groups has been one of the roots the arm conflict that has plagued the region over the last 50 years.

    This project is made possible by a peace treaty with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Spanish acronym is the FARC) in 2016. Ariari region is near the former FARC stronghold of La Macarena and in the past was a centre of cocaine production and other illegal activity. With the disbanding of the FARC, area farmers are focusing on economic development through peaceful and legal entrepreneurship. No security problems have been reported in the Ariari region for many months.

    The Colombian partner institution is the Colombia Corporation for Agricultural Research, better known as Agrosavia, which is publicly-funded institution under the auspices of the Ministry of Agriculture. Agrosavia has the mandate to coordinate all the agricultural research in Colombia. “In recent years, Agrosavia has developed a novel method to assess agri-food systems resilience and ensure future innovation considering not only biodiversity targets and sustainable development goals, but also, the aspirations and goals of local communities, said Dr Oscar Forero, the Agrosavia principal investigator.

    “Agrosavia is committed to innovations that enable the development of sustainable livelihoods among family farmers. The project in the Ariari will incorporate lessons learned from current pilots but also further expand identifying the most promising socioeconomic coexistence arrangements for increasing wellbeing of family farmers.”,

    Professor Lowenberg-DeBoer has more than 30 years of worldwide experience in using mathematical modelling to identify economic bottlenecks and test potential solutions. Some of the most promising of those solutions are subsequently trialled and have benefited millions of small holder farmers.

    Professor Lowenberg-DeBoer knows Colombia well. He spent much of 2016 and 2017 in eastern Colombia working with Colombian partners, including Agrosavia, to develop a mathematical model of the farming systems to support Colombia government allocation of unused agricultural land.

    “This collaboration gives us the opportunity to further develop a research approach that has been successful in the UK and in Thailand,” added Rebecca Payne, the Head of the Land Farm and Agri-Business Management Department at Harper Adams. “We can help solve problems in Colombia and at the same time develop better ways for different types of farms and rural businesses can co-exist prosperously in Britain.”
    The project plans an iterative process of modelling and workshops with Ariari farmers and rural residents. HAU and Agrosavia researchers will propose farm business development and farm-to-farm cooperation based on modelling. In the workshops, local people will react to those proposals and provide additional information to fine tune the models. The final stage of the project will be planning the pilot implementation of the most promising alternatives.

    Strategies that will be considered include developing local food supply chains to feed workers on plantations, petroleum extraction facilities and other isolated work sites. Currently, those employers often ship food from wholesalers in the capital city Bogotá several hundred miles away. Also anchor farm models that have been successful in Africa will be modelled and tested. Anchor farms involve a large farm functioning as an aggregation point and initial processing facility for produce from the surrounding small and medium family farms.

    The title of the HAU-Agrosavia AHRC funded project is “Developing Resilience Options for Family Farmers in the Ariari Region of Colombia.” It runs from 1 Feb. 2021 to 30 January, 2023. The project will be launched with on-line meetings and collaboration sessions, but HAU staff may travel to Colombia later in the project. A contingency plan has been developed to use mobile phones for the Agrosavia interaction with farmers and other local residents if public health or security conditions require.

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