After four years of work to improve government coordination and response, land agencies prove they can overlap efforts and bring integrated solutions to the nation’s rural problems.
Originally appeared on Exposure.
A NEW CORNERSTONE
When Colombia’s Minister of Agriculture—flanked by the heads of three government land and rural development agencies—laid the cornerstone of a large coffee-drying plant in Southern Tolima in November, the action went beyond giving coffee farmers a better chance to market wet coffee. The moment proved to the government and its rural citizens that interagency coordination can be a reality in post-conflict Colombia and that the words “rural integrated focus” are not just hollow promises made by politicians brokering peace accords.
In 2015, USAID began working in nine municipalities in Southern Tolima through its innovative Land and Rural Development Program. The project approaches peace and stability by combining efforts to improve land restitution, formalization, and economic development. But above all, the program—which seeks to increase institutional capacity to administer land—directs time and energy toward strengthening coordination and response, both horizontally, from agency to agency, and vertically, from municipal to regional to national government, and vice versa.
USAID then uses its rapport with government allies to facilitate public-private partnerships (PPPs) in the municipalities that have been most affected by Colombia’s protracted conflict. For example, after a series of stakeholder meetings, USAID facilitated a PPP with Tolima’s largest coffee cooperative, Cafisur, to the tune of US$8.2mn. Among other things, the partnership supports the installation of a coffee-drying plant in Chaparral, the heart of Tolima coffee country. The drying plant will allow Cafisur to purchase up to 3,500 additional metric tons (MT) of wet coffee from a universe of 24,000 coffee farmers in Southern Tolima. Three years from now, Cafisur expects to double its purchasing from 10,000MT to 20,000MT, which will put US$7 million in the pockets of thousands of farmers.