Exploring Opportunities to Help Colombian Farmers
By Diego Pinzón, Program Assistant, CDF
Hola. My name is Diego Pinzón. I am from Colombia and recently graduated from Texas A&M University. In mid may, I started volunteering at the Conflict and Development Foundation (CDF) as Program Assistant for Latin America under Johanna Roman’s guidance. She manages research programs to collect data on conflict affected communities to identify drivers of conflict and study the nexus between conflict and food security. The very first day I learned that Colombia is one of the three priority countries in Latin America in which both CDF and the Center on Conflict and Development at Texas A&M University (ConDev) will be conducting focused research programs. They are exploring opportunities to work with Caritas-Colombia, a non-profit Catholic organization helping Colombia’s rural poor. There had been initial correspondence with one of Caritas’ influential leaders, Father Mario Cárdenas.
Caritas Colombia implements actions almost everywhere in the country, within these areas of operation: solidarity aid; peacebuilding; human rights and international humanitarian law; integral human development and solidarity; research; training and advocacy. Father Cárdenas works in the area of Santander. He is promoting food security programs in conflict-affected areas of the country and has a deep desire to help farmers that are struggling.
While traveling to Colombia to visit my family this summer, I had an opportunity to meet with Father Cárdenas in his office at the Corporation for the Defense of the Bucaramanga Plateau (CDMB). A middle-aged man wearing casual clothes, he captivated me with the eloquence of his Spanish and the passion for helping farmers that live in poverty. After about an hour, and two cups of coffee, we had discussed everything from poverty to conflict, constantly alluring to the fact that 70 per cent of basic rural needs are unmet in North Eastern Colombia. We talked about illegal mining, the contamination of local effluents, and ongoing coffee projects –an avalanche of information. We discussed details about zeodratation, an innovative technology that –according to Father Cárdenas- “is the answer to [be able to assist] hundreds of agricultural projects involving the cultivation of fruits, vegetables, aromatic herbs, and perishable foods that lose value at the end of their value chain, reducing profits and frustrating farmers, discouraging them from starting new production cycles.”
Because I knew that ConDev offers grants to support innovative technologies in conflict and post-conflict zones, Johanna and I had asked Father Cárdenas to help me set a meeting with the company that is using zeodratation equipment. I traveled to Bogotá to visit with Ms. Clara Palencia, owner of a small processing center that uses this technology. I learned about the products and the business model. Her company has the mission to empower farming families and improve their economic well-being while caring for the environment. Indeed, her company incorporated zeodratation as an extension to its business mission: the restoration of mining sites. I informed her that ConDev will have another call for grant proposals for Transformative Innovations, Technologies, and Approaches (ITA’s) in a few months and we hope that she can work with Father Cárdenas and Caritas to submit a concept note.
We hope to continue our communications with Father Cárdenas regarding other areas of work that are of mutual priority to our organizations, such as food security programs for coffee farmers in conflict zones. Supporting food security programs is part of CDF’s mission to help eliminate hunger, poverty, and violence in the developing world.
The Conflict and Development Foundation mission is to study and discuss the relationship between conflict and international development in the hope of eliminating hunger, poverty, and violence in the developing world. CDF partners with applied educational and scientific institutions, other United States land-grant education and research institutions, as well as like-minded non-governmental and private-volunteer organizations working to end conflict, poverty, and extreme hunger.
The USAID Higher Education Solutions Network (HESN) Center on Conflict and Development at Texas A&M University seeks to improve the effectiveness of development programs and policies for conflict-affected and fragile countries through multidisciplinary applied research. To this end, ConDev will harness the innovative power of Texas A&M University and its partners in host countries and communities.