FAO partners with Colombian rural development body

The UN organizations will devote $8.7m to creating plans to help strengthen rural communities and agricultural competitiveness in the country.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has pledged $8.7 million to work with Colombia’s Rural Development Agency in support of rural communities, agricultural competitiveness and the country’s ongoing peace process.

Concentrating their efforts in 16 of the 32 departments that make up the nation of Colombia, the FAO and the RDA plan to create and co-finance agricultural development projects, develop a comprehensive plan for the entire country’s agricultural system and support private sector initiatives.

“The partnership we signed will make peace through institutional development,” Rafael Zavala, the FAO’s representative in Colombia, said in a statement. “Our attention will not only be centered on high-risk areas, but on the whole of rural Colombia, a part of the country that has been, in some way, left behind.”

The RDA was created in 2015, tasked with helping rural communities recover from a long-running conflict between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) that displaced millions and killed more than 200,000 people.

While the ongoing peace process has, at times, clouded the investment environment, investor sentiment about Colombia has improved and the IMF expects the country’s GDP to grow by 2.3 percent this year and 3 percent in 2018.

A 2012 trade agreement with the United States eliminated tariffs on many agricultural products and helped lead to a 174 percent increase in US agricultural exports to Colombia between 2006 and 2016, according to the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service.

As the security situation has improved in recent years, Colombia’s rainfall, high-quality soils and low population densities have attracted investors to its agricultural sector. Colombia is among the countries that will be targeted for investments by Aqua Capital’s Agribusiness Latin America Fund II, which closed on $370 million earlier this month. Forest First hopes to raise $180 million for a fund devoted to Colombian forestry and Chilean agri-focused private equity firm Sembrador has announced plans for a $50 million vehicle focused on permanent crops in the country, among other initiatives.