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21
Sat, Oct

Inclusive Rural Development: A Wager for Overcoming Condition of Vulnerability in the Farmlands of Colombia

Disruptive Innovations
Typography

Abstract

With the aim of reactivating agricultural production in the municipality of Versalles (Valle del Cauca), the Saldarriaga Concha Foundation, in partnership with other organizations, has developed the Agroecological Farm of Versalles project in December 2012. The program aims to improve the living conditions of 45 older people through the agricultural production of berries. This project is based on five components:

  1. Improvement of income generation performance for those engaged in the project. 
  2. Cultivation of high quality crops through the implementation of Good Agricultural Practices.
  3. Participant family integration in production processes.
  4. Strengthening the community social network. 
  5. Implementation of different saving strategies in order to support project financing.

The obstacles impeding productive development in the Colombian rural sector have been identified by the Mission for the Transformation of Colombian Farmlands and the National Agricultural-Livestock Census. Some of them are: access to land, technical assistance, access to sources of financing, and commercialization. The project allowed the participants to overcome some of those obstacles which is a reason why this constitutes an innovative wager for developing Colombian farmlands. 

Presentation

According to figures released by the study Colombia: An Ageing Society (MCE, for its initials in Spanish), the levels of poverty in the elderly population in Colombia are significantly higher in comparison to other countries of Latin America. The MCE found that 77.2 percent of the persons 60 years old or older do not receive income; 3.6 percent receive less than the SMMLV (the current minimum legal salary in Colombia), 9.7 percent between receive one or less than two SMMLV, and 9.5 percent receive two or more SMMLV (Fedesarrollo and Saldarriaga-Concha Foundation, 2015).

These figures are even more discouraging when making the distinction between the urban and rural zones. In accordance with data from the Mission for the Transformation of the Colombian Farmlands, 75 percent of the population occupying rural areas have monthly incomes which are less than the SMMLV, while in the urban areas this proportion is less than 35.6 percentage points, which is to say it registers 39.4 percent (DNP, 2015). In terms of pensions, the MCE found that only 6.7 percent of the older population in rural zones have access to a pension (Fedesarrollo and Saldarriaga-Concha Foundation, 2015). These figures are alarming given that 93.3 percent of the older population in the rural farmlands of Colombia are not receiving any kind of pension. This means that, at least in terms of income, the State faces a challenge of great magnitude to advance the fight against poverty.

The main reasons why the income of the persons who live and work in the agricultural sector are low has been analyzed and identified both by national governments, as well as by the trade associations of the sector and some academics. In this way, the Mission for the Transformation of Colombian Farmlands identified the main bottlenecks that are impeding the Colombian farmlands from being productive and competitive, and consequently the reason why those dedicating their lives to the economic activities of the sector are not able to reach a lifestyle that guarantees a minimal level of economic self-sufficiency.  

This document shows the ways in which the productive project Agroecological Farm of Versalles became a strong source of income for older persons. This was achieved by addressing some of the factors that are indispensable to agricultural development and that are related to the previously mentioned bottlenecks. 

Model of Rural Development with Older Persons: Eliminating Barriers and Creating Opportunities

With the aim of reactivating agricultural production in the municipality of Versalles (Valle del Cauca), the Saldarriaga-Concha Foundation, jointly with the Diocesana Pro Communidad Cristiana Foundation and Carvajal Foundation, have been developing since 2012, the production project Granja Agroecológica de Versalles (The Agroecological Farm Project of Versalles) -- from this point forward referred to as GAV -- seeking to improve the living conditions of 45 older adults through the agricultural production of berries and pancoger1 (subsistence crops). 

The municipality of Versalles is located on a slope of the Cordillera Occidental (Western Mountain Range) on the northeastern side of the Valle del Cauca, approximately 205 km from the department capital (Cali). According to the information provided by the Identification System of Potential Beneficiaries of Social Programs (SISBEN), the number of inhabitants in Versalles is nearly 9,594. Likewise, 56.8 percent live in the rural area and 43.2 percent in the urban area. The economy of Versalles is based on agricultural / livestock activities, some small companies working in dressmaking, activities related to the provision of services and other sources of lesser income. In 2012, and based on other data of the territorial code system, it was identified that of 861,623 wages per year (jo/a in Spanish), 55.4 percent come from the agricultural sector, 31.8 percent -- that is equivalent to 273,750 jo/a -- are focused in the service provision, and 8.2 percent -- corresponding to 70.560 jo/a – are in industrial activities. Of the agricultural activities carried out, the most representative are coffee crops with 441.825 jo/a, followed by sugar cane crops with 12.800 jo/a.

The GAV, located in the rural district of Oasis in the municipality of Versalles, is composed of 18 hectares, allocated by the Municipal Mayor to the project through a leasing/loan contract2 for a term of five years.

The production model of the GAV is based on four components, which are:

  • Improve the conditions of income generation through the establishment of crops of berries and other subsistence crops. 
  • Implementation of Agricultural Good Practices (BPA in Spanish).
  • Training, technical assistance and business support.
  • Strengthening the community social network
  • The linking of the families of the beneficiaries in the production processes.

An innovative Model for Efficiently Intervening in the Colombian Farmlands

Some of the bottlenecks identified by the Mission for Transforming Colombian Farmlands are the access to land which is apt for growing crops, permanent technical assistance, access to sources of financing, and risk assessment systems. The combination of these elements constitutes the main barriers impeding productive inclusion in the rural zones. 

In the context of ageing and impoverishment of farm life -- at least from the economic point of view -- the differentiating element of social innovation consists in disassembling all those barriers and obstacles that impede farmers from being productive in their labors. For this reason, one of the objectives of the project of Versalles is to guarantee the participants access to the factors of production that impede the productive development of the Colombian farmlands and that in the same way were identified and confirmed both by the Mission for the Transformation of Colombian Farmlands as well as the National Agricultural/livestock Census. In summary, the so-called bottlenecks found in Colombian farmlands which were addressed through the project have guaranteed economic, social, and environmental sustainability in the intervention. Upon continuation, the document will describe the way sin which this alliance guaranteed access to the persons who make up a part of this project to factors which are indispensable for the development of agriculture such as land, technical assistance, financial resources, and the channels of commercialization.

Access to Land

As previously mentioned, the high concentration of land in Colombia is one of the factors that impedes small producers from being able to carry out their agricultural activities. To solve this problematic situation, from the partners in this project, headed by the corporation Diocesana de Cartago, the paperwork was done with the Mayor of the municipality of Versalles and the handing over of the lot of 18 hectares was done through a leasing/use loan for the development of the project. Through this modality, the persons that make up part of the project have been able to gain permanent and equitable access to a piece of land apt for cultivating berries.

As a means of comparison, the field team of the project researched the local market to know the approximate cost of the land. Under this scenario, the value of the lot would be nearly 216 million Colombian Pesos (COP) given that the average value for hectare in the zone is around 12 million COP. This implies an important increase in the value of the project by the contributors in the case that the said listing could be financed. For example, in 2015, the income received from the sale of berries was approximately 172 million COP, a figure less than the value of the land. It is for this reason that the model described in the present document has, as its main strategy for gaining access to the land, the linking of public or private partners that can make available to the project a plot that fulfills the necessary requirements for the type of crop determined by the technical analysis carried out on the same. 

The advantages of using these types of alliances to gain access to land apt for crops are mainly financial but there are also advantages in other spheres. Under this modality, the investment amounts required to get a project like this up and running are significantly less when securing access to free land. This allows for channeling resources for financing other indispensable activities for the success of the project such as technical assistance or the creation of mechanisms of financing.

Furthermore, when the piece of property is from a territorial organization, its linking to the project is guaranteed for a lapse of time greater than a year, a maximum amount of time to which a territorial organization could link itself for budget reasons given the annual costs. In the specific case of the Versalles project, access to land is guaranteed through the lease /use contract signed by the Diocesana de Cartago Corporation with the Mayor’s Office of Versalles. The document was signed for a period of five years, thus allowing the project to continue despite changes in governments which have taken place in the municipality since the initiative started. This allows for this type of program to become a policy of the municipality instead of being simply the choice of politicians occupying the Mayor’s Office. This last situation in fact helps to mitigate the risk of operating these projects under the modality of a lease/use contract and with the changes in governments the processes do not risk losing their continuity. If the projects are successful and they have a clear system of accountability with their interest groups, this will aid in permitting the new governments, independent of their political leanings, to allow the project to continue. 

Technical Assistance

Even though one of the criteria used for the selection of participants in the project was their vocation as farmers and knowledge about how to cultivate berries, permanent technical assistance has been fundamental to the success of the project. Additionally, these types of projects must also have accompaniment from the social point of view that allows for identifying and resolving those aspects that have an impact on the behavior of the crops and that are not necessarily related to the very aspects of farming. This double dimension of technical assistance that was used in the framework of the project provides evidence as to how family dynamics, their health conditions, or the participation of the support networks influence the final result of the crops.

Permanent, technical agriculture assistance that the participants of the project have received from the beginning have allowed the productivity and the quality of the crops to be maintained over time. The consulting that the participants have received on the project is done through group demonstrations which are complemented with personalized monitoring activities. Among the activities that are supervised daily is the application and use of technological packages which are designed for the berry crops and to the geographical characteristics of the municipality, the use of permitted fertilizers, integrated management of plagues and sicknesses, identification of sicknesses and the subsequent application of permissible agrochemicals, management of pruning, tutorials, training and consulting on pre-harvesting and post-harvesting of crops placing emphasis on hygiene workshops, levels of ripeness, and good farming practices.

The meticulous care that has been given from the technical point of view to the berry crops in the framework of the project allowed for obtaining certification in Good Agricultural Practices (BPA in Spanish) that is issued by the Colombian Agricultural / Livestock Institute (ICA) which also seeks to guarantee improvement in the conventional methods of production, the harmlessness of the product thereby mitigating the impact on the environment and on the health of the workers. This was an important achievement for the project principally because it allowed them to automatically obtain a better sales price with the business allies and it gave regional recognition for being the only certified berry crop in the Valle del Cauca region.

From the social point of view, the Versalles project also took into account a component of psycho-social support with the participants in the project. Being aware of the characteristics of the participants, for this alliance it was imperative since all the persons taking part were older people that they could count on having support networks to permit them having an optimal performance in the farming activities. This work was carried out through permanent family visits done by a social worker with each of the 45 families involved in the project. This accompaniment and monitoring process helped create greater confidence and security in the farmers and the family groups in terms of the project, it linked the families to the education and training processes that are offered in the framework of the project, and most importantly, it highlights the role performed by the older persons in the processes of family and community development.

Access to Financial Resources

The financial resources, another decisive factor in the productive development of the project, was approached from two angles. The first of these was through the creation of a rotating fund that allowed the participants in the project to have a permanent source of financing destined exclusively to the processes of crop renovation and maintenance. The fund was made up of resources of the alliance and permits each one of the participants to have at their disposal a maximum amount of $500.000 COP. These resources allow the farmers to be able to use better supplies, buy additional tools, maintain the crops in optimal condition, and in times of high production it can allow for hiring additional personnel to guarantee the total collection of the harvested crop.

Another mechanism of financing that has been promoted inside the project is that of saving. From the start of the project, the participants have been trained in the culture of saving with the purpose of being able to have resources for the times when the levels of production drop significantly -- and subsequently their earnings -- and also so that through savings they can invest their own resources in sustaining their crops. On this last aspect, the results have been quite interesting. The monitoring that has been carried out on the levels of production of each of the participants in the project has allowed for noting that the persons that have greater levels of their own resource investment in the crop are the same who have achieved the best income during the project. These results are looked at in more detail in later chapters.

Commercialization

Finally, the accompaniment through the processes of commercialization by the project allies has allowed that the totality of the products grown on the farm have been purchased by different companies and, as a result, this has generated income that has improved the quality of life for the older persons that have taken part in the project. A great part of the success of the commercialization process is based on the fact that from the start, the project has counted on the support of various commercial partners who have guaranteed the sale of the berries which are the main source of income for the project.

Nevertheless, this would not be possible if from the technical side, procedures had not been implemented to guarantee the quality of the berries as demanded by the buyers. Verifying the quality of the fruit in the field, permanently assessing and revising the gathering techniques, the conditions of cleanliness, disinfection, and storage of the containers where the fruit is transported are some of the proceedings implemented inside the farm.

The commercialization of the products that are grown on the agricultural-ecological farm of Versalles are distributed in the following manner:

  • Berries, the main source of income of the project, is sold principally to the company Postobon S.A. This company purchases between 70 and 80 percent of the berries produced on the Farm.
  • The remaining production is commercialized through the local market of the municipality of Versalles, the company Natural Foods and some small businesspeople of the surrounding municipalities. 
  • Subsistence crops such as arracacha, beans, corn, and yucca are commercialized in small supermarkets of the municipality of Versalles.

This process of commercialization has generated important income for all the participants in the project. From the start of the project, the participants made total earnings of $460.000.000 COP, a value which in its majority is spent in businesses in the municipality. To have a notion of the magnitude of this figure, the income of the project was 71 percent of the tax collection of Versalles in 2013. As can be seen, the project is not only benefitting the 45 persons that are part of the same but also it is contributing to the economic development of the municipality. 

In terms of creating employment, given the levels of productivity of the farm, 35 percent of the beneficiaries have been in the position of needing to contract additional laborers to support the crop activities, principally during harvest time. Therefore, of the total farmers who are contracting laborers, 69 percent of them set aside between $80.000 and $100.000 COP on average monthly to cover the work day of the laborers. Additionally, 55 percent of the farmers receive crop support from their families, of which 41 percent receive some sort of economic retribution for the work they carry out on the land.

This exercise of commercializing berries generates employment and income for the persons in charge of transporting the product from the farm to the crop collection center. On average, the two persons that carry out this activity receive an income of about $410.000 COP every two weeks. Likewise, there are the persons in charge of transporting the product to the City of Tuluá, the person in charge of weighing and dispatching the berries. In other words, for each harvest of crops, the GAV generate five additional jobs, in addition to the hired laborers.

Main Results of the Agricultural/Ecological Farm Project of Versalles.

First, in terms of added income, the project has generated (through the sale of berries exclusively) $468,497,767 COP from the beginning of this strategy until April 2017. In the first year of constant production the income registered $45,710,410 COP, one year later it rose to $184,887,264 COP, and during 2016, the sales closed at $166,477,409 COP. Finally, between January and April of 2017, they have sold $71,422,684 COP in berries, and therefore it is expected that it may go above -- upon finishing the year -- the sales of 2015. In graph 1 (attached) shows the evolution of the income from the beginning of production. Contrasting the income from the project derived exclusively from the berry crops with the investment realized by the Saldarriaga-Concha Foundation from the start of the project there is clear evidence that there is a tendency toward the self-sustainability of the project, to the degree that the cut-off point between the investment and income was obtained approximately in the first half of the year of 2014 and, from that point on, the total added income of the participants goes beyond the amount initially invested by FSC (Saldarriaga Concha Foundation in Spanish). In table 1 presents the relation between investment and the berry sales.

* Clarification note: The income for 2017 is partial (covers only through April), therefore, it is expected that upon finishing the year the difference with respect to the investment it will be even higher. All figures in COP.

In that sense, while the income received in 2013 represented only 10 percent of the total investment during that period and in 2014 the relation reached 52 percent, in 2015 the sales of the berry crop were equivalent to 185 percent of the money invested, 277 percent in 2016, and with partial data from 2017 (January to April), the sales represent 178 percent of the investment. Up to this moment, the macroeconomic elements of the project have been covered, resulting in the main conclusion that this deals with an initiative with the potential for self-sustainability, seeing that the project reached a point of equilibrium after only 30 months of its implementation. Additionally, it is necessary to keep in mind that the resources received from the sale of berries, which is to say that the income from the sale of the subsistence crops are not being taken into account.

Furthermore, in microeconomic terms, this document aims to establish how the participation of each beneficiary is related to the economic earnings of the project. The main objective is to investigate if the income distribution is equal or, conversely, if there is a tendency toward concentration. The evaluation of those elements is very relevant since the distribution of income is done based on the production of each farmer and the discount for the production costs is equally proportional. Along these lines, given that the distribution of income follows the market logic and there is no different criteria distribution at the production level, it is expected that there are differences in the income that each person receives. 

Additionally, it is necessary to keep in mind that in contrast with a traditional market society, in the project the initial allocation of supplies and production factors was totally equal, with the exception of work (workforce). This is to say, each participant receives the same processes of transference of knowledge, technical assistance, social accompaniment, provision of supplies, price for the purchase of berries, and plot of land. In this way, the only difference rests on the work factor since every worker puts their own rhythm and dedication to the task, as well as the availability of laborers or the joining of family members to support the activities associated with cultivation. In graph 2 (attached) you can see the average, the standard deviation, and mean of the added income.

At times, the assumption will be made that all the participants in the project receive the exact same income. This means that the resources received monthly through the sales of the berry crops are distributed in equal parts, not taking into account the participation of each farmer in the production. Of course, if this were the rule, the level of added income would be less given that there would be no incentives for each beneficiary to make their best effort to reach the best levels of production. Nevertheless, for the moment the assumption continues. Under these conditions, each one of the 45 participants would have received an average of $782,940 COP monthly between April 2014 and January of 2015. 

The extreme monetary poverty line as defined by DANE for territories such as Versalles is at $97.790 COP and the basic monetary poverty line goes up to $217.043 COP. Likewise, in accordance with the methodology of measurement employed by DANE, a person is considered to have risen above the poverty line and/or risen out of extreme poverty once their income has, during a complete year, surpassed these respective thresholds. In this line of thought, if the assumption of equal distribution proposed previously was used, all the participants of the project would have risen above the poverty line -- with an ample margin -- thanks to the strategy of income generation being set forth.3

However, upon more closely examining the assumption, different results are obtained. The proportion of farmers that in 2014 were living in conditions of extreme monetary poverty (supposing that their only source of income is the project) was 69 percent and the percentage of farmers in conditions of monetary poverty was 93 percent. A year later and using the calculation only on income derived from the sales of berry crops, the percentage of participants in extreme monetary poverty was reduced to seven percent and, for its part, the proportion of those that continue to be under the poverty line from a monetary point of view registered 24 percent, which means a reduction of 69 percentage points. Therefore, the questions that arise are: Why do some rise out of poverty while others do not? What can explain the differences in the income of the participants?

To have a notion about the way the income is being distributed within the population of 45 beneficiaries, for 2015, the maximum total amount that a farmer received was $10.944.282 COP, while the minimum registered was $342.730 COP; in 2016, the differences were even greater (a maximum of $11,657,451 COP and a minimum of $155,297 COP). Descriptive statistics show, at first glance, an asymmetrical distribution of income to the degree that the standard deviation is high (especially at the beginning of the project). Nevertheless, it is not clear if the income concentration is the general rule in the group of berry farmers of Versalles. For this reason, an exercise in the estimation of the GINI coefficient was done assuming that the 40 participants that were surveyed make up the totality of the population of a society. Taking the registered income in 2015, the result indicates a concentration of small income, with a GINI of 0.298.4

To show the situation under discussion graphically, graph 3 presents the Lorenz Curve corresponding to the distribution of income between the 40 participants that register a GINI of 0.298 (the dark blue area between the diagonal line and the Lorenz curve).  By definition, the Lorenz Curve (on the graph this is the curve that marks the upper edge of the light blue area) relates, in accumulated terms, the percentage of income -- over the total -- that a proportion of the population possesses. Therefore, the diagonal line indicates the scenario of a society which is totally equal. This means that 10 percent of the lowest incomes possess 10 percent of the accumulated income of the society (the same logic is applied to the rest of the distribution). In this way, the more the curve moves away from the line, the more concentrated the income of the population is. According to the representation, there effectively is a concentration of income but it is low or moderate. 

That considered, there are two latent realities. On the one side, the dispersion of income is high in almost all the series and, parallelly, there is no evidence of considerable concentration of income (induced above all by the reduced number of observations used in the moment of calculating the GINI coefficient). Given the conditions, it is necessary to delve deeper into those elements that explain the established dynamic, and in this way, have the necessary information to make decisions related with the type of intervention that should be done by the partner organizations of the project. 

For this purpose, an exercise that allowed for addressing those variables that are affecting the behavior of the income of the participants in the project to a larger degree was proposed. Therefore, the aim is, on the one hand, to acquire more knowledge regarding the forms that the beneficiaries are internalizing in the program, and on the other hand, to have the necessary information to intervene -- through design -- in the project and its possible replications foreseeing this way greater equality in the distribution of the income obtained through the sales of the crops. With respect to this, it is necessary to keep in mind that the inequalities do not follow a deliberate decision of those implementing the program but rather a dynamic that each participant acquires in relation to themselves.

From the information garnered through the survey, a series of relevant variables were defined to explain the behavior of the income in the population of farmers and, using an econometric model of generalized least squares, a validation of the hypothesis that attempts to explain the variation in the income of the participants was carried out. A census was planned and operatively it was possible to obtain complete information from the 40 farmers. The other five were absent from the crops on the days that the survey was carried out due to family commitments outside the municipality. It is necessary to keep in mind that the data is a short cross-section and therefore the results do not come from an analysis of a time series and, thusly, do not include historical information.

Firstly, it is necessary to keep in mind that the group of farmers present relatively homogenous characteristics in terms of family composition, age, vocation, living conditions, among others. According to descriptive statistics obtained from the collected information of the survey, the only themes that show evidence of considerable differences are those related with time variables of the production such as the amount of resources reinvested in the crops, the time of specific work on the berries and the maintenance activities.

The main results are:

a. Family Composition: This refers to the number of family members living under the same roof as the participant.

Hypothesis: The participants that live with large families obtain greater income.

Result: For this case, the variable of number of persons in the household was used as well as the civil status of the participant and the number of living children each has. In the three cases, there was no statistically significant evidence that indicate a change in the level of average income induced by modifications in any of these variables. 

b. Role in the Family: This refers to the tendency, or not, of the head of the household, defined on two conditions: supports the household economically and makes the decisions.

Hypothesis: The participants that are heads of households make more income.

Result: With respect to this, there was statistically significant evidence at a level of reliability of 90 percent that indicates a direct relation. This means that there is a difference between being a head of household and not being one since being a head of household increases to a mid-level income on average by $138.753 COP. Nevertheless, the interval of reliability produced by the calculations include negative results. Therefore, it is not a robust measurement to conclude that the head of household effectively explains the behavior of the income.

c. Family Support with the Crops: This refers to the existence of family support in the activities of cultivating berries.

Hypothesis: The participants who link their family members to the cultivation activities earn more income.

Result: A point variable was used that indicates if the farmer receives support from the family in the farm labors of cultivating the crops. The component in mention does not show information about the influence on the level of income that is statistically significant and therefore this hypothesis is rejected.

d. Condition of Health:

Hypothesis: The participants that have a better state of health generate more income.

Result: There is no statistically significant evidence that allows for not rejecting this hypothesis. In accordance with the data, the state of health is not a relevant variable to explain the mean behavior of the income of the participants.

e. Age:

Hypothesis: The age of the farmer does not influence in their economic performance with the crop.

Results: The hypothesis cannot be rejected since when it was used for the analysis, the age they had -- it was found that there was not statistically significant evidence to affirm that age is a relevant variable to explain the variation in the level of income of the participants.

f. Sources of Additional Income: This refers to the tendency to have other sources of income by the participants.

Hypothesis: The farmers that have other sources of income receive, on average, less money from the berry crops.

Results: The farmers were directly asked if they had other sources of monthly income different from those obtained through the sale of berry crops. Including the information there was no evidence that was statistically significant to support the hypothesis that the tendency to have additional income explains, to some degree, the behavior of the income of farmers and therefore the hypothesis is rejected.

g. Vocation: This refers to the number of years of experience that each participant has in the cultivation of berries.

Hypothesis: Previous experience in the production of berry crops allows the participant to have a greater performance in the cultivation of the crop and therefore, greater income.

Results: To evaluate this hypothesis, the number of years of experience in farming and additionally, in the farming of berries. In neither of the two cases was evidence found that was statistically significant to indicate that the variables in mention are determinant in the variation of the level of income. Therefore, this hypothesis was rejected. 

h. Reinvestment: This refers to automatic reinvestment -- by the participants -- of money to work on the crops.

Hypothesis: The participants that reinvest in improvements to their crops tend to obtain greater income derived from the production of berries.

Results: Here, there is statistically significant evidence to support the hypothesis that reinvestment in the crop is a relevant variable that explains the change in the medium income of the participants. In accordance with the estimations, for each additional peso reinvested in the berry crops, income increases on average by 0.77 pesos. Therefore, this hypothesis as formulated is not rejected. 

i. Housing: This refers to the beneficiaries owning homes.

Hypothesis: Having a home impacts the beneficiaries’ performance with the crops.

Result: There is no statistically significant evidence to support this hypothesis. 

Implications of Public Policy

At an aggregated level, Colombian society is approximately three years away from finishing the demographic bonus. Therefore, the acceleration of the ageing population is now a reality that sets up a series of challenges and opportunities for the economy of the country. Parallelly, the panorama of ageing in the country is not optimistic in relation to being linked to the formal job market, access to pensions, and the conditions of poverty both monetary as well as multidimensional. For this reason, the structuration of public policy and private programs focused on the generation of income for the populations in situations of poverty must recognize the importance of older persons in the economy of the country. 

For its part, Colombian farmlands face a series of bottlenecks that impede strengthening its production capacity and, as a result, optimizing the agricultural/livestock sector in terms of production. The obstacles in mention are concentrated on the very aspects of gaining access to land, technical assistance, access to sources of financing, and the commercialization of production. In this way, breaking these bottlenecks constitute the entrance to direct Colombian farmers down a path of growth and expansion. Of course, the task in mention is not the unique responsibility of the public sector. From the private sector, there is a great deal of potential to contribute highly when coming together with the action capability of the institutions to become a strong instrument of intervention. 

The project of Reactivation of Agricultural Production “Agricultural / Ecological Farm Versalles” is a strategy of income generation for older persons based on the production of berries, in the municipality of Versalles, Valle del Cauca. The results of the project produce a series of general conclusions. Firstly, it is a cost-effective project that reached a point of equilibrium at 16 months after starting and up to the moment has not started down the track of marginally decreasing profits. Furthermore, the nature of the project as it has been proposed allows for addressing and eliminating, from an integral focus and in the framework of the market, the bottlenecks that the Mission for the Transformation of the Farmlands indicated as causes of the backwardness of Colombian agriculture.

The project of the Reactivation of Agricultural Production “Agricultural / Ecological Farm Versalles” is an example of synergy between the public and private sectors in favor of overcoming barriers to combat rural poverty based on strategies for generating income. This is an initiative with nearly four years of successful implementation and therefore it is possible to talk about sustainability. In this sense, the Versalles project functions as an example to motivate future imitations in other parts of the country.

An important question about the project could be how the quality of life of older people is affected by these types of strategies that improve the income of these persons. Beyond just noting the economic and sustainability impact on this group of people, the identification of the benefits at the emotional, physical and mental levels, of the generation of support, and improvement of the quality of life in general, should all be taken into account and promoted through these types of collaborative work networks. 

The improvement in the quality of life in general of this population is seen in this case due to the increase in income of the older persons, which directly affects the nuclear families and their conditions of basic sustainment such as food, access to personal hygiene products, pleasure and recreational activities, among others. So, thinking of the farm as a means to active ageing from distinct dimensions such as physical activity, the support and togetherness of family, the improvement in living conditions thanks to the increase in their income, among other things, broadens the array of benefits of a project that has its focus on improving the income of older persons in conditions of vulnerability.  

Footnotes

  1. Pancoger crops are those that satisfy part of the food needs of farm people, or also called self-sufficiency crops such as plantain, yucca, corn and beans among others.
  2. Contrato de Comodato or also called a use loan, is a contract through which one party hands over to the other party without any charges an in kind, physical good or property so that they can make use of it with the intention of returning the same after having used it. See: https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contrato_de_comodato
  3. It is necessary to keep in mind that there are no records of the income of the participants at the start of the project and for that reason the measurements regarding rising above the poverty line shall be done based on the income obtained at the end of 2014 even though during the 12 previous months they were already receiving resources from the berry crop sales. 
  4. It is clear that the result would tend to be low since only 40 observations are being made. Equally this is only one attempt, keeping all the proportions of the case, to address the conditions of inequality in the distribution of income between the participants in the project. 

Works Cited

Alcaldía Municipal de Versalles. (2015). Alcaldía de Versalles - Valle de Cauca. Obtenido de www.versalles-valle.gov.co/

DANE. (2016). Censo Nacional Agropecuario . Bogotá: DANE.

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