Colombians have a chance to vote for peace

Please note that while the following may seem a bit off track, a bit different from the normal postings on this blog, agrarian reform is a fundamental component of the Colombian peace agreement. It is also a key moment in history that we need to be paying attention too. Congrats on publishing this, Felipe!

After a lifetime of conflict, we Colombians have a chance to vote for peace

This piece was originally published on The Conversation by Felipe Roa-Clavijo, University of Oxford

On October 2, the Colombian people will vote in a referendum to approve or reject the peace agreement their government has signed with the FARC, a revolutionary left-wing guerilla movement. Many Colombians have waited their whole lives for a chance like this – and me among them.

The war and violent conflict were a fact of my life even before I was born: my mother still remembers the sound of our house’s windows shaking when a bomb exploded in a mall nearby when she was pregnant with me in the early 1980s. I remember as a child hearing reports of assassinations and car bombs in Colombia’s cities, and drawing pictures of the killings of political leaders that I’d seen on the news. I remember particularly drawing the deaths of Luis Carlos Galan, a presidential candidate for the Liberal Party in 1989, and Bernardo Jaramillo, presidential candidate for the Patriotic Union in 1990.

The late 1980s and early 1990s were some of the most terrifying periods in the main cities. Growing up in that atmosphere was confusing and frightening, and Bogotá, Colombia’s capital city, was not spared. My first memories of my visits to Bogotá’s city centre is a clear image of the Palace of Justice burnt and destroyed after the M-19 siege in 1985.

It wasn’t until I was an undergraduate student in the late 1990s and early 2000s that I came to better understand my country’s bitter reality, or rather opened my eyes to it.

I started volunteering in Altos de Cazuca, a refugee camp in the southern suburbs of Bogotá. This is where thousands of rural communities, peasants, indigenous and descendents of African people arrived after fleeing lethal violence, and leaving everything behind – their houses, their lands, even their families – with empty pockets.

Working in this improvised refugee camp, with no state or international aid support, was a serious reality check. It profoundly changed my perception of the country I grew up in.

I was able to talk to a woman who had come from Colombia’s eastern lower plains. She was crying and trying to understand why her husband was killed, why suddenly she was in the suburbs of Bogotá, living in the worst of conditions with three kids and a hopeless future. I wonder where she went, or where is she today. I think of her and her children often.

This experience moved me to emphasise my work on rural communities. What could be done in the countryside so that people could continue to live there? How could these communities maintain and improve their rural livelihoods? By trying to find answers to this questions I embarked on a long – still ongoing – journey.

After finishing my undergraduate studies I moved to southern Colombia and worked for more than five years with poor and conflict affected communities in rural development and agricultural projects. Today, 16 years after that deeply moving conversation, I am at the University of Oxford writing a doctoral thesis on rural development in Colombia and working for a poverty and human development research centre. My hope is that by doing detailed and substantive research, I can contribute at least a little to what’s going on in my home country.

Yes and no

The peace agreement gives Colombia a desperately needed chance to start untangling and tackling the decades-long conflict in all its different dimensions. This war of more than 50 years has left a complex legacy, an intricate web of interlinked conflicts. The agreement won’t bring the country’s every conflict to an end – other guerrillas, criminal bands and drug cartels are still around – but it is an enormous step in the right direction.

Nonetheless, Colombians are highly divided on its merits. In the last few weeks I have seen several Facebook debates turn aggressive, and I have family and friends on both sides.

President Santos delivers the peace agreement to the Colombian Congress.
EPA/Mauricio Dueñas Castañeda

Many of those planning to vote no are bristling at the prospect of guerrilla members receiving transitional justice and alternative penalties with reduced jail sentences. Others just can’t forgive the great damage that the FARC has done to innocent people and the country as a whole, and can’t imagine its members being allowed to run for political office. Former president Álvaro Uribe represents these views, and is leading the no campaign.

I’m hopeful that the peace deal will survive the referendum. Assuming it does, the hard work will begin on October 3, when both parties will be obliged to start implementing a long list of commitments.

Riding my bicycle around the quiet streets of Oxford, I feel anxious. So much is happening back home, and here I am, thousands of miles away. People have seen me carrying around a large printed document in my hands. Most of them think it’s my completed doctoral thesis (I wish) – in fact, it’s a copy of the final peace agreement. It’s 300 pages long, and I am reading it from beginning to end.

So on October 2, I and many other Colombians who live here will go to the Colombian consulate in London to cast our votes. Mine will be to approve the deal.

As a doctoral researcher, I could write a more academic piece on the referendum. But this election is also about emotions that cannot easily be conveyed in the language of academic analysis. And for those of us who grew up in Colombia, the prospect of peace has stirred some of the deepest emotions there are.

The Conversation

Felipe Roa-Clavijo, Doctoral Candidate in International Development, University of Oxford

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

SEPT 27 Colloquium: Challenges of the 2030 Agenda for science and knowledge for food systems

In 2015 the international community achieved a new milestone with the adoption of the 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). SDG 2 focuses explicitly on food and nutrition security, while other SDGs address further relevant aspects of agriculture and food systems.

Against the background of this renewed global commitment to sustainable food security and nutrition, the HLPE has co-organized with the University of Hohenheim (Stuttgart) an International Colloquium inviting scientists and experts from public institutions, civil society and the private sector to discuss the challenges that the 2030 Agenda implies for science and knowledge with regard to food systems. The Results of this dialogue will contribute to the upcoming global consultation process for the identification of “Critical and Emerging Issues for Food Security and Nutrition”.

The colloquium will take place in Stuttgart, 27 September 2016, starting at 10.00 CEST (8.00 a.m. UTC).

The event will be webcast and can be followed live at this link (Silverlight must be installed)



Global food crisis brought lasting changes to the food people eat



Last week, IDS and Oxfam released a new report: Precarious Lives: Food, Work and Care After the Global Food Crisis

The report found that the global food crisis of 2007-11 changed the relationship between the work people do and the food they eat. The report notes that the costs of these changed relationships have gone uncounted by global policymakers.





This report identifies continuities and multiple causal connections in prevailing work-life conditions, as well as the positive dimensions of change in the wake of the food crisis. But in counterpoint to what appears to be unwarranted aid industry optimism about recovery and progress, it also highlights heightened precariousness as directly connected to higher (and to a lesser extent, more volatile) food prices. Indeed, many of these new elements of precariousness have been causally connected to food price rises and volatilities by the people whose everyday lives we report here: the How did these adjustments alter people’s relationships to food or to the food system?

This new precariousness includes more dependence on:

• unreliable cash incomes and casualised, risky occupations – key characteristics of the ‘precariat’ (Standing 2011);

• increasingly integrated markets for finance, inputs, distribution networks and sales, particularly in the production of food;

• purchased and processed (often industrial) foods and/or food perceived to be unsafe (‘foods from nowhere’ (McMichael 2009b; Le Heron and Lewis 2009));

• more tenuous social networks and relations, featuring higher levels of mobility and social normative change – the ‘visible foot’ that pushes the ex-peasantry (Araghi 2009).

Together, these factors amount to a new precariousness that is not only characteristic of economic life but also of social relations and identities associated with that new mode of economy (Jørgensen 2015). It also points to collective and political implications for the moral and political economy, through its indication of a popular basis for mass grievances relating to higher and less reliable food costs, and therefore to the prospects for social mobilisation around matters of core subsistence (Holt Giménez and Shattuck 2011).

The report is the final report from Life in a Time of Food Price Volatility, a four-year research project led by IDS, Oxfam and partners in ten countries: Bangladesh, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Indonesia, Kenya, Pakistan, Vietnam and Zambia.

The report comes with an accompanying policy briefing, Delivering Social Protection that Nourishes: Lessons from the Food Price Crisis, wherein it is argued that nourishing social protection must do more than boost basic incomes so that people can buy more expensive food. It must also protect the social or non-market aspects of nourishment.

Mechanisms for land-related disputes

A new report on “Non‐judicial grievance mechanisms in land‐related disputes in Sierra Leone”,  has just recently been released. The report was produced in collaboration between FAO and Namati under the project on the implementation of The Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security (VGGT) in Sierra Leone.

The report can be downloaded here:


CANCELLED: Gender Dilemmas in Sustainable Development




The Wageningen University Gender & Diversity working group presents a lunch-time lecture on Gender Dilemmas in Sustainable Development

by Dr Wendy Harcourt

Date: Wednesday, October 12

Time: 12:30-13:30

Place: C68, de Leeuwenborch, Wageningen



Wendy Harcourt argues that feminist theory brings important political lessons to sustainable development. Her talk explores: development as transformative politics; intersectionality; and the inter-section of gender with sustainability issues. She argues that new methodologies are required in development that bridge the divide between practice-based analysis and universalising ‘global’ theory. She presents the case for why it is important to learn from those who are breaking new ground listening and learning from the perspectives of communities living and working on the margins of mainstream development.

Dr Wendy Harcourt is Associate Professor in Critical Development and Feminist Studies at the International Institute of Social Studies of the Erasmus University in The Hague. She is Research Programme Leader for the Civic Innovation Research Programme. Dr Wendy Harcourt joined the ISS in November 2011 after 23 years at the Society for International Development, Rome as Editor of the journal Development and Director of Programmes. She has edited 12 books and her monograph:  ‘Body Politics in Development: Critical Debates in Gender and Development’ published by Zed Books in 2009, received the 2010 Feminist Women Studies Association Book Prize. She is series editor of the ISS Routledge Series on Gender and Sexuality and Palgrave Gender, Development and Social Change book series.


Writing about food security solutions


Last week we launched a Special Issue of the journal Solutions. The issue featured solutions to food security problems, as proposed by younger scholars.

Writing about solutions is much more difficult than it sounds, at least that has been our experience. Thinking about why this is, we came up with a few idea which we outlined in the editorial.

Our basic message is that as academics, we have a role to play in solution building, and part of that role is to created spaces for diverse perspectives to be represented and for these perspectives, and lived experiences, to inform the development of food security solutions. Further, we need to foster the types of skills (inside universities and outside) that prepare people to discuss, to reflect, to debate, and to weigh trade-offs associated with solutions. It becomes more clear every day that there are no silver-bullet solutions when it comes to food security.

I encourage you to read the editorial and send us your comments!


AAG 2017 CFP: People-Centred Food Policy

This looks neat! Abstracts due Sept 30.

Food, Equity, and Activism Study Team

Luke Craven (University of Sydney) and I will be organizing a series of paper sessions on people-centred food policy at the 2017 meeting of the American Association of Geographers in Boston. Please see the call for papers below, and do get in touch if you are interested in participating! 

CFP: People-Centred Food Policy — 2017 American Association of Geographers Annual Meeting — Boston, MA — April 5-9, 2017

Organizers: Luke Craven, University of Sydney, Chrobok, University of Toronto,

Person-centred policy is a philosophical approach to governance increasingly popular in medical and health circles which seeks to place individuals at the heart of policymaking. In acknowledging the significance of lived encounters with the food system, this perspective aims to foreground and respect the idiosyncrasy of human experience and understanding in the way we design and ‘do’ food policy. Central to this viewpoint is a recognition of persons as…

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