Governing sustainable agri-food systems in Sogamoso, Colombia

See the project's blog (in English and Spanish)


The peace process between the Colombian government and the rebel group FARC, which culminated in the peace agreement signed by both parties in 2016, has opened new possibilities for the future of sustainable agricultural development in Colombia. Yet, while the peace process is a window of opportunity, different and incompatible visions of sustainable rural development exist. Successive governments have pursued a strong liberalization and modernization agenda that has exposed rural and urban spaces to global competition and further challenges, including food prices volatility. On the other hand, peasant, environmental, indigenous and afro-Colombian grassroots movements have proposed alternative visions of sustainable agri-food systems and these have begun to the put into practice in cities and their surrounding territories across Colombia.

The most prominent vision emerging from such mobilization is that of Territorios Agroalimentarios (agri-food territories) (CNA, 2015). The principles informing Territorios Agroalimetarios are those of sustainability, food sovereignty, respect for and protection of cultural and agro-ecological diversity, and holistic, human-environment visions of territories and the commons. Territorios Agroalimentarios has has informed the development of peri-urban agriculture in and around urban spaces in efforts to not just directly challenge conventional models of agri-food networks but also create novel territorial practices in the pursuit of sustainable and culturally-diverse forms of food sovereignty. Thus, peri-urban agriculture—an historically under-studied yet vitally important and socially significant component to food sovereignty—is front and centre in the grassroots struggles for not just food sovereignty but also the peace process which arguably had sustainable agricultural at its core.

Yet, while Territorios Agroalimentarios’s initial successes to promote peri-urban agriculture in and around cities such as Sogamoso are important—and under proposed study in this project—these successes have come up against competing discourses from the City Councils in and around Sogamoso. There is a need, in order to build upon and further existing peace processes, to develop novel spaces of discussion, negotiation and participation around which a shared vision of sustainable food systems in peri-urban and urban settings might be developed.

Aims and objectives

This project investigated the practices and spatial impacts of grassroots, sustainable agri-food initiatives focused on peri-urban agriculture (PUA)— around the city of Sogamoso, Colombia.

Its specific aims were to:

    1. Investigate and understand the impacts of PUE on food sovereignty and sustainable food systems outcomes

    2. Through participatory research methods, create novel negotiating spaces to build on and expand the existing grassroots efforts

    3. At a general level, explore the contributions of PUA systems to sustainable food systems, food sovereignty, biological and cultural diversity, poverty reduction and social inclusion.

    4. Contribute to debates on the expanding geographies of food sovereignty and its theorisations.

The project planned to achieve its aims by:

    • Characterizing and analysing PUA systems in Sogamoso (aim 1);

    • Assessing the social, cultural, economic and ecological benefits of different forms of PUA within the study area (aims 1and 3);

    • Understanding competing and converging discourses on PUA, rural development, food sovereignty and sustainable development in Sogamoso (aim 2);

    • Through targeted data collection, discussions and participatory meetings with local authorities, farmers, social movement representatives and local research partners, chart out new policy directions and possibilities, urban planning processes and further research initiatives to support and expand the benefits of PUA (aim 2);

    • Disseminating the project’s results through a diverse set of means, thereby accentuating the on the ground and potentially international impacts of this grassroots sustainable food intervention (aims 1, 2, 3 and 4).


Giuseppe Feola (Project Lead), Department of Geography and Environmental Science, University of Reading (United Kingdom), and Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, Utrecht University (The Netherlands)

Michael K. Goodman, Department of Geography and Environmental Science, University of Reading (United Kingdom)

Jaime Suzunaga and Jenny Soler, Fundacion Jischana Huitaca (Colombia)


April 2017 - May 2019.


Royal Geographical Society Environment and Sustainability Grant No. 01/17.


Feola, G., Goodman M.K., Suzunaga, J., Soler, J., 2023. Collective memories, place-framing and the politics of imaginary futures in sustainability transitions and transformation. Geoforum 138, 103668.

Feola, G., Suzunaga, J., Soler, J. Wilson, A., 2020. La agricultura periurbana como sostenibilidad silenciosa: desafiando el discurso del desarrollo urbano en Sogamoso, Colombia. Revista CS 32, 279-315.

Feola, G., Suzunaga, J., Soler, J. Wilson, A., 2020. Peri-urban agriculture as quiet sustainability: challenging the urban development discourse in Sogamoso, Colombia. Journal of Rural Studies 80, 1-12.

Feola, G., Sahakian, M., Binder, C. R., 2020. Sustainability Assessment of Urban Agriculture. In: Binder, C.R., Wyss, R., and Massaro, E. (Eds.) Sustainability Assessment of Urban Systems. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 417-437.

Feola, G., Suzunaga, J., Soler, J., Goodman M.K., 2019. Ordinary land grabbing in peri-urban spaces: land conflicts and governance in a small Colombian city. Geoforum 105, 145-157.

Feola, G. 2018. Contra la indiferencia: un llamado para la participación civil en el posconflicto en Colombia. Revista Ciudad Paz-ando 11(1), 51-61. (English translation here).