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Governing sustainable agri-food systems in Colombia

Governing sustainable agri-food systems: critical geographies of peri-urban agriculture and food sovereignty in Sogamoso, Colombia




Background
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. 

Research questions
• What are the impacts of Territorios Agroalimentarios on food sovereignty and sustainable food systems outcomes through peri-urban agriculture?
• How can novel negotiating spaces be created to build on and expand the existing grassroots efforts of Territorios Agroalimentarios in efforts to develop the peace process in the context of sustainable agriculture?
• How does peri-urban agriculture contribute to sustainable food systems, food sovereignty, biological and cultural diversity, poverty reduction and social inclusion?

Aims
1. Investigate and understand the impacts of Territorios Agroalimentarios on food sovereignty and sustainable food systems outcomes through peri-urban agriculture.
2. Through participatory research methods, create novel negotiating spaces to build on and expand the existing grassroots efforts of Territorios Agroalimentarios.
3. At a general level, explore the contributions of peri-urban agriculture 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.

Objectives
1. Characterizing and analysing peri-urban agriculture systems in Sogamoso.
2. Assessing the social, cultural, economic and ecological benefits of different forms of peri-urban agriculture within the study area.
3. Understanding competing and converging discourses on peri-urban agriculture, rural development, food sovereignty and sustainable development in Sogamoso.
4. 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 peri-urban agriculture.
5. 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. 

People
Giuseppe Feola (Project Lead), Department of Geography and Environmental Science, University of Reading (United Kingdom)
Michael K. Goodman,  Department of Geography and Environmental Science, University of Reading (United Kingdom)
Jaime Suzunaga and Jenny Soler, Fundacion Jischana Huitaca (Colombia)

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