In 2019, PASO Colombia opened 10 new Rural Alternative Schools (ERAs), reaching a total of 20 ERAs operating throughout the country and supporting 1,406 participants. The schools operate as productive and educational collaboration platforms that harness public, private and community resources to develop sustainable agricultural projects. They also promote Collaborative Commercial Partnerships where communities sign agreements with companies that guarantee the purchase of their agricultural products at a fair price for a specific period of time. In its first two years of implementation the ERA model has created 2,224 jobs and generated $11.5 million dollars in commercial agreements. In addition, the ERAs have yielded important cost savings for the participants through projects that allow them how to produce their own food.
In December, in-kind supplies where delivered to begin the implementation of the two newest ERAs: Pasca, Cundinamarca and Sevilla, Valle.
The ERA of Pasca, Cundinamarca, has a total of 22 participants - 10 ex-combatants and 12 members of the community - organized in the COMUPAS cooperative. They will grow cape gooseberries and aloe and raise smaller species of animals like rabbits and curies. PASO is supporting this cooperative in response to an invitation by the governmental Agency for Reincorporation and Normalization (ARN) and in partnership with the UN Verification Mission in Colombia and the World Food Program (WFP).
The ERA of Sevilla, Valle, has 30 participants, including 8 ex-combatants, grouped around 3 organizations: The ASTRACAVA and AURACOL local farmer associations, and the Red Hip Hop Foundation. Its objective is to reactivate the facilities of a farm owned by the municipality by developing projects in pig farming, fertilizer production, beans, banana, and chili crops. The ERA also aims build a recording studio for the Red Hip Hop Foundation, whose members will be participating in various agricultural projects. This ERA has the support of Sevilla’s municipality, which leased the land, the Valle del Cauca Governorship, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), UN Verification Mission in Colombia and the World Food Program (WFP).