In March 2022, FOLU Colombia presented an assessment of food systems in Valle del Cauca to a group of public and private stakeholders who will jointly promote dialogue, action and policy towards transforming this western department’s food systems. These stakeholders have joined the Food and Land Use Coalition to design a roadmap to turn Valle del Cauca’s food systems into engines of social, economic and environmental development. Valle del Cauca will join Quindío and Antioquia as one of FOLU Colombia’s priority territories, and feed into the platform’s efforts to scale jurisdictional approaches to sustainable production, consumption and development in the country.
Transforming Food Systems in Colombia’s Valle del Cauca: A participatory process to forge a vision of change
Despite its status as one of Colombia’s top three commodity producing departments, Valle del Cauca imports 70 percent of the food it consumes. Only 58 percent of the department’s food needs are currently met, with 49.5 percent of households reporting use of one or more coping strategies for food and nutritional insecurity. Rates of malnutrition in the department’s capital, Santiago de Cali, are particularly high, with just 33 percent of children aged 6-24 months receiving the minimum acceptable diet. At the same time, increasing reliance on low-cost, ultra-processed foods has seen a spike in rates of overweightness, which now affects 61 percent of adults and 19.5 percent of children aged 5-12 across the department.
Coinciding with these challenges is the ongoing expansion of Valle del Cauca’s agricultural frontier, which continues to undermine the department’s ecological health, water security, climate resilience and cultural heritage. An estimated 66 and 72 percent of Valle del Cauca’s forests and wetlands were lost between 1957 and 1986, and, today, 30 percent of agricultural territories in the region are considered overexploited. The department has suffered severe land degradation as a result, with 32 percent of soils currently presenting erosion.
In spite of these issues, the opportunity for sustainable food systems transformation in Valle del Cauca is rife: a recent assessment conducted by FOLU Colombia and Biodiversity-CIAT Alliance identified a diversity of public, private and community-led initiatives fit for scaling, as well as a growing alliance of actors committed to securing a sustainable, equitable and prosperous future for the department. Momentum in Cali was flagged as particularly strong, where, in 2021, 4,450 tons of food waste were recovered and redistributed by the city’s food bank, benefiting 69,500 vulnerable people with at least one meal per day.
The same assessment was presented during a two-part stakeholder workshop convened by FOLU Colombia on March 10th, 2022, where representatives from government, civil society and the private sector gathered to share ideas, align objectives and chart priorities for transforming Valle del Cauca’s food systems into “engines” of social, economic and environmental development. The event looked toward the creation of a roadmap, which will be developed and implemented between now and 2030.
Speaking at the workshop, Governor Clara Luz Roldan Gonzalez, said that “Valle del Cauca has made many advances that could serve to develop the food systems roadmap,” adding that four of the department’s secretariats – agriculture, environment, health and education – would be supporting efforts to advance its long-term vision.
The Director of the Environmental Regional Autonomous Corporation of Valle del Cauca (CVC), Marco Antonio Suárez Gutiérrez, also voiced his team’s support, and later flagged the need to ensure the full representation and participation of the department’s subregions during the roadmap’s development.
So far, 12 institutions – including CVC, Gobernación del Valle del Cauca, Alcaldía de Santiago de Cali, Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, Corporación Biotec, ProPacífico, Universidad del Valle del Cauca, Universidad ICESI, WWF Colombia, Arroz Blanquita, Hacienda El Hatico, Rap Pacifico, Federación Nacional de Cafeteros, Universidad Nacional sede Palmira and Programa Mundial de Alimentos – have expressed their commitment to transforming Valle del Cauca’s food systems, with notable support coming from the office of the mayor of Cali. Together, they will work to promote food and nutrition security, equitable livelihoods and sustainable natural resources management across the department.
The roadmap will be guided by FOLU Colombia and Biodiversity-CIAT Alliance, and leverage existing initiatives and campaigns to transform Valle del Cauca’s food systems.
For more information on the roadmap and FOLU’s activities in Colombia, visit https://folucolombia.org/