José Felix Lafaurie (above,right), head of the Colombian Federation of Cattle Ranchers (Fedegan), and President Gustavo Petro (above, left) met at the Casa de Nariño, the nation’s presidential palace, at the beginning of October where they agreed to a 3 million hectare compensated land transfer to advance agricultural reform and carry out a primary provision of the 2016 Peace Agreement signed with the FARC.
“With the purpose of achieving the democratization of access to land, for the benefit of rural citizens and especially those with insufficient land, the national government will create a land fund for free distribution,” stated the peace agreement.
The indigenous, rural, and Afro-Colombian families who lack land, do not have enough land to make it productive, or do not have titles to the land they occupy or live on will receive these lands, which will be purchased from the ranchers; they will also be required to cultivate and produce food on these lands. All these land access, usage, and distribution concerns are covered in the chapter on integral rural reform. This is what is currently being promoted as agrarian reform by President Petro’s administration.
Petro said that the “development agency authorities must cease encouraging massive cattle farming and produce two objectives:” The first goal is to make agricultural appeals that encourage the production of agriculture, with “agrarian reform being one of the approaches.”
The meeting between Lafurie and Petro is notable because Lafurie’s wife is Senator Maria Fernanda Cabal from Alvaro Uribe’s Centro Democrático party, and perhaps the most outspoken opponent of President Petro.
100 million dollar loan
The second goal is to stimulate property ownership. The state says it won’t make any proposals to purchase any land; instead, it will wait for each farmer to make a bid. According to the agreement reached between the government and Fedegan, payments for the land will be made through “public debt bonds” and other means that the government will designate – and still has to determine. Actually, Colombia’s public debt would rise as a result of this policy.
All of this occurs as part of Petro’s intention to quicken rural transformation and take on the debt of 60 billion pesos required to buy these lands. In an interview for Noticias Caracol, the President said that the funding strategy for purchasing land will be “for 20 million pesos each, that is 60 billion pesos. We can think about the money over six years, at 10 billion pesos per year, we get into debt and pay the landowner with titles.”
To finance this plan, the Petro administration asked foreign creditors for $100 million USD, said the Minister of Agriculture, Cecilia López, to El Colombiano. She clarified that the credit, which would be issued by the UN’s Green Climate Change Fund, will be used to buy property as well as carry out constructive initiatives. “It is one of the largest loans in Latin America for sustainable agriculture. Part of that money is non-repayable,” she stated.
One potential funder could be the United States. When some US congressmen visited Bogotá in October and warned the government against a closer relationship with China, Petro’s administration responded that increasing Washington’s collaboration with Colombia is one strategy to stop China’s infiltration, according to El País. Petro hopes to persuade President Joe Biden to provide funding for the Colombian government to buy property from ranchers so that it may be transferred to landless rural citizens.
Petro also recently met with the heads of major financial institutions in Colombia, including Itaú, Colpatria, Bancolombia, BBVA, Davivienda, as well as large companies like Nutresa and Grupo Corona, among others. Infobae reported that Gustavo Petro suggested to private banks funding the nation’s agricultural production. “I invite you, if we co-finance agrarian production, the great reform in the financial world is that finance should finance production. It is not even whether it has more competitiveness, which is a big discussion in Colombia, if they finance the production,” commented the president.
Lastly, Petro seems to be hoping to count on Banco Agrario to fund his intentions. He told Hernando Chica Zuccardi, President of the bank, that the institution “has become vital for us”. “We have promised to capitalize the largest and most modern bank in Colombia,” Petro said in a report disclosed by Valora Analitik. “Here we need a lot of knowledge. SENA has to become almost a rural SENA. This is with knowledge, this is with credit and this is with land,” added the president.
The distribution has already started
At the end of October, Gustavo Petro reportedly said that the agricultural reform has already started as part of the distribution of land for peace to 50 peasant families in Monteria, according Valora Analitik. “The first thing I would have to say is that this first day of this agrarian reform process has to gather such speed that, when we reach the last day of government, we will be at the maximum,” said Petro.
He also told Cecilia Lopez, the minister of agriculture, that his final day in office as president should be spent “delivering land.” “Here we come to propose a pact and we can find the obstacles around what has happened in the background to deliver this farm,” said the Petro..
On the other hand, in recent days, officials have also communicated that two other proposals have been received, each of 800 hectares, and “show that there is an intention in the country to move forward with the reform.” They also indicated that the purchase of three million hectares in four years is virtually impossible and that, therefore, the greatest aspiration is to leave the legal framework in place so that the next governments can carry out this task; a risk that Cecilia López already hinted at when she revealed the 100-million-dollar credit earlier in October. She explained the government could only purchase approximately 500,000 hectares a year, or half of what Fedegán is proposing by 2026, which suggests that this policy must be maintained by the following administration.
“What we are trying to do is to leave such a successful and efficient model that the next government, whoever it may be, will sustain it,” said Lopez. “The country must ask for it and, therefore, we have to be successful so that this policy continues and that the agrarian reform, which has already begun, really becomes a reality in Colombia.”
Above photo: President Gustavo Petro (left) and José Felix Lafurie, president of Fedegan (Twitter)