When we eat beef in Sweden, it affects the possibilities for a lasting peace in Colombia, says researcher Jairo Restrepo.


Colombian peace is threatened by Swedish meat consumption

There is a link between Swedish meat consumption and a lack of security in Colombia. That is the opinion of Colombian researcher Jairo Restrepo. The global food system with a focus on exports and large-scale is in the way of a fair distribution of resources - and thus a sustainable peace in Colombia.

The air seems to have gone out of the Colombian peace agreement. According to agronomy researcher Jairo Restrepo, the biggest risk to peace in Colombia is that land reform has not yet been implemented. The peace agreement contains a comprehensive land reform, but so far only 3 percent of the promised redistribution of land has been implemented. According to Jairo Restrepo, this results in large parts of Colombia's population lacking secure access to food. And as long as people are hungry, peace is uncertain.

As in many of the world's conflicts, there is an underlying unfair distribution of resources in Colombia that has both caused and exacerbated conflicts.
- 80 percent of the usable agricultural land in Colombia is owned by only 1 percent of the population and is controlled by large production conglomerates, says Jairo Restrepo.

At the same time, small farmers - who account for almost half of all food produced in the country - have access to only a few percent of the agricultural land.

Jairo Restrepo
Jairo Restrepo researches agronomy and lives in Colombia.

Jairo Restrepo is a big name in organic farming in Latin America. He collaborates with many universities and has also worked as an advisor to the UN and their food and agriculture organization FAO. His critique of commercial agriculture has also given him a prominent place in the Latin American environmental movement. In November, he visited Sweden as part of the association Framtidsjorden's program Lär av Syd, where the idea is that knowledgeable people - from places that otherwise do not get much of our attention - share their experiences of the environment and justice.

It is difficult to talk about sustainable agriculture and the right to food in a Colombian context without taking into account the long-standing land conflicts the country is characterized by.

After decades of armed conflict, a peace agreement was concluded in 2016 between the Colombian state and the FARC guerrillas. But despite the fact that Colombia's then President Juan Manuel Santos received the Nobel Peace Prize for his achievement, the implementation of the peace agreement still has much to be desired - international organizations are alerting to increased violence and criticism is growing from their own people. According to Jairo Restrepo, there will never be real peace as long as the population is without land.

Why then does the implementation take so long? Jairo Restrepo says that several multinational agricultural companies have been involved in the drafting of the Colombian peace agreement. Their purpose is to further increase the production of four agricultural products: sugar cane, palm oil, soy and livestock farming. Jairo Restrepo sees this as a contemporary expression of colonialism. Latin America has a long history of unfair land relations since colonial times, when indigenous peoples were displaced and large-scale farming was established by the immigrants.

Jairo Restrepo says that soybean cultivation today spreads in a similar way, with severe effects on local communities and nature. Last year's major forest fires in the Brazilian Amazon can be linked to this expansion of soybean farming and livestock farms. Soy and beef, which are then largely exported to Europe, the USA and China. Jairo Restrepo thus draws a connection between the meat we eat in Sweden and the possibility of a stable peace in Colombia.

- It's scary that you Europeans do not know what you have on your plate! exclaims Jairo Restrepo.

He wants us to take greater responsibility for the social, but also ecological effects of the food we eat.

Jairo Restrepo is very critical of the genetically modified soy that has greatly expanded throughout South America over the past decade. He calls for a total boycott of this product. But it is difficult as a consumer to know where soy comes from.

Soy can also be used as feed for meat animals in Sweden. Only by buying Swedish, organic meat from herbivores can we be sure to avoid the Latin American soy. But Jairo Restrepo thinks that we European consumers should also be critical of organic labeling of South American foods such as coffee and bananas.

- Our states are corrupt. Those at the agricultural works who previously worked together with the chemical industry to increase the spraying of our crops are now responsible for controls of organic farming, he says.

According to Jairo Restrepo, it is only through direct contact between producer and consumer that we can be sure that the food has really been grown in the way we want. Examples of how this can be done are by shopping at farm shops or at local producer markets. One way of contributing to safer conditions is for consumers to harvest part of the harvest even before it has been grown, ie so-called cooperative farming. We can also buy according to participating labels where producer associations guarantee the qualities of production rather than third parties.

By limiting the number of intermediaries, we would also avoid the extensive power play that takes place at the expense of small farmers and creates an unfair distribution of resources, says Jairo Restrepo. In Colombia, safer conditions for small farmers would increase the chances of peace.

The power game around food is complex and difficult, but Jairo Restrepo looks with some confidence at the conscious consumers who increasingly want to know what they are buying in the grocery store.

- This gives hope to all farmers who want to switch to organic farming, he says.

He believes that if we can only create a direct exchange between food producers and consumers, we can have a safer and more sustainable development - at the same time as we saturate our stomachs and the biological diversity is preserved.

- We should not talk about organic farming as one alternativ to industrial agriculture. An agriculture in balance with people and nature is not an option. That's the only way forward. Not least for peace in Colombia, says Jairo Restrepo.

Is there something in the text that is not correct? Contact us at opinion@fuf.se

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