2021 Progress Report: PASO Colombia

2021 Program Progress Report
Medicinal plants ERA


One Earth Future believes that strategic and inclusive collaboration across all sectors of Colombia’s diverse population is key to sustaining peace after decades of civil war. OEF’s PASO Colombia program is committed to working with local communities to identify and develop economic opportunities, spur job growth, strengthen the social fabric of the country, and encourage communities to be accountable for maintaining long-term stability and peace.

Working with communities that collaborate to collectively create economic opportunities to leave war behind, PASO has developed the Rural Alternative School (ERA) model that currently supports rural entrepreneurship in 22 regions throughout Colombia. With a bottom-up approach and a “learning by doing” method, ERAs have turned into collaboration platforms in which communities receive tailored training and technical support while they work on their own production projects, create markets, build collective productive infrastructures, and strengthen their organizations.

“PASO’s unique approach embodies partnership, collaboration, and support. At its core, all PASO staff and extensionistas respect the dignity and fellow humanity of all those they serve. 

BOTFL Report of the Mendoza College of Business, University of Notre Dame

Program Incubation Progress


Program Incubation Progress



After five years engaged in the Colombian territories most affected by decades of armed conflict working to ensure the success of the historic 2016 peace agreement, PASO Colombia believes that peace is built by sharing time together and iterating with communities to help them find their own solutions to collective problems. 

In contrast to the aid rationale that approaches people as beneficiaries, PASO works with the communities as partners, leaving installed capacities, generating business and employment under a cooperative model, and transforming them into drivers of the sustainable development of their territories. Unlike the individual entrepreneurship rationale, which turns community members into competitors, PASO promotes associative models in which people living in the same territory can cooperate to create scaled economies or find solutions to shared problems. 

Due to its documented successes in many regions in the country, the PASO program has earned a position as a trusted partner for a variety of organizations, including the Colombian government, who look to PASO to make things happen where it matters most—in communities with rural farming, migrant, or ex-combatant populations. PASO, in partnership with the UN Verification Mission and six campesino and ex-combatant organizations, established the first regional network for peace in Catatumbo.

PASO unlocks the resources and support needed to advance four core elements that support rural peace: market making, livelihoods and productive infrastructure, sustainable production, and collective entrepreneurship.

Market making is a component essential to PASO achieving greater scale. With several innovative initiatives, PASO helped facilitate access to new buyers and increase the volume of production to answer greater demand for products. The program boosted market-making commercialization strategies in the ERAs, including training and collaborative support for small business brand-building and marketing strategies. To assist this process, PASO Colombia is creating a commercialization system that spans six municipalities and facilitates better collaboration between markets.

PASO Colombia also created the first communications ERA that provides training for ex-combatants and communities to tell their own stories and better commercialize their products. The transfer of digital knowledge to the communities through the communications ERA helped give them the skills to tell with their own voices and perspectives the stories of reconciliation and entrepreneurship behind their productive projects. In the process, they developed their own brands and now create content for social networks to support the marketing of their products as well as the financing of their projects. This was complemented by the implementation of and participation in local farmer and artisan markets. 

Besides creating viable livelihoods and contributing to the sustainable development of the territories in which they operate, the most important achievement of the ERA model is its success in helping restore the social fabric of territories affected by decades of armed conflict.



2021 in Numbers

individuals served by PASO Colombia (9,271 direct participants, of which 1,243 are ex-combatants, 1,968 are ex-coca–growers, 1,647 are Venezuelan migrants, and 4,413 are peasants; 4.755 are indirectly served)
$6 million
in leveraged funds for economic reincorporation processes and market-making efforts
in sales from PASO ERAs; half of those sales were made in 2021
in household savings added via increased food production
cooperatives in 6 regional federations with 8,000 ex-combatants
partners (50% grassroots organizations, 22% public organizations, 15% private sector, 13% international organizations)
satisfaction rate for technical assistance and projects
of ERA participants say they have seen the social fabric strengthen around them


  • In a significant milestone, PASO ERAs reached their first $1 million in sales. Half of those sales were made in 2021.
  • PASO raised over $2.1 million to create job opportunities for over 1,000 Venezuelan migrants in partnership with the Inter-American Development Bank. PASO is helping cacao, honey, and Sacha Inchi value chains to increase productivity and sales. In exchange, associations of producers on those chains will be providing jobs to Venezuelan migrants.
  • The ERA model has served 14,000 people, generating 2,350 jobs, more than $1.2 million in sales, and $215k in savings through food production for the participating communities. 
  • In 2020, when the independent firm Cifras & Conceptos conducted the annual survey among ERA participants, 71% of community members responded that their trust in ex-combatants has improved as a result of their work in the ERAs. Similarly, 82% of ex-combatants stated that their trust in community members has grown. Trust in PASO Colombia has improved for 89% of respondents, and for 61%, their trust in other NGOs has increased. As for local governments, 35% of participants reported an increase in their trust, and 20% an increase in trust towards the national government.
  • In partnership with the state government of Valle del Cauca, PASO Colombia initiated a food resiliency program in Cali with 135 youths and additional community members who participated in the barricades of the general strike in September 2021.
  • In 2021, PASO Colombia acted as a mediator to diminish the level of violence in the general strike in partnership with the University of Valle. The two organizations created a bridge between the government and one of the most influential leaders among the demonstrators. This action helped provide alternatives to the so-called "front picketers," including a food security program now under implementation by PASO.




“PASO’s unique approach embodies partnership, collaboration, and support. At its core, all PASO staff and extensionistas respect the dignity and fellow humanity of all those they serve. By acknowledging the inherent worth of each person and their contributions, PASO builds trust. Furthermore, it builds agency among program participants as they see PASO support their ideas, thereby fostering true collaboration toward better solutions.” —BOTFL Report of the Mendoza College of Business, University of Notre Dame


“I would highlight the possibility of conversing with confidence in the space where the products are made because we are not only creating products, but we are building a brand that is by people and for people, without neglecting the human and learning component. So one of the most beautiful things is to be able to combine the rigorousness of the work, the judgment in sanitary measures and biosafety, with the possibility of conversation, the exchange of knowledge, and a friendly way of doing things.” —Daniela Callejas, PASO Colombia’s extensionista


“Finally, people are starting to feel empowered about learning to sell because people do not really know how to sell their products. But also, the fact that [markets are] organized by farmer communities also enables the recognition of the region’s leadership, social organizations, associations, and cooperatives, that they don't always need to have an institution to make the farmer market happen, but finally, the communities themselves can start to use these types of spaces. And that is something that’s being highlighted today, that the communities are here leading this market. I think it is an example of their own territorial vision taking place.” —Leyder Méndez, member of the COOJAPAL cooperative



2021 Media

Slideshow Slides
Communications ERA
Sorting through plants
Bee keeping ERA
Medicinal plants ERA
Creating care products ERA