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  • Writer's pictureSustainable Agriculture Network

The TerraViva Program: A Model for Farmer-Led Sustainable Territorial Management

The TerraViva Program, implemented in the Planadas Municipality of Colombia’s Tolima Department, stands as an exemplary model of farmer-led sustainable territorial management. This initiative, funded by the UK government agency DEFRA's Global Centre on Biodiversity for Climate (GCBC), leverages the collective strength and knowledge of local farming communities to create a holistic and sustainable approach to land management. By fostering participatory methods and emphasizing community involvement, TerraViva demonstrates how farmer-led initiatives can effectively address environmental, economic, and social challenges.

Participatory Approach and Community Involvement

At the heart of the TerraViva Program is its participatory approach, which ensures that the voices and perspectives of local farmers are integral to the decision-making process. The program employs tools like Appreciative Inquiry and the Community Capitals Framework (CCF) to engage community members in identifying their strengths and assets. This approach not only empowers farmers but also fosters a sense of ownership and responsibility towards sustainable land management practices.

During the initial stages of the program, extensive data collection was carried out through focus group discussions, stakeholder interviews, and participatory mapping. This data provided a comprehensive understanding of the local socio-economic and environmental context, which was crucial for developing a Common Territorial Agenda (CTA). By involving farmers in every step of the process, TerraViva ensures that the strategies developed are practical, culturally appropriate, and tailored to the specific needs of the community.

Integrated Landscape Management

TerraViva’s integrated landscape management approach acknowledges the interconnectedness of various land uses and stakeholder needs within the region. This method seeks to harmonize the well-being of rural communities with the health of their environment, optimizing synergies and minimizing trade-offs. For instance, the program promotes agroforestry and silvopastoral systems, which integrate trees and livestock into agricultural landscapes. These practices enhance biodiversity, improve soil health, and provide additional sources of income for farmers.

The project also emphasizes the importance of preserving natural resources and enhancing ecosystem services. By implementing sustainable practices such as crop rotation, organic farming, and water conservation, farmers can maintain the productivity of their land while reducing their environmental footprint. This holistic approach to landscape management ensures that agricultural activities contribute positively to the local ecosystem rather than depleting it.

Building a Common Territorial Agenda (CTA)

A significant achievement of the TerraViva Program is the development of a CTA, a shared vision for the sustainable development of the territory. This agenda was created through a bottom-up approach, with community members actively participating in workshops and discussions to identify key priorities and strategies. The CTA integrates goals related to climate change adaptation, biodiversity conservation, and socio-economic development, ensuring a balanced and sustainable approach to land management.

One of the notable aspects of the CTA is its focus on inclusivity and equity. The program recognizes the importance of empowering marginalized groups, such as women and youth, by providing them with opportunities to participate in decision-making processes and leadership roles. This inclusivity ensures that the benefits of sustainable land management are shared equitably across the community.

Strengthening Community Resilience

The TerraViva Program also enhances the resilience of farming communities by building their capacity to manage risks and adapt to changing conditions. Through training and capacity-building initiatives, farmers learn about sustainable practices, risk management strategies, and innovative farming techniques. This knowledge empowers them to implement effective solutions that enhance their productivity and resilience in the face of challenges such as climate change and market fluctuations.

Moreover, the program facilitates access to finance and resources, enabling farmers to invest in sustainable technologies and infrastructure. By leveraging collective action and community networks, TerraViva helps farmers secure funding and support from various sources, including government programs, non-profit organizations, and sustainable finance initiatives.

Consortium of Organizations

The success of the TerraViva Program is also attributed to the strong consortium of organizations involved. The Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN), Fundación Natura, the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), and the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT have all played pivotal roles. These organizations bring diverse expertise and resources to the table, ensuring a comprehensive approach to sustainable land management. Their collaboration fosters innovation and the sharing of best practices, which are critical for the program's success.

Outcomes and Impact

The TerraViva Program's impact is already evident in the communities it serves. By developing a CTA, the program has created a roadmap for sustainable development that addresses local needs and priorities. The participatory approach has strengthened community bonds and increased trust in collective action. Farmers are now better equipped to manage their lands sustainably, leading to improved environmental health and economic stability.

Additionally, the program's focus on education and capacity building has empowered farmers to continue innovating and adapting to new challenges. This ongoing learning process ensures that the benefits of TerraViva will be sustained long after the project's initial phase is completed.

The TerraViva Program exemplifies how farmer-led initiatives can successfully promote sustainable territorial management. Through its participatory approach, integrated landscape management, development of a Common Territorial Agenda, and focus on community resilience, TerraViva provides a replicable model for other regions seeking to achieve sustainable agriculture. This program underscores the importance of empowering local communities and leveraging their knowledge and strengths to create a sustainable and prosperous future.


We invite you to explore our other blog posts to learn more about sustainable agriculture and its benefits. Your comments and insights are valuable to us, so please leave your thoughts below and join the conversation on how we can all contribute to a more sustainable future.

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