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Breaking the Cycle: Food Insecurity, Protection and Armed Conflict in Colombia

CARE’s new report “Breaking the Cycle: Food Insecurity, Protection, & Conflict in Colombia,” summarizes the findings of an action-based research on the intersection of armed conflict, hunger, and protection risks conducted in Colombia. This is a joint initiative between CARE, InterAction, and WFP.

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Introduction

Conflict. Hunger. Protection risks. In Colombia, these three phenomena have been interconnected in a reinforcing cycle for decades. Efforts to address each component of this negative cycle are vital, but approaches are often disconnected, leading to short-term or incomplete solutions. As a result, communities struggle against growing odds to build resilience or stability.

Using participatory methods, a research team led by CARE, the World Food Programme (WFP), and InterAction interviewed 16 focus groups in 2 departments of Colombia to learn directly from diverse perspectives what threats, vulnerabilities, capacities, and risks affected people faced. Though the negative cycle effect was widespread, differences between and within communities meant that often people experienced armed conflict, hunger, and protection risks in vastly different ways, indicating that one-size-fits-all solutions won’t be enough to bring lasting positive change.

Despite the differences in personal and communal experience of risk, two categories of variables emerged that defined how individuals were affected by conflict, hunger, and protection risks: context-specific conflict dynamics and institutionalized discrimination.

Key findings

  1. Impacts to food insecurity and protection varied depending on the type of tactics that armed groups utilized. Participants reported direct and indirect impacts related to all four pillars of food insecurity, but the most direct effects of conflict concerned food availability.
  2. Conflict created physical and psychological trauma, eroded participants’ assets and coping abilities, and ultimately forced them from home into precarious conditions of displacement. Indigenous communities were especially at-risk when displaced.
  3. Institutionalized discrimination prejudiced on identity or demographic factors are prominent factors shaping participants’ access to food or livelihood sources post-displacement.
  4. Respondents in Quibdó and Tibú emphasized approaches that focused on institutional changes and long-term resilience, such as promoting urban gardening or improving access to equitable education opportunities for ethnic minorities.

Download the report

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