2nd round of workshops in Colombia & Peru

Earlier this month, Hanna Lakkala, Juha Kaskinen and I (Marianna B. Ferreira-Aulu) visited Bogotá and Lima to run the second round of workshops for the project “Native crops for sustainable and innovative food futures in Peru and Colombia – PECOLO” together with local partners.

PECOLO project is a collaboration between Universidad el Bosque (UEB) in Bogotá, Universidad Nacional Agraria La Molina (UNALM) in Lima, and the University of Turku (UTU). It is funded by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, and has the objective of developing innovation environments around Andean native crops using methodologies and tools of futures studies, as well as to foment high quality research on sustainable and nutritious Andean crops.

The process of the PECOLO project goes as follows:

Figure 1. Process of the PECOLO Project.

On the 1st workshop in November 2017, participants did an Environmental Scanning of the Andean food and agriculture sector in each country. An adapted version of the Futures Wheel was used as a tool for organizing ideas and inspiring discussion. Futures Wheel is a brainstorming method developed by the Millennium Project co-founder Jerome Glenn that helps to identify megatrends, trends, weak signals, events and decisions of certain topics. In our version of it, the “current state-of-the-art wheel” was used to current situation and topics related to the food and agriculture sector. (read more about the first workshop here)

The second round of workshops was conducted in early May 2018. A 2-day program was ran in both universities: UEB and UNALM. On the first day, FFRC director Juha Kaskinen gave a lecture on scenario thinking for the teaching staff, as well as masters and doctoral students. On the second day, a workshop for non-academic partners was organized, where local experts could exercise scenario building in practice. The experts were invited by our partner universities (UEB and UNALM), and they were coming from governmental institutions, private companies, NGO’s and active members of the civil society. In addition to me, all other facilitators were local, and they participated on the lecture of the first day.

Figure 2 . One of the groups discussing in Universidad el Bosque, in Colombia.

Based on the results from the first workshop conducted in 2017, participants selected (from the futures wheel produced) six important factors for agricultural innovation system considering PESTEC aspects (Politic, Economic, Social, Technologic, Ecologic and Cultural), and constructed a Futures Table.

The table consisted on nine lines and five columns. The six important factors picked from the results of the first workshop became variables on the table, and participants filled in four different futures states for each of these variables, using their expert knowledge of the field. Also Megatrends, Black Swans and Weak signals affecting all futures states were stated. Once the table was completed, participants drew paths for desirable, avoidable, and probable scenarios, which were then described as narratives. This is the process we used to create the scenarios for the agricultural innovation system in 2030.

Here is an example of a complete Futures Tables, for illustration purposes:

Figure 3. Example of the complete Futures Table of one of the expert groups.

Following this work, the next steps are to build roadmaps for these desirable futures (in autumn 2018) and finally, to develop action plans and recommendations to various interest groups (in Spring 2019).

Preliminary results

Preliminary results from this second workshop shows that experts of both countries, Peru and Colombia, are hungry for more cooperation between sectors of the society. They understand the significance of public-private partnerships and associations, and advocate for transfer of technology (ToT) across different sectors. A common theme in the workshops of both countries was also the improvement of the lives of rural communities and the value of the knowledge of traditional populations for developing innovative systems in the food and agriculture systems.

Peruvian and Colombian experts invited to our workshops are tuned in with a growing need to obtain food certifications, as informed consumers in the global market demand information not only on the nutritional value of the foods, but also how products are produced and how workers are being compensated for their work (for example with Organic and Fair Trade certifications).

In Colombia, a key driver for a sustainable food system is the formalization of land tenure. Historically, this has been a slow and ineffective process, but improvements on this sector are noticeable since the commencement of the peace process. Futures Tables and Scenarios produced by the Colombian groups show that when formalization of land tenure is done more efficiently and democratically, it triggers several other improvements: a better use of productive land, opportunities for land planning and environmental managements plans, as well as a more rural social development. Formalization of land tenure in Colombia can foment small-scale and organic farming and ensuring a diversity of crops and cultivation methods.

In Peru, experts are mainly focused on yet a different aspect: the health benefits of Andean crops. Quinoa, kiwicha and other Andean crops are considered super foods, and all Peruvian groups included the growth of healthy foods in the global market in their Futures Tables and Scenarios. Food security and the elimination of hunger and malnutrition is also an important concern for the Peruvian experts, and several groups advocate for including nutrition and culture of healthy eating in educational programs across the country.

Visiting UNALM quinoa and Kiwicha plantation

Figure 4. Quinoa plantation in Universidad Nacional Agraria La Molina, Peru.

We had the opportunity to visit the quinoa and kiwicha plantation of UNALM. There, varieties of these plants are cultivated inside the university campus, and student have easy access to samples and various information of the plants that can be used for their studies and research.

Figure 5. Marianna Ferreira-Aulu holding a branch of the quinoa plant in Universidad Nacional Agraria La Molina, Peru.

Quinoa is a gluten-free grain that has been used around the world as a substitute to rice and couscous in various dishes. From a side dish to the main ingredient in a fresh salad, quinoa is growing popularity high nutrient content. The UN named 2013 as the ‘International Quinoa Year’.

Figure 6. Kiwicha from the greenhouse in UNALM, Peru

Kiwicha (amaranthus caudatus), also known as amaranth, or amaranto, is a grain that has been cultivated in the Americas for over 7,000 years. There are over 1,000 varieties of amaranth in the Andes, many of them being studied in UNALM. The kiwicha plants in UNALM are cultivated inside a greenhouse with a doubly-sealed entrance to ensure no pests would enter the greenhouse with us.

This is a high-protein cereal, and due to its rich nutritional proprieties, has been sent to space to serve as food to astronauts.  Due to its fast growth and easy maintenance, it is suggested to be “the food of the future”. Read more here (in Spanish)

We also received samples of Tarwi products from one of our workshop attendees. Tarwi is a highly nutritious Andean lupin. As a bean, it is consumed in salads and hot dishes, and as a flour, it is added in desserts, fruit purée, and recovery drink for athletes. Highly versatile, the production of lupin for commercial use is still very small. Could it be that Tarwi is a weak signal soon ready to become a growing trend in the global market?

Marianna Birmoser Ferreira-Aulu

All photos by Marianna Birmoser Ferreira-Aulu

Breakfast with the non-academic partners

The UEB Staff of the PECOLO Project met for breakfast with key non-academic partners on Tuesday 10th of April 2018 at the VIP restaurant located at the Fundadores building.  Kenneth Ochoa V., Colombian coordinator of the Project, presented generalities, key aspects, and the impact of the Project, after all participants introduced themselves and expressed their initial expectations. Next, the participants asked questions about their role in the project, and the UEB Staff answered all their questions, placing emphasis in both the impact of the potential collaboration projects and the benefit of using the Future Studies and Foresight Methodology in the strategic planning processes of their own organizations. At the end of the meeting, participants from: Secretaría Distrital de Ambiente (SDA), Bio Plaza, Instituto Colombiano de Bienestar Familiar (ICBF), Asociación Colombiana de Ciencia y Tecnología de Alimentos (ACTA), and Academia de Innovación para la Sostenibilidad (AISO) expressed their support to the PECOLO Project and their committed participation in the Project workshops.

Strategic Plan for Science, Technology, and Innovation (PECTIA) of the Colombian Agricultural Sector (2017-2027)

The key for an innovative society and its sustainable growth lies in the investment in Education, Research, and Development.   Higher Education Institutions have both human and technical resources to support quality education, R&D, and innovation environments.  For this reason, the Project submitted by the Finland Futures Research Center (FFRC) in cooperation with Functional Foods Forum (FFF) of University of Turku, the Peruvian Universidad Agraria La Molina (UALM), and the Colombian Universidad El Bosque (UEB) is looking for sustainable and innovative Andean Native Crops Futures in Peru and Colombia.

The FFRC-FFF-UALM-UEB project completely agrees with the Strategic Plan for Science, Technology, and Innovation (PECTIA, acronym in Spanish language) of the Colombian Agricultural Sector (2017-2027) in that “solid innovation of agricultural processes is fundamental for the implementation of agricultural-based policies through public investment, which will support a more market-oriented, environmentally sustainable, and socially inclusive agricultural development.”

by Dr. Omar Trujillo, UEB

The first futures workshops for innovation environment in Peru and Colombia

Director Dr. Juha Kaskinen, Project coordinator Ms. Hanna Lakkala and Junior expert in futures studies Mrs. Noora Vähäkari, from Finland Futures Research Centre at the University of Turku, traveled to Bogotá and Lima for the first set of lectures and workshops of the PECOLO project related to sustainable innovation of local Andean crops. Functional Foods Forum (FFF), Researcher and coordinator Mr. Jaakko Korpela, and post-doc researcher in biochemistry Dr. Carlos Gomez held lectures in their topics and also attended and assisted in the innovation workshops.

In both locations, Bogotá on November 7th and Lima on November 14th, Dr. Kaskinen started the innovation oriented training session with introduction to futures studies, the history, concepts and key methodology of the discipline. Additionally, he also gave a quick look on the structure and functions of FFRC. In Bogotá, the first lecture gathered some 15 people from various public and private organisations, plus university staff. University of El Bosque, where the training and workshop were held, simultaneously hosted an international conference on medicinal science and technology, which occupied lot of potential audience. In Lima, the two-day training session started off with a warm welcome from the Finnish Ambassador to Peru Mr. Mika Koskinen. In Lima, the participants numbered some 40 people widely across the Peruvian food and agriculture sector and innovation experts. The training session and workshop were organized in the University of Agriculture La Molina campus.

PECOLO project team from Peruvian and Finnish partner universities in UNALM.

In the innovation workshops multidisciplinary and participatory simultaneous co-creation and brainstorming methodologies were used. Groups of six to eight people started to discuss about food and agriculture sector in the respective countries, using PESTEC and ACTVOD tables and the Futures wheel canvases. The current or critical or interesting trends and values, innovation systems, production patterns, consumption habits, and important issues related to agriculture were discussed, using the canvases to structure the discussions. The groups discussed topics such as the gap between urban and rural dichotomy, the significance of global trends and market pressure, land ownership and conflicts, environmental issues and access to new technologies and food trends. All ideas were written in post-it pads and attached in large posters.

Groups working around the Futures table, PESTEC and ACTVOD tables. 

The aim of the futures wheel methodology was to spark discussion on the large patterns and changes taking place in the sector and to prepare for the more detailed discussions later on. Once done, all groups chose four to five topics which they wanted to elaborate further in ACTVOD methodology (discussing the actors, customers, transformation processes, values, obstacles and drivers behind the topics chosen). This process not only supported the horizon scanning of the food and agriculture sector in both countries, but also supports the next phases of the innovation path in the PECOLO project.

ACTVOD table results in Bogotá

In Bogotá, the work continued the next day with PESTEC analysis (political, economic, social, technological, environmental, cultural aspects and critical signals of the food and agriculture sector), whereas in Peru all three methods had to be done in a single day due to unforeseeable national holiday. PESTEC is a commonly used multidisciplinary tool to elaborate certain topic in various perspectives and to ensure that all critical elements are covered. In this session, the team included also the framework of megatrends, trends, weak signals and wild cards in the work. Consequently, the topical trends and patterns could be assessed in very profound way.

Futures wheel results.

The training and workshop sessions in both locations were successful and gathered a lot of interest and positive feedback, particularly on the facilitation of multidisciplinary and cross-sectoral work. They also functioned well as the first steps to open up and continuously work on the sustainable development and use of native Andean crops and built more international discussion space around the future of the food and agriculture sector in both countries. As for the Finnish perspective, the PECOLO project provides a unique academic linkage from Finland to and between Peru and Colombia.

by Noora Vähäkari