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Community-based Approach for Sustainable Peacebuilding

The impact of violent conflicts on any country and its society is inevitably destructive and devastating. The effects on the state and civilians can be multifaceted from tangible injuries, killing, and damage to intangible pervasive fears and psychological traumas. Sadly, more than 1.4 billion people, including half of the world’s extremely poor people, are bound to live in fragile and conflict-affected settings with more than 65 million being forcibly displaced. These dynamics are only set to grow and are expected to cross the line of 82% growth by the end of 2030 unless the world takes appropriate measures to prevent it.

Reconciling conflicts and achieving sustainable peace have been the subjects of focus throughout the recent decade, with a number of development agencies and countries investing in them. Sustainable peace is a concept endorsed by the UN general assembly that stresses the importance of having a long-term, comprehensive vision in all responses to violent conflicts to end vicious cycles of lapse and relapse. Historical evidence and experience suggest that communities remain relatively resilient in conflict settings, providing coping mechanisms for insecurity and fragility. Thus, growing attention is being paid to the adoption of community-based approaches while dealing with conflicts.

What is a community-based approach to peacebuilding?

The community-based approach seeks to empower local community groups and institutions by expanding their direct controls over investment decisions, project planning, monitoring, and evaluation. The key to the approach is inclusive participation that creates a sense of community ownership and lays the ground for the sustainability of development interventions.

A community-based approach is a constructive tool that complements the weaknesses of public institutions, strengthens local governance, and reconnects the state with its citizens. The community-based approach facilitates the accumulation of social capital in divided societies and fosters a safe space for interaction between different groups. It can be applied in various contexts and circumstances from conflict prevention to peacekeeping and reconciliation.

Key Challenges with Community-based Approach

A community-based approach does not always result in conflict resolution or mitigation

Although the community-based approach has a great potential to contribute to sustainable peacebuilding, in practice it usually seeks to transform the relationships, facilitates collaboration between different actors, and links to broader peace strategies. Inclusive processes can promote community solidarity and the creation of social capital. However, since the dominant groups often feel threatened by a participatory approach that challenges traditional decision-making structure, they shall be resistant to changes and broader reforms in order to preserve the authority. Therefore, the community-based approach has the potential to either diffuse or exacerbate the existing conflicts.

A community-based approach does not necessarily mean greater inclusion or participation

Frequently, the community-based approach simply mirrors pre-existing social and cultural patterns resulting in further marginalization of e.g., women, poor, and other socially excluded groups as they refrain or are restricted from participation in forums. In such cases, traditionally dominant groups manage to even enhance their influence and power resulting in greater gap and inequitable societies.

A community-based approach may give rise to the risk of power concentration in the hands of the elite

Elites might be able to exercise greater control over community groups and manipulate the structure for their own benefit or political purposes. In this case, transparency can get compromised and result in power abuse from dominant groups.

Inclusive Peace Talks – The Case of Columbia

Despite being one of the more stable democracies in Latin America, Columbia has suffered protracted armed conflict. The country demonstrates the highest inequality rates in the region after Honduras with gross historical injustices and impunity. Columbia is navigating a sea of paradoxes with a blossoming culture of peace despite deep-rooted beliefs and attitudes that foster violence.

The peace agreement between the Government of Columbia and the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Columbia (FARC) was reached in 2016, becoming the first peace pact to put an end to the armed conflict since the Nepalese Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2006. It became a sign of hope and humanity and made the world believe in the power of dialogue and peace negotiations.

Innovations around Participation and Social Inclusion in Peace Talks

The peace processes in Columbia have been thought of as the acts of strengthening democracy where negotiations were directed towards transforming the power dynamics of the country. During 4 years of Negotiations, the Government and the FARC were able to design an agreement that responded to the claims of each party. Throughout the peace talks, Columbia developed remarkable mechanisms for participation and social inclusion. The negotiations involved all the affected groups from private and security sectors and consultants to victims to peace talks, women, and LGBTI organizations as well as ethnic minorities.
The Government and the FARC set up a number of new bodies and designated institutional mechanisms to foster public participation, identify the needs of the societies, and draft related development plans.

What could go wrong when everything goes right?

Although the peace agreement was a huge step forward for the stability of the country, Columbian society inside was left divided and polarized full of mistrust, skepticism, and opposition. In 2016, the government encountered an unexpected setback when the peace agreement got narrowly rejected in a plebiscite. Although at that time it was almost impossible to believe that anyone would campaign a ‘NO’ vote, many did. In fact, the peace supporters polled 60’000 votes less than the opposition.

As paradoxical as it sounds, the agreement that was designed with the best of intentions turned out to be a mere reflection of citizens’ fears. Those, who were directly affected by conflicts voted in favor of the pact yet others went against it. Regardless of the innovations in public participation, the society remained unconvinced. It’s worth noting that the UK Brexit referendum and the election of Donald Trump as a president played their role in exacerbating social division.

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Agriculture – The Future of Crop Harvesting

Meet the World’s First Strawberry Picking Robot

A number of developed countries undergo a shortage of labor in the agricultural sector that threatens the sustainability and preservation of the industry. Dozens of European farms could disappear from the market unless they find a solution to affordable operating resources.

Currently, less than 5% of the available workforce in Western Society are employed in agriculture. Many decline jobs due to hard and unattractive work, as well as lower salaries, compared to other sectors. A raise in salaries could become an unbearable burden for the sector, as the cultivation industry would become too costly and thus economically unviable. Considering the fact that labor represents over 40% of the inputs, the issue gets exacerbated. Tightened rules and regulations for Labor migration don’t work in the favor of farmers either. Especially, in the times of recent Coronavirus Pandemic and in the face of stalled mobility, many farms were left vulnerable to workforce shortage or complete unavailability.

In the recent decade, several agricultural R&D companies have been focusing on reducing costs and advancing cultivation systems. Precision farming and robotic automation are some of the emerging technologies that have given promising results. There are a number of robot prototypes, especially in the area of harvesting, that could be a viable alternative to costly human labor and provide substantial savings to farmers in the long run.

Octinion and Its Rubion – Meet the Pioneers in robotized strawberry harvesting

Octinion is a Belgium-based innovative R&D company that specializes in mechatronic solutions for the agricultural industry. They have designed and crafted an autonomous strawberry-picking robot – Rubion, that harvests berries like an ideal human-picker without bruising. The innovative robot was first presented to the world in 2019 during Fruit Logistica in Berlin.

Octinion specifically focuses on tabletop systems that are quite common in Europe as well as expanding elsewhere. Rubion has a unique nature as it picks strawberries only in case if the action will not result in bruises. The robot collects at least 70% of all ripe berries and all of them damage-free with a picking speed of 5 seconds. Rubion results in higher picking and sorting quality as well as constant productivity, unrestricted timeframe, and new management tools with gathered data.

At this very stage, Rubion does not fully replace manual labor, as the remaining strawberries still need to be picked due to their unreachability to the robot. But further research and development could improve the picking ratio in the favor of the robot.

How does the Strawberry Picking Robot Work?

As mentioned earlier, Rubion possesses a fully autonomous system that requires no human intervention throughout its operation. The system comprises seven components: the electric vehicle, the localization system, the camera detection system, the custom-designed robotic arm, the gripper, the logistic handling module, and the quality monitoring software. Thanks to built-in quality monitoring, the robotic system allows for sorting, advanced crop monitoring, and precision farming. Rubion picks up around 360 kg of strawberries per day, compared to 50 kg a day for a productive human picker.

Why Strawberries?

According to the CEO of the Octinion Technology Group strawberries are one of the most standardized crops that grow all-year-round, thus the investment can pay itself off faster than it would do compared to apples let’s say. In addition, strawberries are quite vulnerable to the skills of the pickers due to their softness and easily damageable properties.

How about the competitors?

There are several companies with similar concepts and technologies on the market or close to commercialization. However, the majority of them are not suited for tabletop cultivation despite the growing application of the latter. The earliest prototypes were designed in Japan that were fitted in specially adapted greenhouses. Nevertheless, these options did not prove to be economically viable in other markets such as Europe due to high investment costs for redesigning greenhouses.

US competitors Harvest-Croo and AgroBot have also created robots for open-field cultivation. Nonetheless, the machines are quite large and costly. The Dogtooth system from the University of Cambridge is also an autonomous machine for table-top cultivation. However, the machine cuts the strawberry stem instead of removing it. Searching for the stem is quite a time-taking process and because of the small wound left after cutting, diseases can enter the plant much easier as well.

What does the future of Harvesting look like?

From today’s perspective, employing robots in future harvesting looks more than just real. Farmers could potentially utilize a number of benefits that are associated with automated harvesting and fill workforce gaps that arise from time to time in fieldwork operations. Nevertheless, it’s fair to acknowledge that there are further developments needed in the areas of cost reduction as well as improving the robotic applications for other crop types.

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