Who is Jhénifer Mojica Flórez, Colombia’s new Minister of Agriculture?

With extensive experience in the public sector and the protection of human rights, the new minister of agriculture must take on the great challenge of carrying out an agrarian reform that benefits rural women above all.

Jennifer Mojica Florez

Photo: Jhenifer Mojica Flórez

LatinAmerican Post | Julián Andrés Pastrana Cuéllar

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Leer en español: ¿Quién es Jhénifer Mojica Flórez, la nueva ministra de agricultura de Colombia?

After the ministerial revolt that occurred last week within the Petro Government, the until-then Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Cecilia López Montaño, was replaced by Jhénifer Mojica Flórez. The new holder of this portfolio is a lawyer from the National University, specializing in procedural law, with more than ten years of experience in human rights protection.

A native of Bucaramanga, Santander, Mojica Flórez joined the public sector in 2007 as a contractor for the National Commission for Reparation and Reconciliation. She also served as deputy manager of Rural Lands of the Colombian Institute of Rural Development, deputy director of Litigation and Legal Protection of the Colombian Commission of Jurists, lawyer of the Association of Arhuaco Authorities of the Sierra Nevada, and contractor of the Commission for the Clarification of the Truth, Coexistence, and Non-repetition. In his career, he also stands out for participating in designing the Victims and Land Restitution Law.

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Agrarian Reform, Pending Task for the new Minister

Before this appointment, Jhénifer Mojica Flórez served as Director of Ethnic Affairs of the Special Administrative Unit for the Management of Restitution of Dispossessed Lands. Now, from his new position, he will have to promote and consolidate one of the significant commitments of the current Government: comprehensive rural reform, as well as the purchase of land from Fedegán.

A task that will not be easy considering the suspicions generated by an article of the National Development Plan that would authorize the Government to carry out express takeovers of land, an idea that did not have the approval of the outgoing minister Cecilia López. The reason for this presumably was removed from the cabinet.

Another edge of the agrarian reform proposed by the Petro Government, which will be the spring of the new minister, is the articulation between her portfolio and that of the Environment. With this, it is sought that said reform consolidates the agricultural frontier, stops deforestation, and protects jungles and forests hand in hand with the social movement in such a way that territorial limits can be defined, as well as creating lookouts for the prevention of forest fires and recovery of degraded ecosystems.

Her appointment was not without controversy since, according to some media, she was subject to a disciplinary sanction from the Attorney General's Office, which in 2013 disqualified her for ten years. However, in 2017 the Attorney, Fernando Carrillo, reversed the measure.

Gender Gap in the Rural Sector

The appointment of a woman in a portfolio such as Agriculture becomes relevant if it is analyzed from the perspective of a recent report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), which accounts for the enormous gaps in gender in the agriculture and food sectors, which cost the world one trillion dollars.

According to this document, women farm workers receive 82 cents for their work for every dollar earned by men. In addition, they tend to work in more informal, precarious, part-time, and more complex jobs, which is added to the fact that these women must also be in charge of domestic work and act as unpaid caretakers.

The panorama is more severe if they have less access to land ownership, training, credit, and new technologies. This set of factors means a gender gap of 24% between men and women who work tracts of land of the same size.

Colombia is no stranger to this dramatic reality. According to DANE statistics, as of 2020, four out of ten women living in rural areas in this country were in multidimensional poverty. On the other hand, 44.6% of rural women in Colombia were immersed in a situation of monetary poverty, a figure higher than that of rural men, who stood at 41.4%. Another significant fact is that the rural female population outside the labor force reached 67.9%, while the exact figure for men stood at 29.6%. Regarding land tenure, at the 2019 cutoff, only 24.7% of the Agricultural Production Units were directed by women producers.

In this regard, Benjamin Davis, director of the Department of Inclusive Rural Transformation and Gender Equality of the FAO, affirms that overcoming the gap and wage disparities between genders would increase the world gross domestic product by 1%, which would be equivalent to a million dollars. Thus, world food insecurity would decrease by two percentage points, meaning that around 45 million people would stop suffering from hunger.

It is then expected that now, with a woman at the head of the Ministry of Agriculture, policies in the sector will be targeted through a gender perspective that will help improve the conditions of rural and peasant women in Colombia.

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