Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Final presentation: Biofuels

Next up: The environment team on biofuels in Colombia, and in particular, palm oil.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Final presentation: Business and trade

This week we will post one team's final presentation each day. First up: IEDP's business and trade team members discuss their research on government efforts to prepare small and medium enterprises for implementation of the U.S.-Colombian free trade agreement.

Friday, April 6, 2012

IEDP on camera!

Check out our video in which students talk about what they did in Colombia!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

One last hurrah


Dispatch from the environment team

Al fin, Cartagena. While other policy teams were suiting up for meetings with the DEA, etc., the environment team was in a taxi in the midst of the other side of Cartagena—one that tourists rarely see. Rafael Nuñez is home to 13,000 of the poorest people in the city, which has one of the most extreme income disparities in the world. By 8 a.m. the heat was already settling heavy on the neighborhood, and we drove past a trash-covered shore and bustling fish market before finding what we thought was our final destination. 

It turns out that there are two sites for the non-profit Granitos de Paz in Rafael Nuñez, and we happened to have stumbled first upon the cuter one: a daycare center for hundreds of infants and pre-schoolers. The center had a nursery, a ‘dance studio’ with a full-wall mirror, an open-air cafeteria that served fresh meals, and lots of singing, clapping children. We were smitten.

We eventually were able to drag ourselves away to the site of our actual meeting, the Granitos de Paz office, run by the lovely and lively Diana Peña. There, we learned a bit more about the amazing work of Granitos de Paz, a non-profit that is leading micro-finance investment and urban agriculture development in the neighborhood. They have built 42 houses in Rafael Nuñez in the last eight years, and they teach families to grow crops in the narrow, sunny spaces behind their homes. Urban farmers of the neighborhood sell spearmint (for mojitos), basil, red pepper, eggplant, and cucumber to some of the fanciest hotels in Cartagena, and Granitos de Paz also offers cooking classes for growers to learn how to incorporate their fresh produce into meals at home. 

Off to the side of the office was a ‘senior center’ which might more accurately be described as a ‘dance club’ given all the boogying that was going down at 9 a.m. We ended our visit with a walk around the neighborhood to visit some of the neighborhood gardens and take in the luscious smells. Though tangential to our research topic on biofuels, the visit to Granitos de Paz certainly renewed our faith in the possibility for grassroots, environmentally inspiring economic development in Colombia. We were also all grateful to have found a place to retire/get down with some Latin beats in a few years.

- Allie

Friday, March 9, 2012

Some dispatches we didn't get to post earlier...

Dispatch from the business and trade team

Our last morning in Bogota started with a meeting at our hotel with Carlos Ocampo from the Centro Integral de Servicios Empresariales (CREAME). CREAME is an incubator that was founded in 1996 by 29 academic, business and governmental institutions. It serves to increase capacity of small and medium businesses by educating owners in order to increase their competitiveness on the global market. To accomplish that goal, CREAME provides training and resources for small businesses. Their services are in high demand in regions with few alternative economic development initiatives. They also connect businesses in similar industries, which allows for the sharing of best practices. CREAME gets its funding from the Ministry of Commerce and multinational corporations. 

After our meeting with Carlos we headed over to the Department of National Planning where we met up with the rest of the group. Not only was the meeting informative, but there was also an amazing view of downtown Bogota! It was the perfect way to end our time in Bogota.

- Kyasha

Dispatch from the environment team

The environment team spent our last morning in Bogotá with the first Minister of Environment and now a professor at Universidad de los Andes. We met with him at the beautiful U of A business school building and chatted about biofuels and environmental decision-making in Colombia. Our host is skeptical of the trickle-down effect of wealth in Colombia, noting that “for the last 50 years, we are the same.” He worries that Colombia’s agricultural policy—along with its promotion of mining and other industries—are contributing more to the concentration of wealth than its distribution. He also said that adequate environmental protections are elusive under a weak state and that, as of now, Colombia doesn’t have the minimum conditions to protect the environment vis-à-vis mining.

However, when it came to palm, the professor said that is was possible for the industry to go in the “environmentally right direction.” Though the environmental performance of the palm industry was atrocious in the 90s, when there was no water treatment, methodologies have improved significantly since then. Palm is planted in previously deforested areas but is not a driver of deforestation, and Colombia has enough arable land that palm is not competing with food crops. 

The major challenge in protecting Colombia’s unique ecosystems, the professor said, is not money, but political will. “In order to protect the Amazon Basin, you don’t need economic incentives,” he said, citing one example. “It’s a political decision about what the future of that region should be.” His recent book lays out an environmental vision for the agriculture frontier of Colombia. Meeting him left us with a sense of the importance of this kind of envisioning to environmental policy-making.

- Allie

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Homeward bound...

... but with lots left to do! We have many more pictures and stories to share in the coming weeks. And check back for our final reports in the last part of March.