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

No comments:

Post a Comment