Creating Value for Colombia
Gran Tierra contributes to local, regional and national economic development in Colombia in many ways, including through taxes, royalties, jobs, local procurement of supplies and services, social investments, training and education programs and voluntary social and environmental programs.
In Colombia, the regions where energy resources are concentrated are often the most in need of sustained economic development. In addition to developing Colombia’s oil resources responsibly, Gran Tierra creates opportunities for employment, education, entrepreneurship and self-reliance. The company’s social efforts are aligned with government priorities of entrepreneurship and gender equity and are conducted under a framework of regionalization.
This strategy was developed in 2018 to ensure the company is not only building social and economic value in the areas where it operates, but also is playing a role in making sure that the conditions in the broader region needed to sustain progress are in place.
The below projects show GTE’s strategic social investments focused on creating opportunities and generating income outside of the oil and gas industry and how they are changing lives.
Throughout 2018, Gran Tierra focused on combining different social investment programs in the Middle Magdalena Valley (Encontrándo Líderes) and Putumayo (Creando Oportunidades) near where GTE operates to establish a single project, Emprender Paga. The new program has become one of Gran Tierra’s main social investment projects by fostering local business development through entrepreneurship and self-employment.
This initiative was created in response to the desire of communities to recover from economic stagnation and to adopt a sustainable development strategy by rebuilding the productive capacity of their territory. Through a combination of classroom learning and hands-on experience, Emprender Paga is an education and business development program that empowers individuals, associations and community groups to develop a vision; gain confidence in their abilities; create business plans; build a team; collaborate effectively and grow successful businesses. Emprender Paga is intended not only to foster economic growth, but it also promotes strengthening values like inclusion, lawfulness and solidarity among participants.
The programs begin with providing participants with comprehensive Diploma Courses in leadership and business skills. A second phase follows, when participants can develop proposals for new business ideas. Once their proposals have been assessed and accepted, the aspiring entrepreneurs receive technical and business management training as they develop their craftsmanship and businesses. Gran Tierra then provides ongoing support and progress evaluations to make sure participants deliver robust business plans and are positioned to be successful.
The vision by a family of four female artisans from the Inga tribe was to combine their skills and build a business to help preserve the culture and tradition of Indigenous communities. The result was an artisanal jewellery and accessories business called “luiai awaspa,” which means “Weaving Thought,” in their Inga language. The business started in 2013 in the remote river town of Puerto Limón, close to GTE’s Moqueta facilities in Putumayo Department. Now, after five years of refining their skills and developing their products, the women are looking to expand into new markets and target audiences.
“ Our vision is to create something beautiful and connected to our Indigenous traditions. We love showing our culture through our work and as we grow, we want to teach children this skill to help preserve our tradition. ” MARCI JAMIOY, Artisan and Entrepreneur
Ligia Rosa Guerrera began a small business three years ago making arepas, a traditional Colombian food. In addition to the training and development work, initial support through the Emprender Paga program included equipment such as a stove, refrigerator, tables and plastic jars, which helped Ligia get her business off the ground.
“ The support provided by Gran Tierra and the Chamber of Commerce was so important in strengthening my business and changing my life significantly. ” LIGIA ROSA GUERRERA, Founder, Krisly Arepas
Juanita Meza is a single mother with three daughters aged 6 to 18 who are all involved in the family’s food business. The business turned two years old in December 2018 and is officially incorporated. She now employs two staff beyond her family and is selling hundreds of hamburgers and kilograms of pork products every week.
“ When I heard about the program, I joined thinking I would just do one course. But then I saw the opportunity to strengthen my business and go further in life, so I continued with the program and ended up taking 13 classes. It’s been a pleasure getting to know these marvellous people from Consolidad and Gran Tierra who have supported my efforts to succeed in life. ” JUANITA MEZA, Founder, DELISAM, San Martín
The youngest of three brothers, Byron Hernández, worked as an environmental engineer in the oil industry for several years, but he was intrigued by farming, which his father and grandfather both did. He formed an association with 36 other local pork farmers to find operational efficiencies, such as growing their own food for the pigs. This saved a huge amount of money and directed capital to local farmers rather than to outside food producers.
“ In farming I saw something that really appealed to me, something that I can do and which would last. The support of Gran Tierra has been essential in the development of our business. ” BYRON HERNÁNDEZ, Entrepreneur, BHG Porcíola
Mundo Creativo, a new business in the municipality of Villagarzón, that was created with the help of GTE, was founded by a group of 20 individuals with disabilities who wanted to become more self-sufficient and help support their families and settled on starting a stationery store.
“ When we began, we didn’t know much about business at all. Some of us who were more able took the lead and took the training on business, commerce and leadership. GTE were the first people to open doors for us and provide us with training. Now we believe that we can succeed. They valued us and didn’t doubt us and saw us as people who were capable. For that GTE is like our superhero. ” MILVER BRAVO ANDRADE, Legal Representative, Mundo Creativo
Unimor Shoe Wear
A shoe group in Morison called Calzado Unimor (Unimor Shoe Wear) has made hundreds of pairs of shoes after setting up the business through a GTE economic development project.
“ This all started with the company coming here and meeting with the town and talking about the program. Almost 50 people joined at the time. When we were done with our diploma course in 2013, we came up with this idea because we wanted to show that ladies are not only good to work at home but can also help our families' goals and be entrepreneurs and provide work opportunities. Overall we did about 9 months of training and practice. We want to grow this into a big business. Last year we had some advanced training and had a better product to compete in the market. We want to make shoes for students. Now we are learning how to make handbags and belts and leather goods. ” MARLEN PADILLA, Member, Calzado Unimor
Artesanos de la Llana
Carmen Sorano is the President of the Artesanos de la Llana. When she moved to La Llana, (approximately 20 km away from GTE’s operations), she alone knew the special technique needed to weave traditional hats - a process that can take 4 or 5 days per hat. So, she decided to put her unique skill to use. After completing five diploma courses since 2012, Carmen came up with the idea and structure for running her current business more professionally.
“ I’ve been teaching the others so now we all work on the same products using these techniques. It takes between four and five days to make a hat using this technique. This program was very helpful to us. Previously I never thought I would be able to do a business, but now it is possible to get ahead and have more confidence. We are all earning money now that we have this business – it’s not much but we hope to grow it and earn more in the future. ” CARMEN SORANO, President, Artesanos de la Llana
Qualifying Welders for Job Opportunities: Certification Training
In Colombia certified welders are often in short supply in certain areas, such as the in the Middle Magdalena Valley (MMV) near GTE’s Acordionero operations. Skilled welding is a critical activity for any oil operation, and certification ensures that the thousands of welds necessary are completed with the required skill to prevent leaks or other issues that could impact safety or the environment. To meet this need, GTE created a training program to certify talented welders from the San Martín area as qualified practitioners in the specialized techniques that are used for drilling and production operations. By the end of 2018, twelve welders had been trained and certified through this program, all of whom have gone on to find jobs with GTE.
Agroemprende Cacao – Creating Markets for Local Farmers
After more than 50 years of conflict between the Colombian government and guerrilla forces ended in 2016, creating new, legal economic opportunities was essential to maintaining the peace effort. The cocoa industry was identified as a significant opportunity because it offers a legal alternative to the many farmers who grow illicit coca.
Colombia produces a particularly fine grade of cocoa (the seeds from which chocolate is made), which is in short supply in world markets.
The Agroemprende Cacao (Agroemprende) project is a unique regional initiative undertaken in the Putumayo department in partnership with Gran Tierra Energy, Ecopetrol and the Canadian Embassy in Colombia and implemented by the International Development Cooperation Society (SOCODEVI).
Agroemprende aims to improve the economic and living conditions of rural families through the production and promotion of cocoa, including through the expansion of the regional cocoa market chain. Ultimately, this project will focus on creating markets of scale for local farmers and will help them get their products to market.
Agroemprende will do this through the development of three key areas of the market chain. The first area is through the strengthening of local farmer cooperative associations, known in Colombia as “local associative enterprises”, in five Putumayo municipalities. These ground-based producer associations will come together to pool their production and will aggregate purchases, storage, and distribution taking advantage of volume discounts and utilizing other economies of scale.
Second, farmer associations will be connected to new collection and purchasing points that are managed by producer associations. These collection centres are located strategically among member farms to receive dried cocoa beans from association members and neighboring cocoa producers. The centres will not only collect the dried cocoa beans, they will also buy the dried beans directly from the farmers and then sell the gathered volumes to large scale buyers and local markets – replacing the role of intermediaries, who usually profit significantly more than the farmers themselves.
Finally, Agroemprende will create one large regional cooperative association that will gather and represent local farmer associations. The regional cooperative association will further increase access to markets and competitiveness for local farmers. Cocoa crops will be negotiated at a larger economy of scale and will have competitive access to national markets.
- 400 families will be directly supported through Agroemprende
- Beneficiaries from Puerto Asís, Puerto Caicedo, Mocoa, Villagarzón and Puerto Guzmán
- Beneficiaries will also see improved economic opportunities through the establishment of agro-environmental practices, climate-smart agriculture, agroforestry systems, and the implementation of new innovative technologies.
- The Agroemprende initiative has a specific focus on the empowerment and resilience of women in the cocoa business by developing and strengthening their technical capabilities. It also facilitates female access to land tenure so that they can become direct beneficiaries of existing and upcoming programs.
Supporting the Peace Process
At the same time that Gran Tierra is helping local farmers, the company is supporting the government’s peace process in towns and villages by creating opportunities for demobilized former guerrillas to earn money as they begin to establish productive lives within mainstream Colombian society. One way is by supporting the production of cocoa saplings for area farmers who are transitioning to legal crops instead of illegal coca.
Gran Tierra built four irrigated nurseries for the production of cocoa plants in Puerto Asís in Putumayo and La Uribe in Meta. Ex-guerrillas are trained to ensure they have technical proficiency working with this new crop. The main role of each nursery is to be a fixed asset that can produce thousands of plants each year, including as many as 160,000 young plantlets. The plants are then cultivated, fortified and delivered to area farmers participating in the program. Technical support and additional training are provided by FEDECACAO, the national association for the cocoa industry.
“We were sceptical in the beginning, but GTE has remained present, supportive and fulfilled its commitments 100%. We now have fantastic infrastructure to implement the program as well as ongoing technical support and materials, so the program has been a success so far.” JESUS ANTONIO MARTINEZ, Representative of Agropal, an agricultural community association
“I was a victim of the conflict and was displaced from location to location without finding a shelter. This program has really changed my situation. This is a very good project because for many people who have grown illegal crops, this is a legal crop that can provide a good alternative.” HILARIO TORRES, Farmer, Puerto Asís
“From the beginning of this cocoa project the communities have been very satisfied. So far, where we have planted has worked very well. We feel as though we have received very good support from the UN, FEDECACAO and Gran Tierra.” Farmer and Ex-combatant
Participating in "Chocoshow"
In 2018, ten farmers and ex-combatants participating in the cocoa nursery program in Puerto Asís and Uribe were invited by Gran Tierra to participate in “Chocoshow,” an international cocoa industry fair held in Bogotá that featured more than 80 exhibitors. The fair helped the new cocoa farmers see the possibilities created by their cultivation of this crop.
“Our desire is to keep on contributing to the peacebuilding process. Through this program and Chocoshow I learned that we can produce very good chocolate with the proper techniques. Also key to making this work on a larger scale is improving infrastructure like roads to help with access to markets.” Farmer and Ex-combatant
Supporting Economic Development in Rural Areas
The Project to Strengthen the Competitiveness of Rural Associative Enterprises, or PROCOMPITE, is a unique initiative supported by a partnership between Gran Tierra, the Government of Canada and a Canadian NGO, the International Development Cooperation Society (SOCODEVI) that finalized in 2019. The objective of this multi-year project has been to promote sustainable economic growth in Colombian rural areas by strengthening the productive and entrepreneurial abilities of more than 6,000 agricultural producers, both men and women, representing 3,000 families. PROCOMPITE focused on providing technical agro-economic assistance to family-owned companies as well as administrative and commercial strengthening.
The project strengthened the productive and entrepreneurial abilities of more than 400 agricultural producers by helping cocoa farmers and cattle breeders boost their yields, lower production costs, develop access to markets and improve their environmental protection practices.
2018 PROCOMPITE Project Highlights:
- 289 participating families with 95% of the families completing the program
- 102 female members and 313 male members
- The Nursery Program produced 50,000 grafted cocoa plants
- The Nursery Program produced 50,000 shade trees
- The Nursery Program produced 10,000 timber trees
Training and Infrastructure Investments Increase Farmer Productivity and Income
Oswaldo Pantoja is both a farmer and the president of the Villagarzón Cacao Growers Association. He grows multiple types of crops, including cacao and a fruit-producing palm called chontaduro. This is a traditional Indigenous method of farming for better environmental balance and steadier cash flow. Cacao provides crops constantly, while chontaduro, which is a traditionally grown palm, provides fruit only once per year, causing dips and spikes in supply and demand, limiting the efficacy of chontaduro as a cash crop.
The PROCOMPITE program taught farmers new techniques, such as soil analysis, to improve production and also provides infrastructure investments like cacao drying facilities (pictured). This has enabled Oswaldo to optimize his harvest by more accurately utilizing fertilizer and analyzing how the water table levels might affect his crops.
The PROCOMPITE project also focused on helping farmers improve the marketing of their crops by forming an association. The Villagarzón Cacao Growers Association now has 64 members from different municipalities from around Villagarzón and Puerto Guzman. The project also led to the construction of a commercialization center where the farmers can sell their crops.
“ Thanks to Gran Tierra and SOCODEVI, we have eliminated idle time and are harvesting more volume, selling to larger buyers and increasing our incomes. As farmers, as we increase our production, we will also be generating employment opportunities and teaching people for free the techniques we use now. ” OSWALDO PANTOJA, President, Villagarzón Cacao Growers Association
Modernizing Ranching and Product Marketing
Another PROCOMPITE project supported by GTE involves cattle farmers in Villagarzón and surrounding areas. There are about 450 cattle farmers in the area, 252 of whom are members of the Villagarzón Cattle Association, and 121 of whom participated in the PROCOMPITE program.
The project reached two goals: helped ranchers raise cattle more efficiently and helped them develop and bring to market alternative products that can increase their profitability. This training included branding, cost analysis and financial accounting as well as new methods of cattle ranching. Modern techniques include live fences, better soil use, and paddock division.
In their commercialization facility, the ranchers have learned to make new products such as a variety of cheeses and yogurt products from cows’ milk. SOCODEVI trained the association’s board every two weeks, with each session held at a different ranch. With better data being generated, the association can make more informed decisions leading to increased profitability. The association has begun to generate enough data to see if these new products, which have been received well so far, will be more profitable than the milk used for the cheese and yogurt, or whether they will need to adjust their approach.
“ We have gone through a very difficult period due to the previous violent period. Now we’re starting the process of recovery and getting back to normality. Thanks to the Canadian embassy and GTE, this is the first time we’ve seen a program that has this kind of follow-up and benefits the people directly. SOCODEVI’s personnel and staff have helped us refresh our knowledge and update our techniques. SOCODEVI has personnel who taught us to use techniques that help us be more environmentally friendly – such as planting more trees, using soil more efficiently and increasing our awareness of water issues. Things like these are contributing to increasing productivity. ” IVAN HERNANDEZ, President, Villagarzón Cattle Association