Chevron Petroleum Launches Food Bank To Serve Colombia’s Wayúu Indigenous Community & La Guajira Peninsula
Chevron Corporation (NYSE:CVX) last week in Bogotá launched a major initiative to support residents of Colombia’s La Guajira department on the country’s Atlantic Coast. The global petroleum giant collaborated with the local Catholic Diocese of Riohacha and many Colombian delivery partners. Chevron provides the funding and budget, with the diocese and ProSowa – a Wayúu nonprofit (Sustainability Project for the Wayúu Community) as local operating partners.
The Wayúu is a Native American ethnic group that has inhabited the La Guajira peninsula since precolombian times. Though their culture is intact and they have successfully retained their homeland, the region has been hard hit by droughts and food shortages, exacerbated by the influx of refugees from neighboring Venezuela. The region also suffers from organized crime and local government corruption, due in part to its location on Colombia’s border with Venezuela.
“To the extent that we can take care of everybody that needs help, that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Chevron operates gas fields in the region and has a strong, collaborative relationship with the Wayúu community. Finance Colombia executive editor Loren Moss was able to speak with Chevron’s President for Colombia Marc Payne (above) about the new Food Bank and Chevron’s relationship with the Wayúu People.
Finance Colombia: The “Banco de Alimentos de la Guajira,” how long has it been in existence?
Marc Payne: It’s new. We just recently launched it. It took time to align all of our supply partners, all of our distribution partners and all of our constituents, so it is very new, and in fact next Friday we will be going to La Guajira to have our official launch. So, it’s going to be improving and improving and improving, and we’re very proud of what it’s accomplished so far.
Finance Colombia: How big of a population is it designed to serve?
Marc Payne: It depends. It’s scalable, and the more partners we can bring in, the more distributors that we can bring in, the larger it can be. So we will start relatively small, but it is the biggest food bank in La Guajira and we recognize that there is a big need for development, and we also recognize that there is a lot of migration from other places that are coming in.
Finance Colombia: That’s interesting because obviously we have people here from the Wayúu community and that’s a situation that we’ve known about, but then that situation is exacerbated, right? Because of its proximity to neighboring countries.
Marc Payne: Yes.
Finance Colombia: And that situation, I imagine there is more of a need, and that it has to be taxing the already streched local resources there.
Marc Payne: It does, but the situation in Venezuela is very difficult, and the people are really suffering. So to the extent that we can take care of everybody that needs help, that’s what we’re trying to do. So yes it’s a strain on the resources but people need help and we’re going to try to provide it to them.
Finance Colombia: Chevron has taken a leadership role in this; you’re doing this in collaboration with the Diocesis of Riohacha in La Guajira, right?
Marc Payne: Yes. We have many, many partners. So the Diocesis of Riohacha is one of our key partners; we’ve partnered with before on the construction of local schools. We’ve worked for a long time with certain organizations in La Guajira, that’s our general strategy, to build long term partnerships that we can then build scale and make a bigger impact in the department.
Finance Colombia: It’s interesting, because in Colombia a lot of areas get a lot of attention, and that’s one area that has not gotten a lot of attention. Chevron I know, has a presence in the area and I’ve seen the need, and you have taken a step up. How have you been received by the local community in the Guajira area?
Marc Payne: Chevron has been present in La Guajira for forty years. And one of the global directives that we have is that we always look at local communities and we always identify the needs of local communities. It’s almost always directed towards education, healthcare, culture and economic development.
That’s exactly what we’ve done in La Guajira and our gas facilities actually sit right in the middle of Wayuu lands. We have outstanding relationships with the local community, and in fact they assist us with our security situation. For example, when we work with the Colombian navy and the national police, they tell us that their best source of information to protect us is actually the Wayuu people.
Finance Colombia: Wow, that’s impressive, that’s impressive, great to know.