Swiss Development Program to Invest $2.8 Million on Initiatives in Colombia to Develop Natural Cosmetics, Cacao, and Sustainable Tourism
A Swiss business development program in Colombia will invest around $2.8 million USD (9 billion pesos) into sustainable tourism, high-end chocolate, and cosmetics made with natural ingredients during the coming year.
The program, called “Colombia + Competitive,” was developed two years ago by the Swiss embassy’s Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) and the agency Swisscontact to incentivize development in sectors that have shown financial potential as Colombia moves into it’s “post-conflict” phase.
Photo: A cacao pod growing from a tree in the central Colombian department of Quindio. (Photo credit: Jared Wade)
In all, there are seven specific projects, and two-thirds of the funding (6 billion pesos) will come from SECO with the rest being supplied by partner participants. From Colombia, support for the initiative comes from the Ministry of Commerce, Industry, and Tourism (MinCIT), investment promotion agency iNNpulsa Colombia, and others in both the public and private sectors.
Three of the initiatives are geared toward the natural cosmetic product realm, including production of achiote trees that produce bright red seeds that have been used as a dye and body-painting pigment by indigenous communities in South America for centuries. The two other efforts will push for commercial production of the sacha inchi, a tree with nuts that produce an in-demand oil for skin care, and the lecythis minor tree, which MinCIT calls an “underutilized native species” that also produces nuts.
One of the tourism investments will go toward “Macondo Natural,” a branding concept inspired by the fictional town conceived by Gabriel García Márquez in his magnum opus, One Hundred Years of Solitude. With the funds, officials will try to drum up ecotourism in the Caribbean region to see sights such as the yellow butterflies, tropical environments, and mountains that much of the world came to know through the work of the Nobel Prize-winning novelist.
The other tourism program will invest in the already-popular department of Quindio. While it is known as the center of the Colombian coffee region, now funds will go to develop and promote its offerings in terms of hiking, birdwatching, and other outdoor ecotourism options.
The two initiatives devoted to cacao, which is the bean that is used to make chocolate, will look to improve the production of specialty chocolate products in the departments of Tolima, Santander, and Norte de Santander.
In addition to the funding, the program will provide organizations in these industries with specialized technical assistance and work to help craft public policies to support the sectors over the longer term. Previous efforts in years past, which included promoting construction in addition to cacao and tourism, have helped more than 300 companies, including many in the underdeveloped departments of Arauca, Casanare, Meta, Cesar, and Putumayo, according to MinCIT.
“We are convinced that, together with the Colombian government, the public and private sectors can create jobs in these regions and contribute to the consolidation of peace,” said Yvonne Baumann, the Swiss ambassador to Colombia. She added that the country is eager to “support the country’s efforts in terms of competitiveness and diversification of its economy.”