Despite strides to reduce poverty in recent years, 29.6 percent of the population in Latin America and the Caribbean still lives in poverty, and, in 2018, extreme poverty rates reached the highest level since 2008. One year ago, ACDI/VOCA launched an affiliate organization called Fundación ACDI/VOCA Latin America (LA), headquartered in Bogotá, Colombia, to expand our development efforts in the region.

Fundación ACDI/VOCA LA was born from a need for more innovative strategies for partnering with governments and companies to build better economic and social inclusion.

Today, companies in Colombia are becoming increasingly interested in creating shared value and becoming involved in sustainable development, meaning a shift toward more investments in areas that benefit both the community and company business objectives. In this new wave of investment, the role of Fundación ACDI/VOCA LA is one of social strategists.

So, what has Fundación ACDI/VOCA LA done in its first year?

From Fishermen to Entrepreneurs

The Gulf of Morrosquillo is located in a part of the Colombian Caribbean with vast potential for tourism but marked by deep inequalities and few economic opportunities. One of the income-generating activities in the gulf is fishing; however, small-scale fishermen often work under informal conditions with weak organizational processes and poor regard for responsible practices. With the Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, Fundación ACDI/VOCA LA worked to set up 16 associations for local fishermen to help them establish collection centers and gain entrepreneurial and responsible fishing skills. The collection center now has its own commercial brand and supplies fish to restaurant chains.

Empowering Indigenous Women

Fundación ACDI/VOCA LA is partnering with PepsiCo, one of the world’s leading food and beverage companies, to support indigenous female artisans in La Guajira and Nariño, Colombia. By teaming up with ACDI/VOCA’s USAID-funded Program of Alliances for Reconciliation in Colombia, Fundación ACDI/VOCA LA is teaching artisans about product development, technology, commercialization, and more to support the sale of their brand of granola products called Naatu.

Wind Power in Colombia’s Desert Region

La Guajira is a remote desert region at the northernmost tip of Colombia. It shares a border with Venezuela and is also one of the country’s poorest regions. Most people who live there come from the indigenous Wayuu group and live in dispersed settlements without access to electricity or running water. Because of La Guajira’s unique geography, the Italian renewable energy company Enel Green Power is investing in three wind farms there. Fundación ACDI/VOCA LA is facilitating a dialogue between the company and the community to generate trust, making it easier to work there.

Rebuilding Trust in a Post-Conflict Colombia

When ACDI/VOCA’s Program of Alliances for Reconciliation surveyed over 11,000 people in Colombia, 27 percent reported that they trusted their neighbors and only 17 percent said they trusted the private sector. It’s a sentiment brought on by Colombia’s 50 years of armed conflict that has infiltrated the job market. Many companies deal with internal resistance to hiring conflict victims. That is one of the reasons Texmodas — a Panamanian company that manages the franchises of seven Spanish clothing brands, such as Zara and Bershka, in Panama, Ecuador, Peru, and Colombia— teamed up with Fundación ACDI/VOCA LA to develop a training program for management and employees in Colombia to promote inclusion through DecidoSer. DecidoSer is a crosscutting tool created by ACDVI/VOCA Colombia to promote dialogue, empowerment, trust, and respect to alleviate tensions within divided communities. It’s now of growing interest among human resource departments and nonprofits that provide social services.

Fundación ACDI/VOCA LA is also supporting one of ACDI/VOCA’s projects in Colombia focused on post-conflict land redistribution and peace agreements. In just one year, Fundación ACDI/VOCA LA has launched initiatives valued at $1.4 million, with 40 percent of that funding coming from partners in the private sector. So far, it has impacted 15 communities, providing opportunities for 2,500 people.

Learn more about the launch of Fundación ACDI/VOCA Latin America.

Learn more about our work in our current work Colombia and Honduras.