My name is Robert van de Griend and I live en la vereda Dos Quebradas, corregimiento de Villacarmelo, Cali, Colombia. Because I am the lucky owner of the landscaping company Tuinreconstructie van de Griend in the Netherlands (The Hague), and therefore have some income, it's possible I fully focus on the activities of the Biodiverse Development foundation. This foundation has like aim to contribute to the conservation of biodiversity and the stimulation of local socio-economic development.
During my study Environmental Science in Deventer I have had several international experiences gaining experience abroad in the form of: internships, international exchange programs, minor and my graduation project. The first internship abroad in 2008 was a monitoring study by one agro-reforestation plantation for an NGO in Brazil. I have the graduation project and minor (2010-2011) carried out in Ghana, following an environmental impact report of tourism (also ter merit of a local NGO) have started a development project. The aim of this project was to create a generate an alternative source of income for the local (farming) population. This by one sustainable use of tourism while preserving biodiversity. Between 2006 and 2016 I have been able to visit several countries and continents. From India, China, Ghana to Nicaragua Latin America appeals to me the most. During an intensive Permaculture Design Course in Nicaragua I gained a lot of knowledge about permaculture and got the opportunity to learn to speak Spanish (helpful was the basic Portuguese I learned in Brazil). After I started my project in Ghana 2012 I started the landscaping company in the Netherlands. The purpose of this company was to to generate enough capital to set up another project for the benefit of people and nature.
My first visit to Colombia was in 2015, the mission was as follows: the location and affect people where and with whom I want to carry out the project. From that time on I visited Colombia twice a year (August-September & December, January and at some point also February) with the aim of this to get to know (re) know beautiful versatile country. The country's expectations came true: enormous biodiversity, variety of landscapes and climates, exuberant and with joie de vivre filled population, exotic fruits and a plethora of challenges. People around me was initially concerned about my plans to visit Colombia. Many of them only associated Colombia with drugs, violence and dangerous people. I myself was aware of it that these themes would be emphatically present in the society and culture of Colombia. However I saw these themes more as an opportunity and mainly as a challenge to the objectives of foundation Biodiverse Development, precisely here.
Of course it was difficult to find your way in a foreign country in the beginning, but a large part is of the Colombian people genuinely helpful. It surprised me how few (younger) people Spoke English and the narrowness of the concept of service and services. In particular catering establishments provided with good service and meals and / or drinks were completely missing. Of course there are plenty of places where you can find people at the most bizarre times and locations drinking plenty. But hit a place where, in addition to alcohol and noise, there is also an experience was (especially at the time) difficult to find in some cities. Fortunately, the sometimes does outspoken and mostly friendly Colombian all this well. As a foreigner you get enough attention, especially as a blond man of 190cm with blue eyes, both in the negative and positive sense. any Colombians seem to have the image (when there were travelers, pre-corona) all of that foreigners wear the same clothes every day, do not shave and hardly take the time physical hygiene. There is also the prejudice that foreigners are rude and Colombian always very polite, neither of which are true of course.
Fortunately, during my exploration of Colombia from 2015 to 2017, I have several places to visit. For example, mainly the first 12 months I have the carnival Barranquilla can celebrate, enjoy the Caribbean coast (certainly not my favorite) and of course visited Medellín, Manizales and Pereira. The most beautiful place I've seen in Colombia (and around the rest of the world), is Chocó; an area located on the Pacific Ocean. Right away small plane I flew from Quibdó to Bahía Solano and slept for over a week in idyllic, volcano black beaches in El Valle. Giant waterfalls discharge onto these beaches, these are located in the wild jungle that reaches to the wild ocean surf. Partly because it is one of the places on earth with the highest average annual rainfall of 17,000mm, this was not the one suitable place for starting the project of the foundation. Cali, on the other hand, with its annual festivals and parades, variety of inhabitants, warm climate, international airport and ideal location compared to Buenaventura, it attracted more attention. Also because of “nearby” Medellín and Bogotá with its international airports, Cali turned out to be ideal for the Biodiverse Development foundation to settle down.
Since the Biodiverse Development Foundation is mainly active locally on site, it spends minimal attention to national news on politics and economics. Nevertheless, the foundation keeps itself aware of major developments in the economy, politics and / or security. Naturally, the current situation, in which Colombia has the longest lockdown in the world> 6 months (with an almost closed flight space), its influence on the society and culture of Colombia. Despite this, I live here to all satisfaction and it is a dream come true for me and my brother Björn, with which I the same finca part. As a brother and as a graduate engineer Tropical Forest Management, he gives me and the foundation advice and support in many areas. Of course, the current situation makes it less pleasant since we cannot visit family and friends in the Netherlands and vice versa. But Colombia is our new home and we look forward to the day that we can return to our homeland, the Netherlands, “normally” attend.
I would prefer to invite everyone to come by and learn us and the project to know. In this way one can directly contribute to the preservation of the beautiful biodiversity and the local socio-economic development here in Cali, Colombia. Due to the current situation is immediate contributions virtually impossible unless you are already in Colombia at the moment. Nevertheless, we shout anyone to visit our website, www.biodf.org, and contact us so that we can can jointly see what you can do for us from the Netherlands or anywhere in the world to further develop the project in order to contribute more and more widely to our objectives.