The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

PBPL 85 Observes Ecotourism Projects

18F PBPL 85 Colombia

Students woke up in time to see the sunrise from the top of the camp with a view of Valledepar.

18F PBPL 85 Colombia

Students tour various economic projects within the reintegration camp.

18F PBPL 85 Colombia

Members of the Colombian military, who are responsible for providing protection at the reintegration camps. 

18F PBPL 85 Colombia

PBPL 85 participants visiting the San Jose del Oriente Espacios Territoriales de Capacitacion Reincorporation (ECTR).

Article Type 

We arrived at the San Jose del Oriente Espacios Territoriales de Capacitacion Reincorporation, or ECTR, as the sun set in the horizon. To the east we could see the mountains that lined the Colombian-Venezuelan border while to the west were the famous white caps of the Sierra Nevada range. We were greeted by several ex-combatants living at the ECTR, or reintegration camp, who formed the Terra Grata ecotourism project, as well as members of the Colombian military.

Throughout the weekend, it was clear that the two former enemies had formed a closer bond than many might have expected. The ex-FARC combatants led us through the entrance to the camp and down to the opening where we would spend the night. After placing our bags by our beds, we were treated to a concert by a well-known FARC musician, Julian Conrado. He sung mainly of his desire for peace, but also performed a few amusing songs as well. We concluded the night with a nice meal of grilled beef, sausage, yucca, and peppers.


We woke up the next morning at 5 am to see the sunrise. While most people were fairly tired, all fifteen of us walked to the top of the camp to look out over Valledepar. After packing our bags, we headed up to the main part of the camp for a breakfast of arepas and scrambled eggs. Most of us took the meal to discuss the sheer insanity of our trip. I do not think one of us could have imagined that we would be in Colombia sitting in a FARC camp even a year ago.


After we finished breakfast, we split into groups for our tour, where the ex-combatants showed us their various economic reintegration projects. Within the confines of the camp, they had multiple agriculture projects with hogs, chickens, as well as a banana plantation. We also visited their tailor and their bakery--some of us even got to try their bread! Like Pondores, we concluded the visit at their Memory House where the former combatants discussed their reasons the conflict, their experience during it, and their thoughts on the peace process thus far. While many expressed frustrations that they had not received the resources and assistance the deal promised, they all remained hopeful for a successful reintegration.


We then said our good byes and headed back to the airport. Off to Medellin!

Written by Will Johnson '19, 18F PBPL 85: Global Policy Leadership course participant

This is part of a series where PBPL 85:Global Policy Leadership students reflect on their experiences during the two-week field research portion of course. While in country, students meet with local policy leaders: politicians, academics, civil society leaders, journalists, business leaders, diplomats, and other in-country experts who help inform their analyses.

The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences