When Gustavo Niño, 26, was at university in Colombia’s capital, Bogotá, he says he wanted to “change the world” and be part of something that could benefit the most vulnerable people.
“I understood very soon that agriculture was a good start,” says Gustavo. “In Colombia, people who live in rural areas are less educated and poorer.”
Colombia also suffers from having one of the lowest employment rates in Latin America, due in large part to the conflict and displacement of people this has caused.
The university graduate saw farming as a way to address this by providing jobs and helping the local economy.
“I decided to create a company with my friends that could help us understand the problem deeply and support the most vulnerable people,” says Gustavo. “This is what we think of every day when we go to the farm.”
Gustavo is now general manager of Allium S.A.S, which produces 250-300 tonnes of lettuce, onions and cabbages on a 2ha plot near Tocogua, north of Bogotá.
His partners are: Jonathan, 28, Sales and Buying Manager; Cesar, 28, Plantings Coordinator; Carlos, 27, Human Resources Coordinator; and Diego, 27, Agronomist.
“We love many things about this business,” says Gustavo. “Being in touch with many people; knowing that we are giving a job to them; producing a lot of food. But the thing that we most love is that we share a dream. We have known each other for more than 13 years. We have gone through many things and we are trying to change the world together.”
Gustavo says he is also trying to create unity and community through his farming business and help put the country’s troubled past behind, while dealing with current challenges, such as welcoming Venezuelan refugees. He says his farm employs people young and old, Venezuelans, ex-guerrillas from the Colombian conflict, as well as victims of that conflict.
“I love being in touch with people. We must know how to manage our staff and our allies, because this business needs a lot of people,” he says. “I love to be part of society with this project. This is not an abstract world like trading, or computer science - this is the real world, with real people and real necessities.”
Giving back hope
Farming has the ability to build community and give hope, believes Gustavo.
“I think that this generation can bring hope. My country is finishing a long period of war that brings hope with it. There are a lot of problems that we must solve and a lot of enthusiastic young people that want to do something. The agriculture sector is perfect for them and I believe youth is necessary to improve the farming in my country.”
But more needs to be done to encourage young people into farming, says Gustavo.
“Our youth is going to jobs with bigger profits like the financial sector. Agricultural does not have that - farming is not going to make you very rich, but it is going to make you happy,” says Gustavo.