In 2017-18 we visited the Meta department in Colombia on multiple occasions. Located right where Colombia’s Llanos Orientales (Eastern Plains) disappear south into the vastness of the Amazon rainforest, this area of the size of Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg combined is a magical spot in the world’s second most biodiverse country.
Meta is not a poor region - it boasts some of the nation’s largest oil reserves. Highly fertile soil and multiple thermal floors have created a boom in agribusiness in recent years, while its geographic proximity to Colombia’s capital has more recently led to a thriving tourism industry.
Despite having made significant progress on many fronts, this region still faces critical challenges. On our last visit, we had the opportunity to chat for hours with several small-scale farmers from south-western Meta – a sub-region where economic development has been seriously damaged by the cultivation of coca leaf, the raw material used to produce cocaine.