Sustainable Development in Rural Areas  

David Felipe Sanchez comes from a small city in the coffee triangle of Colombia. He is working with the private sector on sustainable development projects with communities in rural areas affected by the armed conflict. By transforming scenarios where violence was an everyday reality into opportunities, Sanchez’s contribution is that kind that inspires the next generation to become positive change-makers in the community.

He shares with Youth Time the committed to supporting providers whose production activities are free of deforestation, and also how these efforts increase the employment opportunities for young people in Columbian countryside – where youth could follow only two paths once they left school- to work for the farms of their parents or to join illegal armed groups that guaranteed them housing and food.

Sanchez, who graduated three years ago in International Business, as a young activist is deeply interested in conservation, sustainable growth and is a firm believer that the economy should be in harmony with social, environmental, and financial aspects.

In his discussion with Youth Time author, Sanchez elaborates regarding how his country has a huge gap between the prices paid by large companies and the real price farmers really deserve, as well as how is this being changed by his practice of buying directly from producers.

He always knew he wanted to work in something in which he could cooperate and give back the world some of the wonderful things it has given to him.

In this interview Sanchez speaks his mind in these issues, among other things, he will share how it is to work in the two of the most deforested provinces in the world- Caquetá and Choco, which are located in Colombia- in the heart of the Amazon, the lung of the planet.


What is Sustainable development about and what Deforestation Free means?


How Sanchez manages to support providers whose production activities are free of deforestation and how crucial is this in sustainability?

“My inspiration has always been to put my skills at the service of the community. I always wanted to be able to work on something that I was passionate about and at the same time, where I could create change.” He stands for the idea that we are only on the planet for a short period of time and it is on us to decide which world we are leaving for the next generations.

“My work inspires me, and especially seeing people from different parts of the country who were living in a context of violence overcoming their fears, associating and creating their own companies, it fills me with satisfaction.”

Sustainability is all about seeking a balance between the environment, economic growth, and social development. Zero deforestation is crucial in this idea, especially since it is the native forests that allow us to regenerate the land and make crops a bet of financial stability for these communities in the long term.

Sanchez asserts that one cannot generate income by destroying our resources.

“We support the companies with the corresponding environmental strategies, providing technical advice and through audits that allow them to improve every day; We are also committed to, in the medium term, stop buying products grown on land that has suffered deforestation, this has been a national commitment and we are proud to be a part of it.”


A third option for the Colombian countryside people – one they did not have in the past

Sanchez further briefs Youth readers on their program in education with chefs, teaching teenagers how to transform their own products into delicious dishes.

The vast majority of young people in the Colombian countryside have very limited access to information, thus they could only follow two paths once they left their schools.

“The first one was to work for the farms of their parents or grandparents, which seems great to us as long as there is the possibility of decision, and the second one was to join illegal armed groups that guaranteed them housing and food.”

Whereas according to him, with this type of program and with a company in the gastronomic sector, they wanted to give them a third option.

“This was to learn from the culinary work, enjoy it and be able to create with the products of their land; Thus, not only do young people have a new opportunity of employment, but they also enhance and safeguard the culinary heritage of their regions; creating wonderful dishes with autochthonous flavor.”

Although Colombia has a huge gap between prices paid by large companies and the real deserved price, as previously mentioned, Sanchez always believed that paying fair prices is possible.

Our farmers live in poverty, and it is time to change it, their products are valuable, and even more, if they have good agricultural practices. Previously, people who lived in these areas of violence had no other options but growing cocaine or marijuana, all controlled by illegal armed groups.

However, with the signing of the peace agreement back in 2016, Sanchez says that “it is our duty as a country and civil society not to leave them behind and show them that with the restitution of illicit crops, for other types of products, it can also be profitable, and can guarantee the food safety.”


Voluntarism- more than an incentive in countries such as Columbia 

He believes that living in a country like his, looking to change the realities they live in is more than an incentive to work in voluntary actions.

“All Colombian youth have suffered directly or indirectly from the dynamics of the armed conflict, violence in the cities, and limited access to what is outside of our country.”

Today, young people are much more involved in what happens in our society, be it issues such as climate change, politics, drug problems, among others. Creating these consciences from the classrooms and homes is necessary, and it is a work that has been taking place.

“I may sound idealistic, but I have great faith in the new generations of Colombians, we know how to forgive, but most importantly we want to move forward.”


We need to make sure we are not leaving anyone behind blinded by our privilege

Can you imagine a world where the economy is in harmony with social, environmental, and financial aspects? Sanchez expands more on this scenario by making a comparison as follows:

Not long ago we believed that looking for a change to avoid issues such as climate change was a much more of a social and conscientious focus, however, we discovered that for many people these terms were far from them, especially because they depended economically on the exploitation of the soil or other activities that could endanger our planet.

Whereas, today, he says, it is important to look for solutions from all areas, economically, socially and environmentally

“They all are interconnected, and we need to make sure we are not leaving anyone behind blinded by our privilege. We want to make of this a more equal society, where everyone has the same opportunities, and this can only happen by generating wealth, but one that is not conditioned by the destruction of our environment, and this is why need to look for a balance between these three terms.”

A very important fact to mention is that he works with two of the most deforested provinces in the world.

Being committed to ensuring that every vegetable and piece of meat he receives has respected the environment, he shares its impact on consuming responsibly.

“Two of the most deforested provinces in the world are in Colombia. […] Working on best practices in these areas and reforesting will not only alleviate the current carbon burden in our country but also in the world.”


A universal duty

He concludes this interview by saying that this is everyone’s job. We cannot wait for governments or companies to do everything for us, since we have an important role as end consumers.

“We can reward those who do things well and punish those who are destroying our future by not buying from them.”

Find other inspiring stories highlighting youth activism and its beneficial contribution here.





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