|Agricultural Expansion and Pioneer Settlements in the Humid Tropics (UNU, 1988, 305 pages)|
|16. Organized settlement on the Amazon frontier: The Caquetá project in Colombia|
The rural poor continue to be an issue in developing countries and therefore policies directed towards their improvement rate high on the priority scale. In the case of Colombia's rural poor, approximately 300,000-400,000 families located mostly on the non-coffee Andean slopes, there is still much to be done. Rural development projects, devised as strategies for the double purpose of increasing both food production and rural income have been implemented since 1975.
It is evident that beneficiaries of Caquetá Phase II are definitely not part of the rural poor and that, apart from the environmental considerations, investments per family in colonization schemes such as this are higher than elsewhere.
Preliminary comparisons between the economic rate of return of Phase II and that of rural development projects on the interior frontiers show the latter to have a slightly higher return.
However, the point to be made is that there must be a wider range of criteria for the pre-implementation appraisal.
In the case of the Caquetá projects, one could not find a clear sequence of appraisal steps, much less an encompassing methodology to evaluate all costs that the government and society would have to bear in order to implement the projects. Thus, the decision to carry out the projects was made without awareness of the full economic costs (environmental costs) implied in breaking the natural nutrientreplenishment chains, in losing valuable timber and other elements, and, most important, because these factors were ignored, steps were not taken to soften their impact (i.e. conservation management and research).