International Business

Finding a Solution Together

by Mert Tokman

Marketing and IBUS students during the Colombia - Panama Study Abroad Trip - 2019 - Photo by Julia Thompson

Pictured (above): global supply chain management students from JMU and students from Universidad Tecnologica de Bolivar (UTB) during the Panama-Colombia study abroad program. Photo by Julia Thompson.

During the Panama-Colombia study abroad program this summer, global supply chain management students from JMU and students from Universidad Tecnologica de Bolivar (UTB) combined their efforts to help cocoa farmers in Colombia learn ways they can better participate in the global economy for their product. 

Cacao and Cacao/Chocolate Products - 2019The region of Montes de Maria saw enormous violence during the war between guerillas and Colombian government. After the two sides signed a peace agreement in 2017, the farmers in the region were required to stop production of coca leaves and produce alternative crops like coffee, cocoa, avocados and other tropical fruits.  

The students worked on a project to identify various branded consumer products that can be made out of cocoa beans (like chocolate spread, tea, skin lotion and liquor), then developed a plan to source manufacturing and to distribute them outside Colombia. They concluded that it was in the best interest of the farmers to create their own branded products to add a much larger value to the supply chain in addition to much larger margins. 

During a visit to the Montes de Maria region, the group presented their ideas to the cocoa farming community and young entrepreneurs. The message was well received and agreements were made for UTB to follow up on these presentations and connect the community with resources necessary to find investors.  

Marketing major Kyle Claybourne noted that “In order to pull the small towns like San Jacinto out of post-violence depression, it is necessary to help these farmers create their own brand to sell a final product and to earn more than just a livable wage.”  

This was just one of two important projects the students completed on their study abroad journey. They were also able to raise $2000 in supplies, toys and cash for Fundacion Hogar Juvenil orphanage.

Published: Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Last Updated: Tuesday, July 23, 2019

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