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Geoff Chew, Colombia
Alternative Investments / Nicaragua
Firstly I would like to thanks Property Frontiers for helping with travel arrangements, they have been most helpful in what has been an unforgettable trip.
When I arrived in Nicaragua, I was surprised at how relaxed everything appeared. The only law enforcement I saw were traffic police, with no military presence on the roads or in the towns which made me feel at ease straight away.
It looks like the Sandinista National Liberation Front continues to have popular support and will be re-elected in 2012. I think the Nicaraguans need CAFTA as much as Chavez' oil handouts so there will be no economic shift in the short term, or at least in the 5 year gestation period of this project.
John Vogel, president of the EcoPlanet Bamboo Management team, is a very impressive individual with agricultural experience, business acumen, enthusiasm and above all personal integrity.
We spent three days together locked in conversation and on no single occasion did he evade, bluster or deliver any hot air! He is Nicaraguan but thinks and behaves like an international businessman and has that rare common touch for connecting with people at all social levels. I had ample opportunity to watch him in action as we toured the plantation on horseback, met the local players and planted the very first bamboo sapling.
I know nothing about bamboo so I took as read, that the site will offer ideal growing conditions- soil acidity, ground water, rainfall and topography. However the farm's geographical position is exciting.
There are two obvious shipping routes for the product via Rama/ Rio Escondido to the Atlantic coast or by paved road to the Pacific seaboard. Out of curiosity I took a river launch from Bluff to Rama to view the river. However both John and I enthused about using the Rio Siquia (navigable tributary of the Escondido) which borders the plantation to barge out bamboo in large quantities, consolidating cargos in Rama or Port Bluff. So logistically I think the choice of site is perfect.
In conclusion, although the Ecoplanet Prospectus in itself was persuasive the visit brought real substance to the proposal and inspired confidence that the team on the ground have the skills and vision to make it happen.