Class of 1996
Alcibiades Hinestroza comes from Colombia’s Chocó department, an area rich in both rainforests and its Afro-Colombian heritage. The third of fourteen siblings, he grew up on a farm. An excellent agronomy student in high school, he eagerly applied to EARTH once he heard about it.
After an odyssey by car, boat and bus, he arrived overjoyed to be at the University. Of his time at EARTH, he shares, “Living together in community marks you; to share time with people and create relationships with them is something that makes an impression on you.” Alcibiades came to see EARTH as a “family,” he says, in which “you learn to trust that people will support you.”
One of his fondest EARTH memories is of his community development work at an elementary school in the neighboring community of La Argentina. There, he and fellow students worked outside class time to raise money by hosting games to rebuild the school after the hurricane of 1994.
For the first three years after graduating, Alcibiades worked as a consultant with Colombia’s Ministry of Agriculture. In his role, he trained hundreds of livestock farmers in strategic planning. He also helped involve agricultural secretaries in national policy.
Alcibiades then dedicated himself to growing African palm – a key crop in both food production and today’s energy challenges. First, he worked for a year with Alianza Estratégica (Strategic Alliance), a group helping small-scale producers to access credit. Alcibiades returned again to the Ministry of Agriculture to train hundreds of more palm-growing families in strategic planning.
After three years there, he took a position at Fedepalma, a palm production group. In that capacity since 2009, he has led an engineering team to teach new technology to farmers throughout the country. He shares: “The strategy had to depend on working with the producers, not in spite of them. We work hand-in-hand with them to address their challenges.” Doing so requires not only visiting a farm, but also looking at a producer’s vision and joining that person in realizing it.
Alcibiades sees a strong connection between his work and Colombia’s development. “I’m on the frontlines of palm cultivation, which gives me a certain satisfaction,” he says. He feels especially proud to help people establish the palm industry, a sector flourishing despite the global economic crisis. “I’ve overcome many barriers and had great opportunities to contribute to addressing social issues,” he says. Today, he feels gratified to share his knowledge with the farmers who need it to thrive.