The Ruta del Cacao is a complex highway covering 154 kilometers, 95 of which are divided highway. It has 21 tunnels and 34 bridges and viaducts, linking the cities of Bucaramanga, the region’s capital, and Barrancabermeja, which is on the banks of the Magdalena River. This infrastructure shortens the distance between these two cities, overcoming geological barriers and becoming a strategic corridor for transportation in the eastern part of the country.
Construction of the 2 tunnels, La Sorda and La Paz, which are 5.96 kilometers long, makes it possible to bypass the steep terrain of the Serranía de La Paz, which the new road, bridges, and viaducts run through. The project has remodeled and improved part of the existing road, and a new road that will improve traffic in the region is currently under construction.
Located in the heart of Colombia, the Ruta del Cacao highway generates strategic and competitive connections between the center of the country with the Caribbean coast, linking the departments of Antioquia and Santander. This highway contributes to the area’s economic development: it boosts employment and the supply chain in eastern Colombia. Currently, more than 2,200 people are associated with the project, and more than 8,600 jobs have been created during its construction. Around 70% of the workers in this stage have been locals who reside in the project’s area of influence.
The contract was awarded in 2015, and the project’s completion is scheduled for 2022, despite the difficulties that arose due to the coronavirus pandemic. Thanks to the strict safety protocols that were put in place, the Ruta del Cacao was the first project in Colombia to start up again.
One of the project’s most outstanding elements in social terms is the guidance and financial assistance offered to at least 46 people who are refocusing their work as street vendors and finding new ways to support themselves financially through new professions. The concession provides them with tools and materials to create small businesses as an alternative to and support for their work as “street vendors” along the road. This way, we’re contributing to the security and protection of both their safety and that of drivers on the corridor.
Remodeling and the creation of schools along the corridor
Escuela Nueva Bélgica
A school with a capacity for 40 students has been built in Vereda El Tapazón, which is in the municipality of Betulia-Santander; it covers over 4000m2 with an investment of €333,000. This school has 2 classrooms, a multipurpose room, a computer room, a library, a room for teachers, a lunchroom, 5 bathrooms, a field for playing sports, a park, a garden, and an enclosure that ensures students’ safety.
Escuela Pozo Nutrias Sede J Los Ángeles
There was the construction of a new school with a capacity for 60 students covering more than 10,000 m2, with an investment of €238,000. It has 3 classrooms, a multipurpose room, a computer room, a library, a room for teachers, a gym, 6 bathrooms, 2 showers, a sports field, a park, a garden, and an enclosure.
The Escuela La Fortuna auditorium
A new 170 m2 assembly hall was built with an investment of €55,000; there’s the hall, 2 bathrooms, a kitchen, a stage, a parking lot, and a warehouse.
Three homes were delivered to families living in a high-risk area in Tienda Nueva, Betulia.
Betulia’s local government and support from the Santander Risk Management Office came together and made an agreement to make it possible to offer dignified, safe places to families who were in risky areas due to floods. These homes were built in record time – two and a half months – with an investment of €41,000. Each house is 60 m2 and has 2 bedrooms and a bathroom. The Ruta del Cacao project is improving living conditions for residents in the highway’s area of influence. Thanks to this initiative, these families will have a safe, comfortable, quiet place to live.
Program for the improvement and availability of water in collaboration with the NGO Action Against Hunger
The project was carried out in partnership with Action Against Hunger at the end of 2021 and is currently 95% complete. Thanks to an investment of COL$486 million (just over €109,000), 350 people from 79 families will have access to drinking water. Communities in the villages of Villa María, El Pozo, and San Silvestre, which are located in the municipality of Lebrija, will be the primary beneficiaries.
The formation of an associative group for managing the water resource to maintain the infrastructure and operation of the built system has been a key part of the process. Trainings on different topics for comprehensive water management and quality monitoring to verify that it’s suitable for human consumption round out the tasks that have been the focus of this initiative.
As for environmental management, autonomous species were replanted: 40 abarcos, 200 cococunas, and 681 guayacans, gualandays, cedars, rain trees, and naunos. In addition, more than 4,098 epiphytic plants and 15,959 seedlings have been rescued and preserved in a nursery for later relocation.