A varied agricultural and livestock potential; gorgeous natural landscapes and an astounding biological wealth make this land something to think big
Its name tells everything, even if its meaning is unknown. It is the land "where everything grows."
Cojedes, named after the river crossing it, shows how sometimes words can perfectly depict what the reality offers. Its environmental diversity is so wide that labeling it as just another llanos territory would underestimate its huge potential.
Large stretches of lands with forests and savannahs; fast-flowing water sources; fertile lands available for farming and livestock; landscapes filled with animal and plant species, and promising deposits of bauxite, granite and graphite define this state of Venezuela's central llanos.
"There are 14,000 square kilometers of hope, represented by noble people and an incredible environmental variety," Héctor Cardozo, the vice-president of the Cojedes Chapter of La Salle Foundation, said.
"It is a privileged area, with a great potential in several development areas," Otto Gómez conceded. He worked until recently at the Piñero Ranch, as manager of the San Francisco Agricultural and Livestock Industry.
A list of the local economic chances shows that with some more organization, investment and joint efforts, Cojedes could become one of the most thriving Venezuelan states.
Based on a report from the Foundation for Development of Venezuela's Central-Western Area, (Fudeco) released in 2004, main agricultural items in Cojedes include sorghum (21,973 cultivated hectares), corn (19,651 hectares), rice (18,500 hectares), yucca (4,584 hectares), sugar cane (4,534 hectares), pigeon peas (2,625 hectares), and tobacco (1,030 cultivated hectares).
According to the numbers provided by the Fund of Agricultural Development (Fodeagri), in 2009, a total of 498,970 kilograms of corn and 424,061 kilograms of rice were produced. And in 2010, Darío Brito, the head of the Cojedes state unit of the Ministry of Agricultural and Lands, estimates 24,000 hectares of corn plantations and 34,000 hectares of paddies.
He also listed the production of yam, yucca and sweet potato. "The state lands are very fertile and there is a wide range of items, such as mango, for instance," Brito said. Incidentally, an agreement with the University of Lleida at Catalonia has been enforced to export mangos to Spain.
There is a wide potential in the field of cattle breeding. The government puts the state production at 5,000 heads of cattle and 5,413,000 pigs and poultry.
Fondeagri thinks that by 2010, funding farms will supply over 370 tons of first-class meat. And according to Fudeco, Cojedes yields 154,698 eggs for consumption; 16,516 fertile eggs and 6,682 liters of milk.
But water is noteworthy at these times. "There is a water wealth in Cojedes. There are very significant rivers, such as San Carlos, Cojedes and El Pao. They are important because they represent irrigation choices and allow the development of fish farms," Cardozo said.
Daniel Cardona, the coordinator of El Pao fish farm, thinks that the state future production precisely resides there. "Cojedes can get from 3,000 to 4,000 tons of fish by means of farming, as well as about 2,000 tons through fishing. This means that million kilograms of fish could be yearly produced in the state."
Both Corpocentro, at the El Pao dam, and La Salle Foundation, at the El Baúl dam, are paving the way to develop this activity. In addition to the use of dedicated technology for fish reproduction and repopulation at dams and rivers, they also foster fishing in the state.
As a matter of fact, 100-150 fishermen work with them at the El Pao-La Balsa dam, with an annual output of 300,000 alevin tambaquis.
Water also is a source of biological wealth that ensures Cojedes as the destination for ecotourism. "The state potential is sensational," Gómez said. His work with El Piñero Ranch made him certain that the authentic Cojedes culture and diverse flora and fauna make a deep impression on tourists.
"Sure enough, roads should be refitted and more accommodations should be built, but the potential is there," he said. "In Cojedes, there are two big massifs -El Baúl and El Pao- which hold forest formations ideal for shelter of animals, like the jaguar," he added.
Cardona thinks that the state is suitable for the development of ecotourism. For instance, in fish farming for tourist purposes, people could fish in a controlled way, like in Mérida state, with the trout. "The important thing is to make tourism a way to safeguard biodiversity," he commented.
In line with it, the La Salle Foundation is planning on teaching specialized tourism to attract the people interested in the wide range of animal and plant species and educate residents on their respect for nature. "I am certain that the state will turn into a pioneer of biological tourism by promoting the conservation policy," Cardozo said.
As a matter of fact, the Tropical Biodiversity Institute recently established a Latin American chapter in San Carlos, due to the local enormous potential and opted to hold there, next June 2010, the First International Congress on Biological Tourism.
Right in the center of the country, diversely rich and naturally preserved, Cojedes state is a treasury hidden in the Venezuelan llanos. It is a site of enormous potential, seeking to be properly utilized.
Translated by Conchita Delgado