Colombia: From internally displaced to successful businessman

Juliana Quintero

Colombia - Ra=FAl opened his furniture business RAFERLO six years ago shortly after arriving in the city of Florencia, located in the southern Department of Caquetá.

Since then he has dedicated all of his energy, time and creativity to the business. "I started with very little money but with lots of drive," he recalls.

In 2001, Ra=FAl was awarded a small business loan by IOM's program Post Emergency Assistance for Internally Displaced, Vulnerable Populations and Receptor Communities. The money he received from the IOM program, funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), allowed him to begin designing and building tables, chairs and other items using bamboo and guadua (a local wood).

Since then Ra=FAl has made it his quest to try and help the internally displaced who knock on his door asking for work and an opportunity to rebuild their lives. "I can't give up on this business, I need the work and my employees depend on me."

Ra=FAl says he recently received one of the best news of his entire life: his products will be exported to Europe.

IOM's Social Marketing Strategy helped Ra=FAl negotiate the sale and export of 49 of his products to the Dutch furniture and accessories store Hedi Meubelen.

IOM started the Social Marketing Strategy to provide a more sustainable economic environment for the income generating projects implemented by IOM in Colombia. The groups benefiting from the Strategy include the internally displaced, victims of trafficking, and ex combatant minors. These projects receive funding from USAID, the Italian Cooperation Agency, and the embassies of Canada and Holland.

The main goal of the IOM Strategy is to improve the quality of life of the internally displaced. So far more than 1,500 individuals are participating in the program.

The beneficiaries hail from different regions and include manufacturers of furniture, clothing, paper goods, home décor and handicrafts, amongst others.

Business training provided by IOM has allowed the beneficiaries to adapt their products for the international market, learn budget and pricing and export regulations. The trainings have given Ra=FAl and other displaced Colombians the confidence and tools to conduct business with international clients.

The owners of Creaciones Miquelina used the skills learnt at the IOM trainings to negotiate their own contract; they export some USD 2.5 million in winter coats to Great Britain every year.

ANEI produces and sells some 1,000 tons of organic coffee yearly, which is exported mainly to Europe and Japan.

The furniture exported by RAFERLO to Holland represents 12 per cent of their annual sales. "Exporting is the greatest achievement. It means that I have accomplished what I set out to do, working side by side with my people. It is thanks to their drive and hard work that today we celebrate this achievement," explains Ra=FAl.

To learn more about IOM's Social Marketing Strategy and to see the products is supports, please visit