La Cansta Campesina, an organic farming cooperative in El Salvador, is working to employ youth in agriculture. Their programming helps address the low interest in agriculture among most of the country’s youth.
The cooperative community’s Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) style agribusiness delivers 400 baskets of fresh produce to subscribers each month. All products are grown organically and locally on small family farms located in the rural community of Comasagua, 30 km from the capital.
According to Cassandra Portillo, president of Lacanasta Campesina, 30 percent of their workforce is made up of young people. Portillo herself is 25 years old, and she stepped into the role of president at 23. One of the reasons the cooperative has been successful in drawing youth participation.
The average age of El Salvador’s farmers is nearly 60, according to the country’s Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock. A statistic that reflects the plight of farmers around the world and the lack of interest of younger generations.
“For many years, work in agriculture has been associated with backbreaking labor, poverty and underdevelopment,” said Hazel Flores, Food Tank’s Latin America and Caribbean Communications Coordinator for YPARD. “As a result, it is not attractive to the youth, especially the rural youth who face a lack of educational opportunities. [and] A proper income,” she added, adding that many parents, who are farmers themselves, hope that their children will not starve in the future in agriculture. They do this in hopes of a better life for the next generation.
Rene Castro, IFAD Country Director for El Salvador and Neighboring Countries, told Food Tank that the reluctance of young people to engage in agriculture is driven by the perfect tide in the region. Low wages, migration pressures, climate change and lack of industrial adaptation have all strained an already difficult job.
Younger generations also want modern systems that embrace new technologies and care for the environment, Castro says. These elements are usually lacking in the traditional agriculture that dominates the region. And Salvador’s youth are not in the usual position to implement change.
“To be actively involved in agriculture in these communities, you often have to be a member of a producer organization,” Castro said. Food tank. “And being an active member with the right to vote, in decision-making, in manufacturing organizations can be difficult, especially for young women.
La Canasta Campesina started as a development project led by a French NGO. It is due to the 2009 earthquake. The cooperative currently employs more than 100 people, 90 percent of whom are women.
“It’s very important that we celebrate the lives of women and young people…and that we are local doers, whether it’s to identify the needs of our communities or implement projects,” Portillo told Food Tank. La Canasta Campesina’s approach to agriculture provides more than income to the community. “Agroecology provides [women] The security of being able to provide a good, balanced and varied diet at a low cost because we use the resources Mother Earth provides us,” Portillo explained.
The leading role of women in the organization is bringing the participation of the youth of the society, which are often their children. The opportunity to maintain that engagement was key.
Portillo wants young people to understand that “agriculture is not just hard work, but an opportunity for training, in ecology and other areas…such as marketing, business management, information technology, [and] in the tourism sector”.
The cooperative provides training for in-house workshops and scholarship opportunities for higher education. Scholarship opportunities give young people the option to study a technical degree at a university to further develop their skills. Youth are given decision-making positions for projects and community advocacy by developing their leadership potential.
La Canasta Campesina helps young people develop professionally and personally, so that they understand the important role they have to play in the world. Portillo summarizes this self-recognition as “considering the fact that we are campesinos and campesinos with pride.”
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Photo courtesy of La Canasta Campesina