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Economic Micros Businesses in El Salvador

Updated on February 18, 2012

Many communities in El Salvador are adapting to the realities of climate change and economic change throughout the country.

With Support from US help and the UN, they are piloting a fascinating project known as micro businesses in communities, in El Salvador. The program is designed, to help local communities create and grow a business.

For those that do not know what a micro business is, a micro business is “a scaled down version of a traditional business that is started with as little resources as possible and usually has less than 5 employees”.

In one city in El Salvador, a small community outside the city of San Miguel they are doing just that. With the help of volunteers working with this community, they have a plan to address their financial, social, and environmental needs that are present with in this community. This area is home to wet lands, beaches, and some of the largest area of mangrove trees in the country.

Still, this being one of the poorest areas in El Salvador, the region's low elevation, and location make it vulnerable to the effects of floods, storms, earthquakes. When a disaster strikes there is little to no sources of fresh water or food when natural disasters strike. The social and economic challenges that people in El Salvador face make it a good place to start a micro business. The People of El Salvador can help themselves, and become more self-sufficient as a community and as individuals. One of the US aid workers in charge of the project says "There was a lot of humanitarian assistance after Hurricane Mitch, but there was no long-term vision," says Sandra Thomson, one of the Sierra Club's project leaders. This project is designed to empower communities to be self-sufficient, and it is working quite well.

It takes into account the communities current needs and the possible future needs of the community and helps them all work together for a common goal. Money comes from lenders in small denominations, of a hundred to a few thousand dollars. Since, this is a loan they are expected to pay it back when their business is profitable enough. The project takes a holistic approach to the region's economic, social, and environmental challenges, which are inextricably linked. There are few jobs for the 8,000 people who live in 25 small communities. They gain their livelihood from the natural resource base, fishing from the Bay, cultivating crops, and cutting down mangrove forests for firewood.

A proposed commercial shrimp operation would provide jobs, but it would also destroy precious mangrove forests—trees that can offer protection from flooding and severe weather. The lending partners are working with communities, to develop micro businesses that create jobs, without damaging the environment. In this way, people can earn a living without making their communities more vulnerable to job loss and the natural deterioration of natural resources. So with a more sustainable income from local jobs that do not depend on dwindling natural resources, communities are also more self-sufficient.

The micro business Idea has taken hold in many nations, but so far the ones setup here in el Salvador have proven to be remarkably successful. There are many types of business started, for example, some woman from the corner street always got together on Saturdays to chat about their days and families all the while knitting shirts and shorts pants and all types of sowing to keep their families in clothes. With a small 500 dollar loan, this small band of woman started a fabric making business that now sells clothes worldwide. They started out just themselves added employees and now have more than 1000 and the main job provider in this community. It’s the fact that they wanted to achieve something on their own that would make a difference and the micro business model showed them away.

This successful model will help future communities stabilize local jobs for many years to come. I am proud to have had the opportunity to see it be successful first hand. Ultimately, it's giving people the opportunity to develop alternative livelihoods that leave the natural environment intact and leave them better able to cope with climate change.

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