Coronavirus having big impact on young entrepreneurs in El Salvador

In El Salvador, 15 young entrepreneurs from Acopajuna have suffered heavy losses because of coronavirus. They want to restart sales of dried sugar cane juice as soon as possible.
Today, 28-year-old Alejandra Góchez is out and about, working hard on preventive measures aimed at protecting her village from coronavirus. The crisis has meant a big drop in her income, as the young cooperative she is part of was growing rapidly at the start of this year.
Business training
Alejandra and 14 other young people from her department (region) of La Paz work on the production, processing and sale of dried sugar cane juice, a local delicacy. Together with the farmers' federation Confras, Trias Central America and Youca have put the young people on the right path.
'We took business training that led to a revolution in our cooperative', explains Alejandra. Until last year, Acopajuna's administration was poorly developed and there was no marketing plan. 'And in fact we only had basic knowledge about growing sugar cane. This has changed dramatically.'
Strong growth figures 
In the past months, the young people have improved all aspects of their work, with particular attention for sales. 'Our products now have a brand name and nice packaging, which has taken into account the preference of our consumers. We have expanded our range with honey products and there are other innovations in the pipeline.' 
At the start of this year, the young people were able to double their sales figures in comparison with the same period in 2019. To satisfy the growing demand, they were planning to increase production capacity. But because of the strict corona measures, all their plans have been on the backburner for a while. 
Meanwhile, the losses are piling up. Because of the quarantine measures, work in the field was suspended. The sugar cane that had already been harvested for processing has gone rotten. And sales have plummeted to zero. 'That's painful, because we need the income from sugar cane not only to keep investing in our project, but also to support our families.'
Cooperative power
'We call each so we are ready to restart as soon as we are allowed', explains Alejandra. Despite the current crisis, she is proud to be part of this youth cooperative. 'You need to realise that the sugar cane project was started in 2012 by adults from Fecora, the local farmers' organisation. We were handed the reins two years ago, and we haven't let anyone down.'
Because of poverty, many young people in El Salvador are unable to finish their school career, which makes it hard for them to find a job in the restricted labour market. Alejandra is certain that her cooperative can give people a more confortable future. She herself she still lives in a modest house with her parents, and her grandmother and aunt who both need care.
Inspiring collaboration 
'The collaboration between the cooperative's members works very well. The men often prefer to work in the field, while the women tend to prefer processing and sales. But in truth there is really little difference between the genders. Everyone helps everyone, and that is inspiring.'