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'There is nothing better than fulfilling our dream together'
Gustavo, from El Salvador, grew up with his grandmother. He didn’t have an easy life. Playing a leading role in a cooperative today is a relief to him.
The Jasan cooperative consists of 25 young people from 14 to 25 years old. These are the sons and daughters of farmers' cooperative Ataisi, which is active in the west of El Salvador.
'My father died when I was six months old, after which my mother moved in with someone else. Together with my two sisters, I was left with my grandmother, who was affiliated with Ataisi,' Gustavo (20) remembers. He owes his love for the farmer lifestyle to her.
Little came of studying. Gustavo finished primary school, in a class where students of different ages attended lessons together. The level of the teachers wasn’t great. When the time came to move to high school, Gustavo had to stay home to take care of his sick grandmother.
Leadership and sense of responsibility
The creation of Jasan was just about the last straw for Gustavo to make something of his still young life. The cooperative has a piece of land where they grow vegetables together, such as tomatoes, peppers, bananas and radishes. Another source of income is the eight beehives they take care of.
'We have no choice: this project needs to succeed if we ever want to stand on our own two feet,' says Gustavo, who is happy that he was able to follow leadership training with the support of Trias Central America and Youca. 'That training helped me demonstrate with words and deeds that I can be one of the pioneers that our cooperative so badly needs.'
Gustavo has now risen to become vice-chairman of the cooperative. But for him, the group interest is paramount. 'We mainly reinvested the income from the sale in the production, in particular the purchase of seeds and the maintenance of the beehives.'
It is encouraging that Jasan has been able to distribute $10 to $15 three times to all members of the cooperative. Gustavo calls the feeling that you are fulfilling a dream together 'indescribable'. According to him, a lot has changed in his village in a short time. 'Our project has created a bond of trust. The older generation now understands that as young people we can earn our own income without taking their jobs away. They are proud of us, and that feels good.'
Jasan still has a long way to go to become a stable and profitable cooperative. 'The COVID-19 crisis is throwing a spanner in the works, but we still hope to take courses this year to improve our production techniques and sales. If we can increase the added value of our products, our profit margin will increase.'