We’re back in business Part II: Rural employment options for youth in Trifinio

As Part II of our series “We’re back in business,” we take a look at our new programs since Coffee Kids re-opened its doors and started operating as an independently run program of Hanns R. Neumann Stiftung North America in late 2015. In this part, we set our sights on the Trifinio region when we began lending our support in early 2016 to a program called Generaciones (Generations) that provides rural employment options for youth.

Young people living in Trifinio, the tri-border area between Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, face pervasive poverty and a lack of opportunity.

Trifinio is the tri-border area between Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.

Young people living in Trifinio, the tri-border area between Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, face pervasive poverty and a lack of opportunity. While their parents have been coffee producers for all of their lives, lack of rural employment options for youth in Trifinio is forcing young people reluctant to leave their homes into the cities in search of work.

Participants in the training program, Generaciones, have already began attending mentor-facilitated workshops that give aspiring young entrepreneurs the skills, support, and access to capital to confidently run businesses. 150 youth are participating in the trainings in 2016 and use their new skills to develop business plans. These plans will be entered into a competition for seed funding from a Youth Challenge Fund.

I was lucky to see 12 interactive, hands-on trainers in charge of delivering workshops in business skills to young people ages 16-27 (average age 20) in their communities. Many of the trainers have coffee farms, or work on family farms.  Some of them have started businesses of their own, and have seen both success and failure along the way.  All of them are eager to share what they learned in their workshop with young men and women in their home communities.

Our approach in Trifinio diagram

From understanding the characteristics of a successful entrepreneur and completing an honest self-evaluation, the team of trainers learned how to guide groups of budding young entrepreneurs in their home communities.  One of the new trainers, Jaime, has an at-home ice cream business in his community which is the talk of the town.  He brings real-life experience to his cheerful training style. He comfortably talks about other business ventures that he tried in the past but was unsuccessful. His honesty and openness in sharing this with the group helped others open up too, and share valuable experiences.   These open discussions create a deep sense of trust within the group of trainers which follows them into the field when they return to their three different countries.

During a field visit a young man, who we will call Benicio due to the sensitivity of the story that he shared, opened up about his experiences and the options that he had in the community which underscored the need for a program like Generaciones. Benicio comes from a coffee-growing community. Faced with few rural employment opportunities outside of the coffee season, Benicio saved enough money to pay a trafficker to sneak him into the United States to seek employment opportunities, yet he had a strong desire to stay in his community. By participating in the Vida Para Los Jovenes (Life for Young People) program, a predecessor to Generaciones, he learned about business and started an in-home barbershop.  He now has year-round income and can stay in his community and connected to coffee.  Coffee Kids is working to help many others like him in the region to gain access to rural employment options; this means youth in Trifinio are given the choice to remain in coffee, the choice to develop a viable business, and in Benicio’s case, the choice to stay home.

The Generaciones group has created a WhatsApp group for their trainers where they exchange real-time ideas, information and encouragement. You can follow some of their success on their Facebook page here. You can stay up to date with our progress by joining our mailing list here.

When youth receive training, exposure to productive agribusiness models, support from mentors, and access to capital, they can create viable rural employment opportunities in coffee and related industries.

When youth receive training, exposure to successful business models, support from mentors, and access to capital, they can create viable rural employment opportunities.

 

This post is Part II of our year-long series “We’re back in business.” Stay tuned for more posts in the series as we walk you through our first year back in action.