Manq’a youth must reinvent itself in the corona crisis
Since March 22 in Bolivia, a total quarantine decreed by the government has been in force with the aim of reducing the spread of the coronavirus. The measures taken have generated an unpredictable economic and social impact that hits especially the most vulnerable in the country.
Manq’a, an ICCO model that seeks to generate better life and employment opportunities for young people in Bolivia, is suffering at various levels the paralysis of educational, economic and institutional activities.
Ariel Tito, Manq’a coordinator, recalls that Manq’a not only consists of 10 gastronomic training schools in Bolivia, but also supports a network of 200 young entrepreneurs in the field of gastronomy and connects hundreds of young people with job opportunities offered by a network of friends of Manq’a. Likewise, a social restaurant opened 1 year ago that offers work to more than 20 people; offering lunches, cafeteria service and catering.
Schools are closed
At the training level, schools are closed, there are no classes. In 2020, it was planned to train 600 young people in schools, however due to the context this number will decrease by 30%. Virtual classes have started, but the teaching model is very technical and practical and the training cannot be sustained only by classes through Skype, Zoom and ClassRoom. Furthermore, not all students have high-speed internet at home. To mitigate this, funds have been raised to help young people by internet through their cell phones. However, the Manq’a methodology requires face-to-face and participatory classes.
Leonardo Fabio Aleluya Quispe, student from the Manq’a schools of Villa Esperanza, says: “It seems to me that it is not so efficient to go through virtual channels because you cannot speak personally with classmates, especially with the Chef (teacher). We already had to go into the kitchen to cook, and I feel like we’ve gotten a bit stuck on that quarantine issue”.
Mayde Brenda Mamani, student from the Manq’a schools of Villa Esperanza, states that “a large majority are making the effort to connect to virtual classes. I would say that 80% have connected and 20% have failed. Sometimes the connection here in the city El Alto is not so easy”.
Jobs and small business at risk
Manq’a not only creates opportunities for students who take cooking courses, but also opens paths through employability and the drive for entrepreneurship. At the employability level, Manq’a works together with 60 companies, which provide workspaces for the students of Manq’a schools, especially in restaurants.
“99% of companies have paralyzed their functions (…) this also implies that they have paralyzed employment contracts with young people” comments Ariel Tito. “Thus, we are starting to generate some strategies to face this employment issue,” says Tito.
At the entrepreneurial level, Manq’a supports 200 young entrepreneurs in the areas of gastronomy and hospitality, who are part of the informal labor market and their economic income is generated per day, that is, they do not have a fixed monthly salary. “To that extent, we will also have to be very creative to see how we will support our young people, because many businesses can close or suspend their activities and the impact would be very high for them and their families. Perhaps we can support them through the injection of a new seed capital or advising them in the connection with investment credits or credits at low cost.” says Ariel.
Mauricio Santa Cruz, owner of the Combi Coffee Truck cafeteria and former student of Manq’a tells us: “I’m not making money at the moment (…) I was at the best moment, I was in a moment of promotion, of people knowing me, of already being installed, of having a routine, a certain number of clients and a good amount of income. This has me quite frustrated, desperate. I do not know what we’re going to do”.
Manq’a restaurant locked
Ariel comments: “A year ago we opened the Manq’a restaurant and last year we had to close almost 20 days due to the political crisis caused by the resignation of former President Evo Morales. Now this. The economic impact is very high. The economic losses are calculated around 15 thousand dollars a month with the restaurant closed. Likewise, the stability of the 23 young workers (chefs, service personnel, cashiers, bartenders, etc.) who were trained in schools and who, given the situation, see their job source at risk, worries” .
It is estimated that once the quarantine ends, it will take almost a month and a half for the flow of customers in the restaurant to begin to normalize. Trust and consumer behavior are elements that will undoubtedly be altered by this context.
Mitigating actions and entrepreneurship
The context requires acting responsibly, but also creatively as long as the situation remains. That is why, during the quarantine, Manq’a has begun to spread official and verified information with its students and networks to prevent the virus, confronting the fear and disinformation campaigns that circulate in the networks.
Similarly, virtual cooking events are being organized that teach young people to use and revalue local products, to take advantage of waste and to prepare healthy recipes that strengthen the immune system.
Likewise, youth from highly vulnerable Manq’a schools are being linked to family food baskets. Once classes are restarted, they will be offered classes in basic product transformations such as jams, breads, juices, etc., that they can market and generate income in the short term.
On the other hand, we are part of a network of restaurants that has started selling coupons with discounts that will be collected once the quarantine is over. Connections have been generated with public and private organizations that promote food distribution and strengthen the agricultural production of small producers.
“Once the quarantine is over, we will have to rethink the model, accelerate the training processes, bet on promoting new product marketing lines, accelerate the Manq’a Tourism service, reconnect with the restaurant customers who have accompanied us these months, and redesign the catering service to reach new spaces. It is complex, but our commitment to young people forces us to reinvent ourselves and seek new opportunities. With the support of our allies, partners and friends, we will succeed. What we have and can do, we will do” says Conny Toornstra, regional director of ICCO Cooperation Latin America.