Economic Opportunities for Vulnerable Young People in Latin America
Manq’a brings together producers, food processors and consumers to train 3,000 disadvantaged young people as chefs, using only local, organic ingredients. ICCO Cooperation and ‘Melting Pot Bolivia’ started the project in 2013 in Bolivia. Since then, Manq’a has grown fast. Nowadays it counts 15 schools in Bolivia and 2 in Colombia.
Colombia and BoliviaStart Project
As Latin America is globalized, people eat food with less nutritional value, since they replace their traditional menu by food that takes less time to prepare, and/or is cheaper. This causes conditions of diabetes and obesity and damages the relationship between producers and consumers, as small farmers usually do not produce supplies for large fast food chains.
In peripheral areas of the cities young men and women are seeking job and study opportunities without success, while they live close to informal and/or criminal networks that promise fast and easy money. In those areas drug and alcohol abuse are tempting, especially for those who were displaced from their homes by armed conflicts. In this environment of frustration, low self-esteem easily occurs, while many youth see little value in what is rural and traditional.
Manq’a realizes better life opportunities for youths with scarce resources in Bolivia and victims of the armed conflict in Colombia, by training participants in gastronomy.. Small farmers in the region benefit as well, as the trainers promote sustainable agriculture at fair prices. The project also raises awareness; it stresses the importance of healthy eating, rooted in cultural identity and traditions. The word Manq’a means “food” in Aymara, a local language.
In short, Manq’a has three goals:
Manq’a offers training in gastronomy that is acknowledged by the local education authorities. The training at the schools lasts five months and a half and is extremely practical. It is not limited to the technical aspects of cooking and handling local foods, but also develops skills in client service and business management. Youth learn to respect and appreciate agricultural products grown in the region, and themselves as well. All together, Manq’a supports youths with the development of, self-esteem, communication and organization skills. It is innovative as it also teaches youth in punctuality, critical thinking sociability, creativity and leadership abilities.
Manq’a counts 15 schools in Bolivia and two in Colombia. The youths that chose to get a job in the gastronomy industry participate in job databases that support them to be inserted in jobs. In total the project has links with 80 restaurants and food businesses that provide job opportunities. In Colombia, for example, the Circle of Manq’a friends is set up, a series of restaurants with social sensitivity and receptiveness towards youths who were educated within this model.
Young men and women who rather start their own business receive support to grow as an entrepreneur. Their training includes the development of a business plan, seed capital and business mentoring. In order to strengthen their business models, Manq’a is part of Youth Business International, a global network of organizations that support youth at starting, strengthening and making their own businesses grow.
Manq’a carries out activities that have financial and pedagogic objectives:
“Chefs have an exemplary function and in some cases even a pioneering role in the food system. They connect farmers and citizens and have the task of giving producers a platform”.
“It’s not only about cooking nice meals, gastronomy can really open doors in terms of jobs and entrepreneurship”
“I came here from the Chocó region, displaced by the armed conflict. Manq’a has given me an opportunity to show the world what I’m capable of. Today they say my food has the best taste. I dream of opening my own restaurant and cooking the food of the Colombian Pacific”.
As Latin America is globalized, people have less quality in their food because they leave behind their traditional food, for convenience, price or imitation. They seek fast food that takes less time to prepare, but lacks nutritional value. This causes the conditions of diabetes or obesity and breaks the relationship between producers and consumers, because small farmers do not produce supplies for the large fast food chains.
In peripheral areas of the cities, we also find young men and women seeking job and study opportunities without success and close to the criminal networks that promise fast and easy money. All of this in an environment of frustration, low self-esteem and little value for what is rural and traditional.
The first intervention in Latin America was made in the city of El Alto, Bolivia: a zone of scarce resources, bad nutrition and inhabited mainly by immigrant youths with few job opportunities. The first replica of the model outside Bolivia was made in Colombia, specifically in the peri-urban areas of Bogota, first, and later Cali. Both schools are located in similar contexts: high rates of youths, presence of criminal networks, drug and alcohol abuse, living precariousness, informal commerce and rural migration, but with one particularity: these youths are leaving the guerrilla in order to return to society, or they come from families that were displaced from their homes by the armed conflict.
Manq’a offers training in gastronomy that is acknowledged and availed by the local education authorities. The training at the schools is extremely practical and lasts 5 months and a half. It is not limited to the technical aspects of cooking and handling local foods, but it also develops the skills of youths in client service and business management, developing respect and knowledge of the agricultural products and diversity and dignity of rural areas.
In the humanities, Manq ́a supports youths with the development of leadership abilities, self-esteem, communication, organization, teamwork, punctuality, critical thinking, sociability, creativity and innovation.
The design of our work model was made thinking that the students had to get a job at the end of their studies, or start their own business. The youths that chose to get a job in the gastronomy industry participate in job databases that support them to be inserted in jobs. In total we have 80 restaurants and food businesses that provide job opportunities.
In Colombia, for example, we made the Circle of Manq ́a friends, which brings together restaurants with social sensitivity and receptiveness towards youths educated within this model.
There are young men and women who do not wish to find employment, but rather they want to start their own business. They also receive support, although in a different framework. This is a model of intervention for youth entrepreneurship approved and validated, which includes assessment in the design of a business plan, seed capital, follow up in the implementation of the business and business mentoring.
Finally, we facilitate the relationship of the young entrepreneur with a mentor to guide him or her in the business world. In order to strengthen his or her business model, Manq’a is part of Youth Business International (YBI), a global network of organizations that support youth at starting, strengthening and making their own businesses grow.
We believe that the social sustainability of Manq’a is based in the link with organizations of producers, restaurants, neighborhood organizations, ministries, NGOs, networks, the public and private sectors.
For the economic sustainability we carry out other types of activities that, although they have financial objectives, they also have a pedagogic component:
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