Tomatoes create employment

Chris Simoens
20 February 2019
Together with José Rember Alvarez (33) and with the support of Trias and UNDP, David Antonio Ventura (25) heads a group of tomato growers in El Salvador. Through their initiative, they want to show young people that there is a way out of unemployment. He tells us his story.

We are a group of 17 young people – 3 women, 14 men – that is part of a larger cooperative. We grow tomatoes in a greenhouse by using a drip irrigation system. Our aim is to create employment opportunities for our members.

Thanks to the support of Trias – via the NGO ADEL Morazán – and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), we obtained a piece of land where we built a greenhouse. They also gave us training, not only on techniques, but also on leadership skills. For example, I learnt there how to motivate myself and others and how to express myself well.

The members of the cooperative with Rember in the foreground
© Isabel Corthier

Second greenhouse

Tasks, ranging from cultivation as such to the maintenance of the greenhouse and the distribution of tomatoes, are carefully divided within our group. Things are going well and so far local customers have managed to find us. Recently, we have even started building a second greenhouse in order to attract other young people, regardless of their education. Unfortunately, many young people living in this region cannot find a job.

David Antonio Ventura
David Antonio Ventuna

Many of our members have only had limited education because of war and migration and because they live in the countryside, far from schools. Our parents were unable to pursue their dreams and have therefore not been able to educate their children to become determined people who can express themselves freely. Personally, I had a difficult childhood and was raised by my grandparents. We all face obstacles that we have to overcome together. This is something we are still working on every day.

This was my first experience in starting a business. My colleague Rember had already worked in a cooperative, but he had a bad experience there. The financing system - a revolving fund, a kind of loan - did not sufficiently encourage the members to be enterprising. We do not want to repeat that mistake.

Young people here need such an example. Someone has to tell them that their dreams can become reality. That is why I say: believe in yourself and your ideas, work together and do not give up your dreams and motivation. Only then a lot is possible.

Truly positive experience

This cooperative is a truly positive experience for us. And we do not want to stand still. We dream of being able to harvest several times a year in order to create more jobs and set an example for the community. That will require us to look for customers outside our community, which is complicated by the fact there are hardly any transport facilities here.

Young people here need such an example. Someone has to tell them that their dreams can become reality. That is why I say: believe in yourself and your ideas, work together and do not give up your dreams and motivation. Only then a lot is possible.

I would like to advise our government to invest in the training of young people. Neither the national nor the local government are active in our region. We are the only entrepreneurs here! Then of course, as a young person, it is difficult to take initiatives in these circumstances. There is certainly potential here, but there is a lack of information.

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