Project offers a future for young people in one of El Salvador’s most violent regions

Project offers a future for young people in one of El Salvador’s most violent regions.

In a response to limited employment opportunities and the spiraling violence in El Salvador that is claiming the lives of thousands of youth each year and forcing many to flee from their homes, Lutheran World Relief has launched a project to train at-risk youth as cacao community-based extension workers.

Carolyn Barker-Villena, LWR Director for Latin America programs, at the launch event with UNIVO officials.

The Cacao Certification for Rural Youth project will provide technical and practical training in cacao production to about 100 children of small-scale farmers who are looking for hope and opportunity in the western region of El Salvador that is plagued by unemployment and widespread gang violence, leading to one of the country’s highest rates of migration to the US. LWR is partnering with the Universidad de Oriente in San Miguel (UNIVO), and will provide each graduate of the program with a certification of completion.

In addition to the technical training in cacao production, the project will offer instruction in entrepreneurship and life skills to improve the youths’ opportunities for future success.

“It was absolutely amazing to see the room full of young people, full of energy, looking to have a better future through the production and commercialization of cacao in El Salvador,” said Veronica Olivares, LWR El Salvador country manager.

The first class of 50 students is slated for graduation in February.

LWR is linking this youth project to the El Salvador Cacao Alliance, an initiative funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, in which LWR is working with 2,000 farmers in eastern El Salvador to establish cacao as a cash crop on their farms. The Cacao Alliance has generated considerable interest and private sector investment in the cacao sector, thereby generating more demand for people trained in cacao extension services.

The launch event received considerable press attention, including the links below:

Periódico Equilibrium
Lutheran World Relief and UNIVO Launch Cocoa Diploma in the East

El Diario del Hoy
Lutheran World Relief Initiates a Diploma in Cacao

La Prensa Gráfica
Diploma in Cacao Imparted to Youth

They seek to revive and improve the cultivation of Salvadoran cocoa 

Paz Noticias
Lutheran World Relief and UNIVO offer a diploma in cacao in the East of the country