The producers have taken advantage of the technical assistance they receive within the Cultivating Opportunities program that Super Selectos carries out in alliance with Acceso.
By Jessica Guzman // Mar 10, 2020
A few years ago, farmers in the upper and lower areas of Chalatenango only grew tomatoes, chilies, and cabbage, and many times their crops became losses because they had no buyer.
“Before, we lost whole crops because, as we did not have other crops, with what we produced we saturated the square and no one else came to buy from us. Since we did not have better cultivation or prevention techniques, we also lost,” says Hugo Baltazar Hernández, a young farmer from the upper Chalatenango area.
However, in the past five years, the situation for many of them has changed. This is thanks to the fact that they are part of the Cultivating Opportunities program of Super Selectos, which works in alliance with Acceso, an organization that was formerly an initiative of the Clinton Foundation.
Hugo, like other farmers in that area, now rents additional land to grow different types of lettuce, onion, cabbage, tomato, radish, watercress, beet, cauliflower, broccoli, coriander, celery, zucchini, spinach, leek, and others. He is not only producing more vegetables, but also generating employment.
“My father taught me to work in agriculture, and now we have diversified crops. Before, we only planted cabbage, tomato, and chili. Now we already have several crops and we have the opportunity to sell everything because we are working on a planting plan,” says the producer.
The harvest must be removed weekly. Every week, thousands of vegetables are obtained directly from the plots that are purchased by Acceso and go directly to the Super Selectos processing plants, where they are cleaned and properly packed.
The history of the farmers in Chalatenango is similar to that of the others that have joined the program, in Atiquizaya and Garita Palmera, and in almost all the departments of the country.
For Carlos Calleja, vice president of Grupo Calleja, one of the great satisfactions is the generation of opportunities that are developed with the program as well as the growth of farmers and producers, since there is also the tilapia cultivation part, and the sustainability and generation of jobs.
“Together, Super Selectos and Acceso as partners are changing the future of many Salvadorans, working hand-in-hand to positively impact the lives of our brothers, providing them with the opportunities they so desperately need. We know that our people are the most valuable asset we have, and that is why we are betting on the development of our communities to build a better El Salvador,” said Calleja.
He added that it is enriching for them, as well as for the farmers, to see how they have gone from working for other people, to becoming independent producers and generators of jobs in agriculture and fishing.
According to Alberto Corpeño, director of Super Selectos Categories, one of the objectives of the supermarket chain is to supply its stores as much as possible with local products.
“One of the great bets we have with Cultivating Opportunities, from Super Selectos, is to replace imports of agricultural products with local products. Our strategic ally to achieve this is Acceso,” said Corpeño.
The supermarket chain executive explained that since the Cultivating Opportunities program began eight years ago, they have gone from buying 10% of local agricultural products to 60% in 2019.
Last year alone, Super Selectos added a total purchase of $11 million to the more than 2,500 producers within the program, of which half are farmers.
Corpeño also added that this year alone, in February, Selectos has already purchased $2 million. So, they expect purchases from producers to increase at the end of the year.
For his part, Sebastián Ortiz of Subway, said that each of the Subway restaurants nationwide are connected to the producing communities, since those vegetables produced with high-quality standards are cultivated by Salvadoran hands.
“I want to thank you for your effort because the work that you (the farmers) do every day, allows these products to reach Salvadorans through the more than 6 million Subways that we sell [these products in] each year,” said Ortiz.
The statements were made in the framework of the visit of Frank Giustra, Canadian businessman and founder who, together with former US President Bill Clinton, created Acceso.
Giustra visited the farmers in the Chalatenango area. He was on a tour with a first stop in El Salvador and then later on to Haiti and Colombia, which are also a part of the Acceso program.
“We have two more countries that we are going to visit. El Salvador is our first stop, but we are very pleased here because we believe that El Salvador is one of our most successful cases. I feel deep pride, because we have only provided the channel and the tools, but the work and the effort comes from the workers,” said Giustra.
The businessman also said that he is pleased to know the expansion plans of small producers, and that a very important fact is that these types of programs prevent illegal migration to other countries.
In the upper area of Chalatenango there is a new vegetable processing plant, of which there are four in the area.
In this plant, more jobs are also generated for women whose previous main work activity was household chores.
“Here, we wash all the vegetables, spinach, carrots, celery, and radishes. I have worked in processing plants in the last three years and we feel the change in this plant. We work based to the orders that come. Sometimes, we have to fill 700 boxes of vegetables a day,” says Dalila Salguero, a worker at the new processing plant, which has not yet been inaugurated.
Hugo, the farmer, commented that this program has been of great help to women, since “before, they did not have a formal job like this, because only men did the agricultural work, and now they are well-involved in crops and plants.”
Other benefits that producers receive is that Super Selectos and Acceso provide technical training, assistance, supplies, and revolving funds to small and medium-sized farmers who are taught to work in a step-by-step manner. That way the production does not stop, since the products are in demand all year round. They also learn to diversify their crops and are guided in good agricultural practices.
My father taught me to work in agriculture and now we have diversified crops. Before, we only planted cabbage, tomato, and chili, and now we already have several crops. We have the opportunity to sell everything because we are working on a planting plan."– Hugo Baltazar Hernández, Salvadoran farmer.