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Centro Bartolome de las Casas

Oranges, tomatoes and beans in exchange for soap and clothes. You leave a product at the community shop and you get another one. This is how this project started. The Centro Bartolomé de las Casas supports organized groups within the communities of Apulo, San Rafael Cedros, El Espinal and Jiboa in central El Salvador and facilitates economic and social interchanges between them. Alternative merchandise channels such as community shops, local and intercommunity barter markets are actively promoted and facilitate direct exchange of goods and services and indirect exchange through the implementation of a local currency, called Sol (sun). The same local currency is used to finance productive projects, consumer credits and working capital for community shops.

Cheap loans
Saving - and credit groups, mostly women, in the villages each get a chance to borrow money from their ROSCAS (Rotating Saving and Credit Association) group to stimulate business. The average loan is worth about 50-100$ and is partly issued in dollars and partly in soles. The interest on the Soles part of the loan is lower (10%) than on the dollar part (15%) and is much lower than average microloans in El Salvador (25-45%). Moreover, the interest paid is put in the ROSCA where it is used for new loans. The loans are invested in projects such as the productions of brooms, a sauna, a chicken farm, small restaurants, etc.

Soles in circulation
The Soles can be used to buy products from the above mentioned projects, at the community shops or at special markets where there can only be paid with Soles, but they are also accepted by people not involved in the project, such as bus drivers, for example. One sol is worth one dollar (national currency of El Salvador). Dollars can be exchanged for Soles but Soles cannot be exchanged back for dollars. In July 2005 about 1000 Soles were in circulation. This does not seem a big amount, but the average income of the people in the area is only $3 a day, meaning that for them, it does make a big difference.

Distribution of the methods

Other organisations are interested to start comparable projects. For example, after a publication about the project in a Catholic magazine, read all over Central-America, a church group from Honduras organized a lottery and used the profit to finance the trip of 3 of its members to Centro Bartolomé to learn more about the project.

Centro Bartolome de la Casa has its own internetsite, please click here.