Mention of Central America brings images of colourful Indian markets, national parks and reserves, beautiful beaches, cities teeming with life and the calm serenity of rural villages. Unfortunately, the economic picture is not so nice. Most countries of the region are considered poor to very poor. The income of a large majority of the population still depends on agricultural activities such as growing corn, beans and coffee. The impact of the Free Trade Agreement with North America in Central America is expected to be a negative one, especially for the groups involved in STRO’s projects: few small entrepreneurs will be equipped to take advantage of the new export opportunities, whilst large numbers will be negatively affected by cheap imports from the US. The diminished degree of protection of small entrepreneurs calls for alternative (non-tariff) mechanisms to move consumer purchasing power towards national producers. Local Exchange Circuits have this potential to help entrepreneurs to grow in a safe environment. At this moment STRO is actively involved in 3 projects in Central America:
Centro Bartolomé de las Casas STRO’s local partner in El Salvador, Centro Bartolomé de las Casas,
introduced a local currency to stimulate local production for the local
market in 4 very poor villages. Mixed loans in national and local
currency are given to start up small projects such as the production of
brooms, a sauna, a chicken farm, small restaurants, etc. More info…
RET The RET (Red Empresarial de Trueque = barter enterprise network) ,
located in San Salvador, is a network of more than 100 micro- and small
enterprises that partly trade in Internal Units. The RET-network is
still much like a conventional barter. The monthly turnover is small,
but increasing rapidly. More info….
COMAL COMAL, STRO’s local partner in Honduras, is a cooperative that buys
products from farmers and distributes them to over 400 small community
shops. COMAL pays the farmers partly in local currency, called UDIS.
The farmers use the UDIS to buy products at the community shops and the
shops pay COMAL in UDIS for the products they supply. More info…