Earlier this month, President Clinton took over our Instagram account to share moments from his trip visiting Foundation projects in Latin America. In one of the posts, he featured Edgar Lemus, a smallholder farmer in El Salvador whose income has increased from an average of $350 per month to an average of $1,100 per month with the help of the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership. Edgar’s story is a powerful example of why our work is so important.
For Edgar Lemus, agriculture is a family tradition; a way of life passed on from generation to generation. “I have been dedicated to agriculture since I was young when my stepfather taught me how to work on the land. I inherited my land, and I’m going to leave it to my children as an inheritance.”
Edgar is talking about the small farm that he and his wife Irma own. Land that employs him and more than a dozen others in his community.
But this wasn’t always the case. For a long time, Edgar struggled to make enough money to even pay for basic needs like food and clothing, let alone employ additional workers.
Many of the challenges were market-related. For instance, Edgar used to only grow traditional crops like corn and beans that he would then load onto a truck and try to sell to wholesale markets. He had limited access to formal quality buyers and little knowledge about which crops were in demand, making it hard to get a good price for his produce.
Desperate to increase his earnings, Edgar began working with various intermediaries who promised to help him improve sales. But it seemed that the more he worked with others, the worse off he became. Edgar’s debt started to pile up, exacerbating the issue and making life even more difficult.
Until one day when Edgar was approached by an agricultural technician working for Acceso, a social enterprise created by the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership (CGEP) that connects small-scale farmers to large-scale buyers in El Salvador. “The technician explained how they wanted to work with producers in the area…and that they would request and purchase our crops.”
Edgar took yet another chance, this time on Acceso, and it paid off.
As Edgar explains, “Today, I am able to receive inputs [from Acceso] that were difficult to purchase since I was unable to receive credit from the bank due to outstanding debts. There is also a secure market where I am paid a fair price. I only have to worry about production, and not where to sell my produce, which gives me peace of mind.”
CGEP’s Acceso secures purchase orders from buyers, including the largest supermarket chain in El Salvador, and then works with smallholder farmers like Edgar to fill the orders. This coordination helps close gaps along the supply chain, giving Edgar and other farmers a better chance to work themselves out of poverty.
Since working as a producer for Acceso, Edgar and his family have increased their income by more than 300 percent.
When asked what his hopes are for his children, Edgar said, “I would like my children to continue to dedicate themselves to agriculture. However, I would like them to do so in a more technical way. I would like them to be able to have professional careers by going to university and having more than a basic level of education from the local school.”
Today, thanks to the opportunities provided by Acceso, Edgar and Irma’s small farm isn’t just a way of life; it’s the means for them to build a better future for their children and grandchildren.
Learn more about the CGEP social enterprise that assisted Edgar.