Field Consultant Sarah Webb poses for a photo with Juana and Delia in Saraguro. Photo by Jose Cartuche.

Sitting in the open-air living room of a small wooden house, surrounded by chickens and a small plot of crops growing in the backyard, we wrapped up our final stage of training for two of our newest Tienditas Comunitarias (Sales Points). I handed each of our new entrepreneurs their water purification buckets, solar panels, energy saving lightbulbs, and protective eyewear. They each wore a huge smile on their faces as I handed the products over. And with a kiss on the cheek and well wishes for safe travels back to Loja, they were off. “Gracias por la oportunidad con Soluciones Comunitarias, Sarita.” (“Thank you for the opportunity with Community Enterprise Solutions, Sarah.”)

In Ecuador, these sales points provide a unique opportunity for local entrepreneurs who want to help their communities through innovative strategies and creating access to important products. Through these sales points, Soluciones Comunitarias is able to build ongoing relationships with new communities, while simultaneously empowering local entrepreneurs to become leaders of social change.

Last summer as one of the Social Entrepreneur Corps projects in 2014, our students assisted us with the design of new strategies and marketing materials for our sales points.  Building off their great work, in the past few weeks we have welcomed three new groups of local entrepreneurs to Soluciones Comunitarias in southern Ecuador. Each of these groups are located in the canton (county) of Saraguro, the indigenous community located near Loja. We are happy to welcome Delia from Yucucapa, Juana and José from Ñamarin, and the staff of Buen Pastor, a radio station in Saraguro, to the Soluciones Comunitarias Family.

Agricultural lands in Saraguro. Photo by Sarah Webb.

Saraguro is derived from the Kichwa words “sara,” meaning corn, and “guro,” a type of caterpillar. When looking at Saraguro from afar, the corn fields along the mountainside in contrast to the black wool dress of the Saraguros appear to look like a caterpillar – or so the story goes. The Saraguros are known for their agricultural livelihoods and worship of the Sun during the four solstices throughout the year. They take pride in their agricultural lifestyles and close knit nature of the Saraguro community.

The rural communities surrounding Saraguro are in need of access to clean water, public health solutions, and community development projects. Most of the water available in the region is too dirty for consumption, requiring local families to boil or buy the water that they need. Both processes require a large investment of money – through the purchase of water, or wood for boiling – as well as time. Other families choose to use the available tap water, risking parasites and other bacteria. Through the new sales points, Soluciones Comunitarias will be able to serve new communities through the sale of our new Kispi water purification buckets, vegetable seeds, and other high impact products. Our three new sales points in Saraguro are part of a larger strategy to build ongoing relationships and community development projects in the Saraguro Canton.


The staff of Buen Pastor, a local radio station in Saraguro, stop for a quick photo after their final training with Soluciones Comunitarias. Photo by Keegan Effertz.

Soluciones Comunitarias and Buen Pastor Radio are also collaborating on a radio series regarding well-being and public health in Saraguro. Over the next few months, we have plans to host charlas (community workshops) on themes ranging from clean water to eye care. These charlas will be free and open to the general community, and Buen Pastor will also record each workshop to broadcast on the radio. We also plan to expand the themes covered in the community workshops to offer more services and opportunities to the Saraguro community.

We look forward to partnering with our new entrepreneurs both on the sales of products and other projects to promote community growth and development. ¡Bienvenidos Juana, José, Delia, y Buen Pastor!