Most community members in El Cantón work in agriculture growing corn and beans on their own land. Unfortunately most El Cantón community members cannot grow coffee on their own land, but do have the option to work seasonally as employees for coffee land owners. The food grown in this community is primarily grown for sustenance; when there is surplus the crops are sold. Prior to the creation of the community bank, community members could not access formal financial institutions. Loans were inaccessible due to distance and cost. The request for loans are generally not approved because community members do not have a fixed income. The income earned in El Cantón is seasonal and dependent on their harvest. Inability to access loans made it difficult for community members to start businesses, pay for medication, and afford school supplies.
Today, the community has access to a thriving community bank, Nueva Esperanza, that provides emergency, agriculture, business, and education loans. One of the cornerstones for the success of future projects is the sustainable nature of a community bank of which 100% of profits stay in the community. The process enables the funding of more loans for more projects allowing for capitalization and development of El Cantón. A bakery created by six women, is now one of the most prosperous businesses in El Canton. Currently the microenterprise works with two ovens where they bake sweet bread, banana bread, vanilla bread, cookies, pizzas, and pineapple pies. During the coffee harvest they produce over 1,000 pastries daily. With the help of GB volunteers, the bakery has been able to expand their delivery system. Today, they deliver bread to 9 surrounding community by motorcycle. Additionally, volunteers have assisted in developing a business plan; sharing best practices; creating effective processes and marketing/branding for the bakery. El Cantón Bakery has provided job opportunities for bakers (beginners welcomed), drivers, adminstrators and sellers. The bakery buys goods such as pineapples and eggs from community members. The women, in some cases, have been the primary providers for their families when the harvest failed. Recognizing the bakery’s success and the impact that it has had on the lives of its owners, many other community members strive to open new businesses and microenterprises.
The El Cantón Bakery currently has the following goals: