Baking Bread—and Earning it Too!
The earliest evidence of baking comes in the form of refined wheat and barley from about 23,000 years ago. Today, a bakery in every community is the norm in the United States. However, such is not the case in the rural areas around Pitayó, Colombia, situated in an Andean valley near the Ecuadorean border. There, baking is done individually or not at all, since a visit to the nearest bakery involves quite a trek.
Through support from Citi Foundation, ProLiteracy and partner organization Fundación Juan Tama have found a way to help make baked goods more readily available, increasing literacy skills along the way.
Called Rincón del Sabor (Taste Corner), this bakery cooperative gives each member a 1 percent return on earnings in exchange for a one-time $100,000COL (roughly $50 US) investment. The members then act as door-to-door salespeople, taking baskets of bread to sell in rural communities.
Members also participate in cleaning the bakery and can earn the privilege of using the bakery’s refrigerator to store their own perishable food items—a considerable opportunity in a place where the cost of a refrigerator can often be more than the average annual salary.
“The bakery cooperative cuts out costs of distribution and transportation and provides rural community members daily with fresh bread,” says Alesha Anderson, international programs coordinator at ProLiteracy, who visited Pitayó in January 2011. “The 12 co-op members have just started breaking even. Part of the membership includes literacy classes in their native language, Nasa Yuwe, so the members become better equipped to understand their accounts. None of the members has an educational level above fourth grade.”
The relative success of the co-op has inspired members to think entrepreneurially. They are considering an expansion of the bakery into a café with a few tables and chairs. They’re also starting to learn how to make pastries and cakes.
“Rincón del Sabor provides income for people in the community,” says Anderson. “It also emphasizes team
work. Members quickly see how important working together is for the success of the business as well as for their community.”
One of the head bread makers of Rincón del Sabor holds a batch of rolls.
The co-op members’ special way of inaugurating the bakery is burning the first batch.