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Ecuador: In search of a new future after the earthquake

An ILO project has been helping rebuild and strengthen livelihoods in the wake of the massive earthquake that hit Ecuador in April 2016.

Feature | 04 January 2018
© UNICEF/ECU/2016/Reinoso
CALCETA, Ecuador (ILO News) – After a massive earthquake hit Ecuador in April 2016, Jesús Oñate and his wife Mónica Monserrate had no idea how they would pick up the pieces. The disaster, which claimed hundreds of lives and many more livelihoods, hit particularly hard in their home town of Calceta, destroying many of their machines and tools.

Oñate, 45, is an artist who works with wood – in 2015, just before Pope Francis visited Ecuador, he produced a portrait of the pontiff with four thousand delicately assembled pieces of wood.

"The earthquake affected us both materially and emotionally,” says Jesus.

At first, he had no idea how to restart his art business, but he says the ILO’s Start and Improve Your Business (SIYB) gave him the encouragement and the knowledge he needed to get back on his feet. "The Programme gave me a series of tools to move forward,” he says, adding, with a smile: “it was even good for my soul.” He says he learned strategies to better market his work, to maximize his earnings and to manage his money.

Monseratte, for her part, said that after the earthquake she felt she should do more to support her family, and also registered for a SIYB course. “One of the tools within the programme was to identify what kind of business was needed in the neighborhood, especially after the catastrophe,” she says, adding that she eventually came up with the idea of setting up a small grocery store. “We realized that the people in the neighborhood had to go to the town center to shop for their daily needs, so this business could work well.”

Thanks to Generate Your Business Idea (GYB) – a component of the SIYB – she was able to open her own store. "The business is going very well – when you provide good service, the clients return," says Monseratte. She plans to get a larger store, with a greater variety of products in 2018.

Since the earthquake, the ILO has been working with the Ministry of Labor and the Ministry of Industry and Productivity of Ecuador, to help achieve an inclusive and sustainable recovery in affected areas, says John Bliek, an ILO Specialist in Businesses, Cooperatives and Rural Development.

Using the SIYB methodology – which has been implemented in more than 100 countries – the project promotes entrepreneurship and seeks to increase the viability of micro, small and medium enterprises with management principles appropriate to the context of developing countries. It also includes a training package designed to help local stakeholders initiate and implement economic development strategies in a given territory.

“In this project of economic recovery, we also worked on strengthening the labour demand system, identifying specific needs for occupations, as well as the analysis of value chains to support tourism development in the areas affected by the earthquake,” says Bliek.

The Ecuador project has directly helped more than 1,000 men and women in Ecuador create and develop business ideas, and is expected to have a much wider impact in the region by promoting economic recovery in the productive sector.