Bikes for the World

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Central America Trip: El Salvador

The Salvadoran Center for Appropriate Technology (CESTA) was founded in 1980 in El Salvador. Bikes for the World began shipping to them in 2012. Sister organization, Bikes Not Bombs has been donating bikes to support the project since 2000.

From BNB:
CESTA imports over 4,000 used bicycles into San Salvador each year, and these bicycles get refurbished in the EcoBici program that supports young people at risk of gang membership to build skills in bicycle mechanics, to gain a strong and positive community within CESTA and to access job opportunities at CESTA refurbishing the bicycles for sale. CESTA’s youth programs also build pathways for young people to access paid leadership roles within the program and organization.


CESTA's goal is to promote the empowerment of community organizations and municipalities in El Salvador to improve their quality of life in harmony with the environment. Their primary areas of work are: energy and transport, agro-ecology, community health, solid waste management, forestry, and biodiversity. The bicycle program conducted with bikes from BfW contributes to the energy and transport sector by promoting bicycle as an economical and environmentally-friendly means of transport.

The bicycles CESTA receives from BfW (and other groups such as Working Bikes, Cycle North-South, and Bikes Not Bombs) are generally sold to the public, either direct individual retail or wholesaled in small lots. A smaller number are donated to community groups to be raffled for funds, or directly benefit disadvantaged individuals. Others are retained by CESTA as a fleet for school campaigns to raise awareness about cycling and the environment, and provide healthy activities for at-risk youth.


Eco-Bici, the school repair shop, specifically provides internships in bike repair to low-income youth. The interns typically stay for 3 months to gain skills, although some who exhibit special skills or needs stay for a year or more. They receive an allowance for food and transportation and earn a small sum for each bike repaired. Some students and interns from more distant towns are lodged in CESTA's own dormitory.

Many of the interns go on to work in bike repair or open their own shops afterwards. The school repair shop also operates a showroom where the bikes are sold (usually for $20-65 depending on the type of bike). Small-scale merchants can purchase bike wholesale either in "as-is" condition, or after Eco-Bici mechanics make repairs. These small bike shop owners then re-sell the bikes in their communities and continue to repair the bikes as needed.


Antonio buys bikes from CESTA and repairs them himself. He currently sells the refurbished bikes in front of a friend's store but hopes to soon have his own bike shop. Antonio sells the bikes he repairs for $50 each and lives solely off the money he makes on these sales. After repairs Antonio makes $10-15 off each bike he sells.

Antonio used to work in the packing industry but was unable to maintain that position after developing a disability that prevented him from the manual labor required in his previous job. Antonio has been selling bikes for the last three years. When he starts his own shop he will supplement his income with bike repairs.


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