Dutch fund creates economic opportunities through MANQ’A good food movement

Manq'a students in the kitchen

The first MANQ’A gastronomy school opened in 2015 on the outskirts of the Colombian capital Bogota with support of the Dutch government through the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO.nl). Now a second school has opened in Cali, where young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are taught culinary, hospitality, management and entrepreneurial skills.

The project, managed by ICCO Cooperation, aims to create social and economic opportunities for young people by reviving traditional cooking methods, sourcing sustainable local production and promoting healthy nutritional choices, while instilling important ethical values and tolerance towards others into the students. In addition to teaching the young people skills in client service, business management and gastronomy, Manq’a also supports the youths with their personal development.

Circle of Manq’a friends

Colombia’s gastronomic elite helps the young people access the labour market through the Circle of Manq’a friends by offering internships in their own restaurants. At present 210 students (over half of them women) have graduated and 90 percent have found work the catering business. Two new groups are due to graduate in mid-2018.

Here is what one Manq’a school student has to say: Ariana Rodrigues Luna, “I came here from the Chocó region, displaced by the armed conflict. Manq’a has given me an opportunity to show the world what I ́m capable of. I dream of opening my own restaurant and cooking the food of the Colombian pacific.”

Sustainable agriculture

The project connects rural supply with urban demand, bringing together small ecological farmers, entrepreneurs in the agro-food industry and top chefs. Products for the school and restaurant are sourced locally. In addition to their other training, Manq'a students are taught urban farming techniques, agricultural knowledge, awareness about nutrition and health and the diversity and dignity of rural areas. The schools organise regular culinary markets with local produce and their own products to rekindle pride in traditional Colombian cuisine. After decades of conflict, Manq’a also plays an important role in Colombia’s complex peace-building process, by bringing both perpetrators and victims of the violence into contact.

The schools have developed a business plan to identify future revenues for the school, as support from the Dutch government through the Netherlands Enterprise Agency ended in early 2018. The Transition Facility is closed at present. Interested? Read more about TF projects.

 

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