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Manq'a: changing the world through gastronomy


In Bolivia, 40% of the population is between 10 and 30 years old, which means there is great potential for economic growth and development. However, as unemployment rates in Bolivia reach 8%, the percentage of young people not having access to fair, stable and paid work is almost double this, at 15%. Most of the youth who are employed face a number of challenges including poor working conditions, lack of benefits and job stability, labour exploitation, and discrimination in the workplace as well as remuneration below the national minimum wage.

Manq’a: a scalable social and business model

In the last four years, ICCO Cooperation has been developing a training programme for schools called Manq'a (meaning “food” in the local Aymara language) aimed at generating employment opportunities through food for young, low-income Bolivians. 

Manq'a is part of the Youth Entrepreneurship Program (YEP) in Latin America and the Caribbean, Youth Business International's regional programme aimed at helping underserved young people across 11 countries to start, grow and sustain a business.

Manq’a sees in gastronomy an opportunity for development of both rural and urban economies; a place where consumers and producers can connect through local cuisines that represent not only the food culture but also the richness of biodiversity. Gastronomy also represents an opportunity to develop and empower groups of people at risk – such as youth, women, indigenous and rural people – as it can bring in income and contribute to the improvement of their diets.

Through food, Manq’a is tackling social and economic injustice by creating a movement of cooking schools that train unemployed young people to become chefs. The Manq'a schools specialise in cooking with locally-produced, organic ingredients, which boosts the market demand for local farm products, as well as promoting healthy and sustainable food consumption.

Manq’a works with three of the most important groups in the culinary chain:

  • Chefs: who learn local food knowledge and techniques, thus strengthening their cultural identity. Through technical training, chefs (mainly disadvantaged young people) can increase their income, be employed or create their own business
  • Local producers: who supply these training schools with healthy and eco-friendly produce which in turn boosts their incomes
  • Consumers: who are interested in eating healthier, more affordable foods made by these young people

Manq'a: a sustainable model

For a social and business model to be successful in terms of results and impact, it is increasingly essential that it be innovative and sustainable. Radical changes, such as the use of new technology in business models, may lead to the reconsideration of relationships with customers, suppliers and key partners and the redefinition of products, services and processes from new perspectives. This in turn leads to an increase in sustainability.  

Started in El Alto, Bolivia’s second-largest city, Manq’a is a responsible movement producing social, environmental, cultural and economic sustainability:

  • It’s socially sustainable through the generation of partnerships with key actors that support and promote its presence in their community. Through partnerships with government institutions, the training model can be established and replicated in state schools. At the same time, partnerships with the private sector create work spaces committed to strengthening skills and providing support for entrepreneurs
  • It’s environmentally and culturally sustainable because it utilises local organic produce and tries to revive ancestral techniques and best practices for food preparation and customs such as AYNI (the act of Aymara reciprocity and community complementarity)
  • To be economically sustainable, Manq’a focuses on three main business models: restaurants, catering and culinary tourism. The schools implement these models as part of their ‘learning-by-doing’ training process, opening up opportunities to set up commercial services that meet consumer demands

By using this framework, Manq’a seeks to become a social franchise with the ability to sell its educational and commercial business models. In turn, the profits will be reinvested to support young people who lack opportunities.

Manq’a believes its social franchise model will generate community benefits through its proven, replicable operating models and will contribute to tackling social needs such as unemployment, lack of education and lack of food. It will also enable Manq’a to access additional sources of financing, and lead to the development of new, quality products and services, which generate income for all those involved.

Finally, Manq’a plans to create micro-franchises for young entrepreneurs working in food services, offering specialised technical assistance and support, and a brand that serves as a mark of quality assurance. Each business must also work towards a social goal, such as providing jobs for other disadvantaged young people or graduates from the same Manq’a schools.

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