To promote environmentally sustainable and socially equitable transportation operating a bicycle import, repair, and sales workshop.
The Salvadoran Center for Appropriate Technology (CESTA) was founded in 1980 by a group of academics to protect this Central American nation's increasingly fragile environment. CESTA broke new ground, not only because it was one of El Salvador's first NGO's and environmental advocates, but because it was created and functioned reasonably un-molested during the civil war which polarized the country and killed thousands over more than a decade. CESTA combined research and advocacy on environmental issues, with practical initiatives promoting environmentally sustainable and socially equitable development. One such initiative was the import and reconditioning of used bicycles, for distribution at low cost to low-income workers, students, farmers, and laborers for access to work and school.
CESTA continues to function as an advocate and a communicator in diverse environmental areas. Its grassroots contacts in rural communities enables it to monitor environmental crimes and "sound the alarm" at the national level, through the media and public sector agencies. Its founder and director, Ricardo Navarro, is a recipient of the Goldman Environmental Prize for CESTA's work protecting El Salvador's natural resources and the communities which depend on them. It is a member of Friends of the Earth International.
CESTA's bicycle business, known as Eco-bici, promotes the bicycle as a mode of transport for all. Over more than 20 years, it has received more than 25,000 donated bicycles from overseas. Bikes for the World began donating bikes in 2012 and has provided 970 bicycles to date.
Inside CESTA's huge bike workshop, located in San Marcos, a suburb of the capital city of San Salvador, employees and apprentices recondition donated bikes, repair bikes brought in by customers, sell bikes, teach bike maintenance and bike-building for free to at-risk urban youth. After receiving training, many of their students gain employment as bike mechanics or even establish their own bikeshops in their communities. In the past, the center also developed bicycle-powered grain milling machinery, a pilot effort that has been spun off as a private business operated by a former student.
Proceeds of the shop support CESTA's advocacy on environmental issues, and core administrative expenses.
Antonio used to work in the packing industry but became unemployed after developing a disability that prevented him from performing the heavy manual labor required for the job. Now 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 have his own shop soon. He has been selling bikes for several years and supplements sales with bike maintenance work.
Erick is a Salvadoran military verteran who lost his leg in the war and now suffers from PTSD. His disabilities have made it difficult for him to find stable work and he drifted between several jobs before finding CESTA. They provided him with the training he needed to learn all aspects of bike mechanics and now he even completes the challending task of building wheels.
Because of his new-found expertise, he was given the added responsibility of quality control and helping younger interns with more challenging repairs. Erick has found stability and acceptance at CESTA and his new role working and mentoring with the interns has become one of his favorite things about his job.