Overcoming the Covid-19 crisis in Latin America – How projects have adapted to meet challenges during the pandemic

Upskilling and reskilling, Labour market insertion
11.03.2021
Innovative solutions are essential to meet the challenges during the Covid-19 crisis. Three examples from Latin America show how the projects Swisscontact implements have adapted to the new circumstances and demonstrated resilience in the face of the pandemic. In El Salvador, complementary carpentry training for returning migrants is being adapted to the new market conditions. Master builders in Peru are developing digital skills in order to improve safety during construction projects. In Bolivia, mechanical engineers designed and developed a respiratory assistance device for families in rural parts of the country.

Salvadoran migrants returning from the US receive additional training as coffin makers

A programme implemented by Swisscontact in El Salvador has adapted to the needs of its beneficiaries, offering them complementary carpentry training for the manufacturing of coffins.

Since 2016, Swisscontact and the Salvadoran Institute for Professional Training INSAFORP have been implementing the ‘New Opportunities’ project, which seeks to reintegrate migrants returning to El Salvador into the job market. Returnees are supported with the creation of their businesses or with the certification of their skills acquired abroad.  

Within the context of the pandemic, the project was adapted to new areas of complementary training for beneficiaries who had already been certified. The training specifically consists of teaching returnees carpentry skills for coffin making. Some returning migrants have never made a coffin before, but they are grateful to take this 50-hour supplementary training course and turn it into a job opportunity. 

A Bolivian technological innovation to benefit the rural population

In rural areas of Bolivia, any complications from traffic accidents or respiratory infections such as Covid-19 are still treated via manual respiratory assistance. With the support of Swisscontact, Bolivian engineers developed a technological solution for respiratory assistance that is now available in more than 70 rural health centres. This initiative thus reaches rural families often excluded from this type of innovation.

The respiratory assistance device called MAMBU (Mechatronic Ambulatory Breath Unit)
Health personnel of the San Juan de Dios Hospital in Challapata, Oruro, during a training session in the use of MAMBU.

As part of Swisscontact’s long-term engagement in Bolivia, the Inclusive Markets project (Mercados Inclusivos) has formed alliances with universities, private companies, and public actors. Through the Inclusive Markets project of the Swiss and Swedish Development Cooperation implemented by Swisscontact in Bolivia, engineers from the Mechatronics Engineering programme of the Bolivian Catholic University developed a respiratory assistance device called MAMBU (Mechatronic Ambulatory Breath Unit).

Some of the main actors of this success story share their experiences and explain what collaborative, alliance-based, systemic, and intersectoral work can achieve.

The Inclusive Markets project is financed by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation SDC and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency Sida and implemented by Swisscontact.

Virtual classes for master builders – when limitations become learning opportunities

Measures to contain the spread of Covid-19 in Peru strongly limited the work and further learning opportunities for construction workers. Adapting to the circumstances, Swisscontact conducted blended learning workshops for master builders, combining both virtual and on-site training on safe construction.

Edwin, Francisco and Martin are three of the independent master builders that attended online lessons complemented by on-site training under safety protocols. With this type of blended learning, limitations inevitably become learning opportunities. Despite the limitations posed by the pandemic and the difficulties faced when learning how to use virtual platforms, these master builders demonstrated that new things can be learnt even under difficult circumstances. To learn, you have to “roll up your sleeves” to overcome the challenges that might arise in the process. They studied prepared course materials online in addition to participating in sessions in which they engaged with instructors in real-time. Specifically, the learners acquired knowledge of frequently occurring bad construction practices which they can now identify and prevent in daily work situations.

Although Martín had never taken online classes before, the topic of safe construction made him want to develop new digital skills. This allowed him to acquire knowledge that he can apply to build safer homes for his clients:

Martín Hernández, Master Builder

“I am a member of the training programme that has been carried out in person and virtually. I am very pleased and happy (…) I have learned a lot about construction processes, soil identification, footers, steel construction, and so on. It is very important to build well because then we can guarantee that the constructions we make are so strong that they won’t be damaged by seismic movements.” 

The Construya Peru project is part of Swisscontact’s development programme, which is co-financed by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), and is financed by the Hilti Foundation. In cooperation with local sector associations, the aim of the project is to provide relevant services to improve safe construction in Peru; this is to contribute to better quality of life for people living in seismologically vulnerable urban areas of the country.

Its objective is to improve the quality of life of people living in vulnerable urban areas of Peru through a set of integrated services that –together with the participation of local actors in the sector– promote safe construction.