Farming Hope | Sembrando Esperanza

Farming Hope | Sembrando Esperanza: Homeless women and men growing self-sufficiency and healthy food in El Salvador

San Salvador , El SalvadorSan Salvador , El Salvador
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
Project Stage:
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Farming Hope is a social project based on a virtuous cycle -- homeless individuals work in a agricultural vocational therapy program, growing opportunity for themselves and good food for others in area homeless shelters. We work to produce sustainable cycles, for individuals and institutions.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if we could empower homeless men and women, and the shelters that serve them, to be self-sufficient?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

In the streets of El Salvador, hundreds of men and women sleep on cardboard on cracked sidewalks. Every day, many shuffle into comedors and shelters for food. What they've asked for is opportunity, work, hope. Real transition, and real sustainable solutions for shelters and soup kitchens' budgets, requires a new look at how we can empower people to their fullest potential, by producing for themselves and for others.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Farming Hope is a social, sustainable and reproducible project based on the premise that all human beings have potential. We work with homeless individuals in El Salvador, providing work, food, training, housing, social services, counseling, and daily structure, with the end goal of empowering individuals to their true potential. In short – vocational therapy through farming. So far, we have had four Hope Farmers "graduate" from our program - Alvaro is now a farm manager; Juan is now a fully-employed AA counselor serving others; Alvaro just graduated from medical school in Cuba; and Angel is working to start his own farm.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Ángel is the most recent graduate of Farming Hope. He is Guatemalan, and last year found himself living on the streets in El Salvador. He slept on cardboard on the broken concrete sidewalk with scores of other homeless men and women. We invited Ángel to live and work on a farm near Suchitoto, El Salvador, for six months, learning to grow food and provide for himself and others. He recently returned to Guatemala and is working to start his own farm. With structure and hope, he has been able to transform his own life.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

With a budget under $5,000, this model has helped four individuals transform their lives, and produced enough corn, beans and basic food staples to feed approximately 60 daily visitors at Casa Esperanza homeless shelter for half a year, each year. Of these four farmers - Alvaro is now a farm manager; Juan is now a fully-employed AA counselor serving others; Alvaro just graduated from medical school in Cuba; and Angel is working to start his own farm.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

This program was in part inspired by similar models at Riverview Gardens in Appleton, Wisconsin, and other transitional programs focusing on agriculture and homeless populations. We hope other shelters and homeless advocacy organizations hear the story of our cycle in action and are inspired to similarly search for innovative solutions to the needs of the homeless. We hope Farming Hope grows as an organization to help spread such innovative models of investing communities to work together to meet basic needs, as have organizations like Habitat for Humanity or Techo para mi País.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Our plan is to meet our budget for seed money to get the farm running, then cover costs for individual participants and growth through sales of agricultural products. Part of the food we grow, staples like corn, beans, tomatoes, will be kept to consume at associated shelters. The other part of the crops will be higher end products, like cacao, culinary herbs and hibiscus to make wine, soup and other products to sell to fund expenses and growth.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

We are not aware of many other organizations working to build sustainable cycles in the space between agriculture and alleviating homelessness. Internationally speaking, one of the most successful organizations doing similar, though different work, is Riverview Gardens in Appleton, Wisconsin -- a wide open agricultural space that hosts a ServiceWorks program helping people gain valuable job and life skills by working 90 hours on the farm. In El Salvador, there is little work being done to help with transitions from living on the streets to self-sustaining, largely due to lack of resources.

Founding Story

Sitting in a Mister Donut in sunny San Salvador, the three founders, two Salvadorans and one American, marveled at the homegrown solution to various needs at Casa Esperanza - individuals who wanted to, had long been invited to grow food for the shelter and focus on their own goals. We've seen similar projects in Wisconsin and abroad. Why not replicate the model and scale it up to change more lives? After all, among all our basic human needs, are hope and opportunity to support ourselves. We began to work to create such systems on a small scale with those living at the bottom of poverty on the streets of San Salvador.


Our team and partners include three co-founders, Mauricio working on communication and personnel; Carlos on Marketing and business; Jamie focusing on development and partnerships; as well as the invaluable Maria Trinidad directing the first farm. We have collaborators across the world with specific jobs include website management, newsletter coordination, social work and legal questions.
About You
Salvadoran Lutheran Synod
About You
First Name


Last Name


About Your Project
Organization Name

Salvadoran Lutheran Synod

How long has your organization been operating?

Organization Country

, SS

Country where this project is creating social impact

, San Salvador

Funding: How is your project financial supported?

Friends and family, Individuals, Foundations, NGOs, Other.

Awards: What awards or honors has the project received?
Where have you learnt about the competition?

We learned about the competition from Georgina Aldana Santana, the Director of Communication for Ashoka México y Centroamérica.

Tell us about your partnerships:

We are partnered with Casa Esperanza homeless shelter San Salvador, where the first five Hope Farmers came from; and a farm in Cuscatlan where we grow. We are nearly official on partnerships with the Social Work School at the National University of El Salvador; Permacultura, a international organic agriculture NGO, center and cooperative; and Rotary International clubs in both El Salvador and the United States.

Challenges: What challenges might hinder the success of your project and how do you plan to overcome them?

Our greatest challenges here in El Salvador are 1) Ensuring transition to self-sustainability for Hope Farmers & 2) Finding land to grow in the future. Firstly, the transition of an individual from homelessness to sustaining oneself and serving others is difficult and requires much support. Such a challenge makes the work that much more valuable. Secondly, our long term model includes obtaining a large farm for vocational therapy as a base, in addition to partnering with existing farms. Land is a premium in small El Salvador, and finding sizeable, farmable land in safe area can be a challenge.