A New Bridge in El Salvador Paves the Way for Business Growth

MCC

Abel Humberto Hernández, a dairy farmer who operates My Puebla Dairy in Dolores in El Salvador's northern zone, has seen his production increase and his work force grow since the MCC-funded Northern Transnational Highway opened.

Abel Humberto Hernández is a dairy farmer whose business, My Puebla Dairy, in the northern Salvadoran municipality of Dolores, has been in his family for generations.

“Since my grandfather’s times we have made puebla cheese, as well as other types of typical Salvadoran cheeses,” said Hernández, 39, who also runs a convenience store. “We have a long tradition of making dairy products. I have about 10 years in this business and two years with the convenience store.”

My Puebla Dairy also generates income for business owners in the neighboring municipality of Nuevo Edén de San Juan, where many of the raw materials the Hernández family uses to make its products come from.

Hernández makes about nine trips a day on a stretch of the Northern Transnational Highway, an MCC-funded rehabilitated highway that includes a bridge over the wide Lempa River. Both are part of MCC’s first compact with El Salvador—a $461 million investment in education, public services, transportation infrastructure, agricultural production and rural business development.

Each of his trips on the new highway to Nuevo Edén de San Juan now takes about 10 minutes. Hernández recalls the days when the trip—despite the close proximity—used to be a difficult, risky and costly journey, because it meant crossing the river on a slow, unreliable ferry.

Hernández used to pay up to $8 for each trip over the river by ferry, a crossing always subject to weather conditions and the weight of the ferry’s load. If the level of the Lempa River was low, everyone waiting to cross had to wait longer, and the ferry only took up to a couple of small trucks at once. Hernández made as many as six crossings a day. On each side of the river, he said, the poor quality of the roads went from bad to worse, and over time, production went down.

Today, because of the highway and bridge, his bottled milk production has almost doubled from 10,000 bottles a day to 18,000, and he has hired more employees. Before the road, My Puebla Dairy had 17 dairy workers and two salespeople. Now, there are three additional employees working in production, and his sales force has doubled to four. Some travel to work from as far as 18 kilometers away, a trip that used to take hours. Now, it’s 40 minutes by bus on the new highway.

“I know that all people of this area are happy and grateful for the project,” Hernández said. “Dolores is the town that has benefited commercially, because traffic is up and more businesses are thriving.”

“The river is no longer a constraint.”

Héctor Wilfredo Díaz and his brother, Pedro Ernesto Díaz, opened a hardware and agricultural supply store called La Cabaña 15 years ago in Dolores. Business had always been limited to area residents who could reach them without crossing the Lempa River.

MCC

Pedro Ernesto Díaz, in the stocked warehouse of his hardware store in Dolores in El Salvador's northern zone.

The journey to get his products from locations in San Miguel or as far away as San Salvador took hours because suppliers would not come to him. He navigated up and down narrow, winding roads in a dizzying zigzag pattern.

But now, with construction of the Nuevo Eden de San Juan Bridge, which connects the town with Dolores, he has seen a noticeable growth in business and a drop in travel time.

“We started to feel the air of development when they began to pave streets, but this was complemented by the bridge, because the river is no longer a constraint,” he said. “We’ve seen an influx of people, new companies have appeared, product arrives faster, and suppliers are canvassing the area.”

The bridge has cut down on his travel time so significantly that he has opened new stores in Nuevo Eden de San Juan and in San Idelfonso.

“The truth is that thanks to the investment made by the Government of United States, it was achieved,” he said. “We are all aware that this was a big help, a huge help in this area.”

Beneficiaries of MCC investments routinely share stories of how their lives have changed for the better. After a compact is completed, MCC funds independent evaluations of project impact, which can be found in our evaluation catalog.