While the majority of the coffee farmers in the San Miguel Escobar cooperative are men, they don't represent the whole group. In this cooperative, there are currently three women farmers: Marta, Lesbia and Virgilia.
Recently, three representatives from BFB Foundation (http://www.bfbfoundation.org/) came by to spend some time with these three women. BFB's mission is "dedicated to elevating women and the communities in which they live." They work with a variety of educational organizations in Guatemala, and have been very eager to work with De la Gente. Recently, they supported the training of many women in San Miguel Escobar in proper food sanitation, hygiene and preparation. They are now expanding their work with De la Gente by assisting these three women farmers in buying additional land for farming.
Christine, Pilar and Caroline from BFB, joined by Lottie from De la Gente, met with Marta first. Meeting in the home of her father, Filiberto - one of the founding members of the San Miguel cooperative, Marta told the women that after five years of owning one cuerda of land (approximately 1/3 acre), this is the first year her coffee is in production because it takes that long for the plants to mature and give fruit. Now she's eager to do more, and is on the hunt for additional land.
One of the incredible things that Marta shared is that she was able to pay off the loan for her original cuerda of land after only three years, where most coffee farmers use the full five they're granted. How did she do this without even being in full production? Through the sale of the hand-woven aprons she makes. Just as important, this entrepreneurial spirit has allowed her to keep her nine-year-old son and seven-year-old daughter in school in their town of San Pedro Las Huertas. Marta herself has even gone back to school, completing a literacy program for parents and is excited to do more, so that she can help her kids even more.
Marta looks at landowning as a way to make a better life for her children, and a gateway to success for all of them. She and her husband moved out of the family home in the last year, and are adjusting to life on their own, without the support network of her ten siblings, parents and other family members.
The women of BFB were amazed and inspired by the work Marta has done to better her life and her family's, and are excited for her to find land to buy and expand her successes.
De la Gente is thankful to the BFB Foundation for their support of our women farmers, and we are eager to see their land - and our work together - grow in the future.
Check back in next week to read part two, as we visit with two additional women farmers in our cooperative.