As in many other countries, poverty in Ecuador is greatest in rural areas. In the province of Chimborazo, Canton Cumanda, 90.09% of the rural population is poor.
These high levels of poverty bear hardest upon women. This is the case of the small cooperative, Biocaña, formed by 14 local women. Families survive on small crops and farm animals.
Without access to basic services and training to enable them to change their future, these women saw sugar cane as a way to build a new life. However, whenever they approached buyers, they were pressured to sell their produce at low prices.
Women receive 79.1% less income than men
Nevertheless, the “Biocaña” cooperative has become a means to break the chains of discrimination against women farmers. 14 women direct and contribute their own harvests of sugarcane in addition to buying cane from other community farmers.
They themselves treat the sugar cane and perform the entire process of producing natural panela, with organic certification that enables them to brand and market their product beyond the local buyers. At CODESPA, we assist in this project with the objective that they comply with all the sanitary and packaging requirements so that they can sell organic panela on provincial and national markets.
To that end, we have helped them create a brand that can appeal to the market. Our goal is that they can reach beyond local intermediaries and diversify buyers, achieve better prices through a stronger market position, and acquire better-negotiating skills. This process is strengthening these women by giving them a voice and bargaining power so that they cannot be taken advantage of.
Their dream is ambitious, but they are dedicated to changing their situation. They want to increase their production, they want their brand to become known, and eventually go beyond the borders of Ecuador.