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, a cooperative formed by 14 local women. Families survive on small crops and raising farm animals.
Without access to basic services and training to enable them to change their future, these women saw in sugar cane a way to build a new life. However, whenever they approached buyers, the local buyers took advantage of them of their poverty and pressured them to sell at low prices.
Women receive 79.1% less income than men
Nevertheless, the “Biocaña” cooperative has become 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 farmers of the community.
They themselves treat it 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 are helping them in this process. The objective is that they comply with all the sanitary and packaging requirements to access formal markets so that they can sell organic panela on provincial and national markets.
To that end, we have helped them to create a brand, which they can now start to 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, 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 even go beyond the borders of Ecuador.