Maria says becoming a farm leader is one of the best thing that has happened to her.
Fourteen years ago, Maria Granados and her family fled their home in Bellavista, Colombia, fearing the rebels who had taken over their town during the country’s civil war. The rebels had demanded money, which Maria paid for two months. Finally, they had nothing left to give. Even their money for groceries was gone. That’s when they left.
"At that time we lived in a small house that another farmer rented to us. We grabbed our clothes and went to Medellin with our two children to my husband's sister. We sold obleas (wafers with caramel) and I cleaned houses," she recalled.
They returned eight months later when it was safer. They began to slowly rebuild their lives. Thankfully, they did not have to start over completely. They reclaimed the few possessions they had left behind, and moved back onto their small plot of farmland.
Still, they had next to nothing. That's when they decided to become coffee collectors to earn enough money to build up their own coffee farm.
Coffee collectors are vital to Colombia's multi-billion dollar coffee industry. They harvest all of the beans by hand, often working all day in hilly terrain. It's back-breaking work that runs for three to four months and typically pays approximately 20 cents per kilo.
Maria didn't stop there, however. She jumped at every opportunity to receive training in specialty coffees, food security and related topics, establishing herself as a community leader.
Today, she is a Líder Productora, a farm leader trained by Grameen Foundation to help coffee farmers earn more from their produce. Maria and other farm leaders recently helped members of a large coffee cooperative in Antioquia create farm management plans that will guide their farm investments. The project with Cooperativa de Café de los Andes (Andes) will also provide training and help co-op members raise their productivity and crop quality--and ultimately earn the certifications that will ensure better prices and higher incomes.
Maria is already seeing the benefits.
"It is helping farmers to increase their knowledge of the crop and how to improve in their farms. They would like to have more trainings to learn more and apply things in their farms. They feel the project is helping them to be organized, to see their farm as a business and that could help them improve,” she noted.
She also marvels at how much has changed for her.
"I didn't know anything about technology. When I was in the trainings with Grameen Foundation staff I thought, 'That seems very hard, I don't know if I'm going to be capable of managing it.’ But I also told myself, 'You can do it,' and now it seems easy for me. Also having an extra income which I can use to live is great. Now I don't have to go and clean someone's bathroom. To me, this is a job and I feel very proud of it."
With your support, we can help more women farmers like Maria. From now until December 31, every dollar you give to Grameen Foundation will be doubled up to $275,000, thanks to Jane Pauley and the Grameen Foundation Board of Directors.