Business & Economy

Spanish-backed farm program empowering Honduran indigenous women

By German Reyes

Intibuca, Honduras, Jun 13 (EFE).- A group of Lenca indigenous women in southwestern Honduras have begun harvesting their first organic potato crop under a project coordinated by Oxfam and backed by the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID).

“This is our first experience growing organic potatoes. We’re having good results despite this being an initial experiment,” Mercedes Garcia, coordinator of the grassroots Nuevo Amanecer (New Dawn) project in San Pedro de Salimania, a village in the southwestern Honduran department of Intibuca, told Efe.

Garcia’s group is one of 36 that make up Amir, an association that receives assistance from the AECID in helping Lenca women operate different economic ventures, particularly the farming of fruits, vegetables and basic grains that are later sold either locally or at a green market.

In San Pedro de Salimania, situated just a few kilometers from the town of Intibuca, the AECID’s support has been essential in enabling these Lenca women to acquire fertile land to grow crops and another property for a general store, as well as the resources needed for a warehouse to store harvested agricultural goods and further boost their sales.

Amir comprises around 650 indigenous women from 36 community groups who have received human rights education and training on farming techniques.

“We have this parcel to put into practice the techniques we learned in our rural school,” Garcia, accompanied by a group of other men and women farmers, said while they carried out their initial harvest of organic potatoes

She said organic agriculture is sustainable and that the investment commitment is lower than when chemicals are used.

The woman also noted that seeds that have always been imported from the Netherlands, Canada and the United States will now be obtained from smaller potatoes that are not sold.

“From the first (harvest) we’re going to sell the biggest ones, and we’re going to leave the (small ones) for seeds,” Garcia added.

The participation of women in community groups also is helping to transform Lenca homes, most of which are located in the southwestern departments of Intibuca, Lempira and La Paz and many of which are plagued by male chauvinism and violence.

These indigenous women used to need their husbands’ permission to leave their homes, but that has been changing as they have become more organized, said Amir President Modesta Sanchez, who also pointed to the importance of the AECID’s support.

“We’ve succeeded in developing ourselves and valuing one another … I now feel empowered because I can decide my things, I sow (my crops), I sell and I have my little bit of income and that’s helped me a lot,” Sanchez added.

Maria Cecilia Martinez, one of 15 female members of Nuevo Amanecer, said that before becoming organized she and the other women were confined to their homes and lacked work opportunities and a means of improving their living conditions.

But by joining small community groups and then Amir they discovered “new work possibilities” and saw they could work the land as well as men and help provide for their families, she added. EFE


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