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Cooperative of indigenous women in Guatemala reaches international markets

Women pack green beans for export in the facilities of the Mujeres Cuatro Pinos cooperative in Sacatepéquez, Guatemala. ©IFAD/Fausto Veliz

In Guatemala, a cooperative of indigenous women is now exporting goods to international markets with the support of an IFAD grant. By offering a broad range of social and economic services that encourage women’s empowerment, the cooperative has also helped 70 per cent of its members escape poverty over the past three years. Now its successes are spreading across the region.

Since it was created in 2006, the Mujeres Cuatro Pinos cooperative has promoted a comprehensive model of rural development and women’s empowerment. In addition to providing access to credit, technology, inputs and markets, the cooperative also offers health services, training, day care for children and an accelerated elementary school programme – with scholarships – where members or their families can finish their schooling. For the Kaqchiquel women who make up the cooperative, these services enable them to pursue life-changing opportunities.

In addition to the social services, the cooperative also enables members to boost their productivity and incomes. Thanks to its Exporter Code, Mujeres Cuatro Pinos is the first women’s cooperative in Guatemala to export products directly to markets in the United States and Europe. To take full advantage of this opportunity, the cooperative’s members have started growing high-demand, high-value crops such as baby carrots, sweet peas, Chinese peas and string beans.

IFAD’s grant has enabled the cooperative to grow significantly. Between 2011 and 2016, the sales figures of Mujeres Cuatro Pinos increased by 450 per cent to US$3.6 million. Now employing 450 women – including 130 young women – the cooperative has the capacity to produce nearly 150,000 kilograms of vegetables each month. These results helped the grant-funded programme earn the IFAD Grant Award for Impact on Poverty Reduction.

As the cooperative prospers, it is also creating opportunities for other women in the region. Mujeres Cuatro Pinos is extending its coverage to include women’s groups in new geographic areas as suppliers. These partnerships entail the transfer of training and knowledge among women from different communities, especially about how to implement good agricultural and manufacturing practices. The cooperative currently works with over 50 suppliers, and it plans to keep growing in order to take advantage of the demands of international markets.

To support its continued growth, the IFAD-funded grant helped Mujeres Cuatro Pinos finance a Training and Knowledge Management Centre to promote regional exchange of knowledge and best practices. The centre will enable other groups of women producers in the region to learn from the cooperative’s model and empower them to replicate the activities in their own lives.

 

This story is from the IFAD Annual Report 2017.