Women Explore Crop Diversification, Incomes Rise
The incorporation of women into productive and commercial activities is an essential part of ACCESS to Production and Nutrition’s implementation approach. The ability of women to participate in income-generating activities is often the difference in moving a family out of poverty. The project designs activities that eliminate barriers and obstacles that have historically prevented women’s participation in economic activities, particularly scheduling trainings at times and locations convenient for women.
Maria Mercedes Lorenzo, an inhabitant of El Membrillo, Intibucá, is a mother. For many years she’s dedicated any extra time she had to grow small volumes of lettuce and onion for home consumption. Her tireless efforts yielded little, if any, extra income for the family.
But starting in 2014, Mercedes began working with technicians from USAID-ACCESO, who were providing training geared toward women in best practices for onion, leafy green, carrot, and fruit production, particularly with regard to using a drip irrigation system installed by the project.
After ACCESO ended in 2015, Mercedes was one of eight women from her town that continued on as a client under ACCESS to Production and Nutrition. She continues to attend regular trainings in producing, processing, and value addition.
Prior to this technical assistance and training, Mercedes had never obtained yields over 2,000 pounds of lettuce on her 0.04 hectare plot. By May 2016, she had harvested 4,500 pounds on that same plot. She also started planting a new high-value crop, cabbage, on 0.06 hectares, and improved her onion crop’s productivity, earning her an additional $1,660 in new income.
“My challenges before were lack of knowledge. I didn’t know how to improve my yields or stop the crops from getting diseased,” she said. “But now I understand and I am ready to learn more.”
Seeing all of these improvements, Mercedes has decided to further invest in agriculture by expanding into fodder production for her dairy cows with the hopes of improving their milk production for sale to local markets. She is also working with processing specialists to make and market milk-based products such as quesillo.
By targeting trainings and activities specifically to women, the program is empowering a new group of female leaders like Mercedes that can serve a community role models of sustainable development that reduces poverty and malnutrition.