Sustainable Commodities: Celebrating Women Leaders

Women make up almost half the agricultural labour force in developing countries. They make significant contributons as producers of the major agro-commodities such as coffee, soy, cocoa and palm oil, which billions of people consume everyday. Even so, their work in harvesting, marketing, processing and other areas is often uncounted and remains invisibile. At the same time, worldwide, women still have fewer land rights and other opportunities for training or financial support than their males counterparts. But, the time for change is now. Globally, we are seeing an unprecedented movement for women’s rights, equality and justice. In our work in key commodity producing countries, inspiring women like those profiled below are important participants of the government led, multi-stakeholder dialouges for sustaianble commodity production that we support. They are role models, improving opportunities for other women, and championing sustainability. Read their stories. 

 

Peru’s Leading Lady of Coffee Opens-up New Opportunities for Women

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Esperanza Dionisio has been manager of the Pangoa cooperative in the Amazonian forests of Peru's mountain range for more than 20 years. Concerned about the little value placed on women’s contribution as farmers, workers, and entrepreneurs in the coffee sector, in 1997, Esperanza developed the Women’s Committee of Pangoa Cooperative (CODEMU). Read More.

Now, Esperanza has been manager of the Pangoa cooperative for more than 20 years. When she first started the cooperative was in profound crisis:  “We owed one million dollars, we had to fix the accounts of the Central Coffee Cooperatives of Peru, and of the cooperative’s hydroelectric system.” Drawing on all of her leadership and managerial skills as well as vision, Esperanza managed to keep the cooperative afloat.  Today, it is a leading exporter with organic and fair-trade certification that employs more than 700 people.  Under her leadership, the cooperative has become a developmental force for the province of Satipo in Junín.

But, the path the success was not easy.  Esperanza, like many women from the Peruvian countryside, she had to overcome many obstacles to forge a place in the world of coffee.  She remembers that when she started working as a technical assistant, the men watched her with wonder and suspicion.  “As a woman, I had to work twice as hard as a man to show that I was capable.”

Concerned about the little value placed on women’s contribution as farmers, workers, and entrepreneurs in the coffee sector, in 1997, Esperanza developed the Women’s Committee of Pangoa Cooperative (CODEMU). She was determined to promote women’s leadership, empowerment and training. Esperanza knew this was crucial in a region where the majority of women are employed in agriculture, and female farmers earn almost 50 per cent less than their male counterparts. Women also account for 75 per cent of the adult illiterate population, and own less than 25 per cent of the land.

Now, Esperanza has been manager of the Pangoa cooperative for more than 20 years. When she first started the cooperative was in profound crisis:  “We owed one million dollars, we had to fix the accounts of the Central Coffee Cooperatives of Peru, and of the cooperative’s hydroelectric system.” Drawing on all of her leadership and managerial skills as well as vision, Esperanza managed to keep the cooperative afloat.  Today, it is a leading exporter with organic and fair-trade certification that employs more than 700 people.  Under her leadership, the cooperative has become a developmental force for the province of Satipo in Junín.

But, the path the success was not easy.  Esperanza, like many women from the Peruvian countryside, she had to overcome many obstacles to forge a place in the world of coffee.  She remembers that when she started working as a technical assistant, the men watched her with wonder and suspicion.  “As a woman, I had to work twice as hard as a man to show that I was capable.”

Concerned about the little value placed on women’s contribution as farmers, workers, and entrepreneurs in the coffee sector, in 1997, Esperanza developed the Women’s Committee of Pangoa Cooperative (CODEMU). She was determined to promote women’s leadership, empowerment and training. Esperanza knew this was crucial in a region where the majority of women are employed in agriculture, and female farmers earn almost 50 per cent less than their male counterparts. Women also account for 75 per cent of the adult illiterate population, and own less than 25 per cent of the land.

Sea Lady: Championing Sustainable Fishing in Costa Rica

UNDP-GCP-Sea Lady

In Costa Rica, where fishing tourism and sport fishing generate over 60,000 direct and indirect jobs, one lively and empowered female figure stands out. With more than 28 years of experience in fishing tourism, Jeannette Pérez is truly a woman of the sea, and one of the female faces leading the fight to assure conditions for sustainability in this Central American country. Read More.

Female Leader works for more Sustainable Soy Production

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Concerned about the envionrmental impacts of soy farming, Blanca Saiki, who own a 500-hectre soy farm in Paraguay, is determined to change how this econmically vital commodity is produced in her country. As a member of the steering committee for the National Commodity Platform on beef and soy, she has been instrumental in developing an action plan for making soy production more socially and environmentally responsible. Read More.  

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