Revealing Identity in a Grain of Cacao

By Land and Rural Development Program in Colombia

Sometimes, social change comes from the most unexpected places. In Tolima, it is coming from the cacao plant. Thanks to a public-private partnership facilitated by USAID, the women from 120 families are walking down the road of equality and are empowered to use their voices. They have realized that expressing their opinions is important, and that their ideas strengthen their families and community.

What began as a training in land preparation, seeding, irrigation systems, and business management gradually became a scenario in which women learned to express themselves and seek to fill leadership roles in spaces traditionally reserved for men.

Yolanda Tapiero, a member of the farmers’ association Asoacas in the municipality of Ortega, never used to participate or speak up in association meetings. She says she was shy and embarrassed to address male colleagues in this professional setting, far from her house.

“The partnership integrated us and taught us to ask ourselves how we worked together. So we abandoned our fear of talking to others. We saw that nothing bad would happen if we expressed ourselves and spoke up. Now, in my association, I request the floor and I propose what I see and what could be useful to the association. We have a lot to say, but it’s because we don’t express ourselves that many things get loss,” Yolanda Tapiero, member of Asoacas, Ortega, Tolima.