“We have to believe in ourselves, have goals and achieve them.”

a woman standing among a forest landscape

USAID promotes the participation of women in agricultural production in Montes de María.

Luz Mery Valdez is an iconic woman, who is defying gender stereotypes through her work as a cassava and yam farmer in the Montes de María region of Colombia. She works with the Association of United Women of San Isidro (AMUSI) in the municipality of El Carmen de Bolívar.

USAID, through its Land for Prosperity Activity, is supporting the departments of Bolívar and Sucre in the Montes de María with land tenure programming and rural development initiatives. The Activity established a series of Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) in the sesame, honey, yam and cassava value chains to shore up investments in agribusiness, improve yields, and bring more women into the value chain. So far, almost 400 rural women have benefited from the PPPs.

How has your experience growing cassava and yam been, since you joined the Public-Private Partnership?

LM: My experience has been great, as we have been able to regain the recognition that women can also participate in agriculture activities, which is something that had been lost.

What was the reaction of the men around you, when you joined this agribusiness?

LM: At the beginning when we started growing yam, the men found it unusual. To see women growing yam and cassava in the countryside is just not very common in our region. Then we started to get more involved in all of the process, to learn more about the business. We are reclaiming a space for women that we deserve.

What have been the most visible changes since women have participated in farming activities?

LM: The vision that women have today is very different to the one we had a few years ago. Now we think about agriculture production, about generating income for our families, and about strengthening our cultural bonds as women.

How do the men of your community see you now?

LM: Men see us in a different way, I think, at least when it comes to our farmers association, the Association of United Women of San Isidro, which sees itself as a women’s association that strives to increase income for its members. Thanks to USAID programs, we can achieve this, specializing in the production of cassava and yam.

What would you say to other women?

LM: I would tell them that they have to believe, believe in themselves, have goals, and achieve them. It was not easy when we started, because women see things from a different point of view than men. It may be difficult to participate in farming, but it is not impossible. What we have to do is believe and have goals with objectives so we can achieve them.

“To rural women I would say that it might be difficult but not impossible. Every day you have to get up thinking that you can do it, to move forward.”

Luz Mery Valdez, cassava and yam producer.

Cross-posted from USAID Exposure


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