Celebrate International Women’s Day with Shared Interest.
On the global day celebrating the achievements of women, female farmers and artisans describe how UK investors are creating a future for their family and community.
Based in Newcastle upon Tyne, Shared Interest is an ethical investment co-operative providing finance to farmers and handcraft organisations around the world. Last year, Shared Interest supported over 160 producer groups, helping almost 375,000 individuals in 60 countries, 30% of whom were women.
This International Women’s Day Shared Interest has invited female farmers and artisans to describe how investors in the UK are creating a better future for their family and community.
Efigenia is a Bolivian farmer in the Andes. She is a member of Zumaj Camana, an association of female quinoa growers whose name means “to live well” in the ancient Aymara language of the Andes mountains. Efigenia is dedicated to the wellbeing of a community that has been growing quinoa in the polar desert of the Altiplano for countless generations.
This means that since the age of 10, Efigenia has been sowing quinoa with her family, in order to support them and their community.
She says: “I am single because I am the eldest daughter and I always have wanted to represent the people and my family. I used to sow quinoa by hand with my grandfather. My grandfather left us this place and I preserve it.”
Shared Interest investors in the UK help the organisation to provide finance to quinoa buyer Andean Naturals so that they are able to help farmers like Efigenia to create a better life for their families. She dreams of a day when they will enjoy running water and electricity: “To all those who help our efforts, I say on behalf of all of us, thank you from my heart.”
Traditionally a ‘man’s crop’, Bukonzo is one of the few coffee co-operatives in Africa which is managed by women. Farmers are continuing to embrace organic methods, growing coffee under trees, and using goat manure instead of artificial fertilisers, which also helps to conserve the soil in this hilly and erosion-prone area.
They have also encouraged members to co-own the coffee farms with their children, allowing the farms to be passed down through generations to maintain the coffee farming culture.
Kabugho Josinta, General Manager, said: “The loan from Shared Interest has allowed us to double our coffee sales and pay the farmers on time. With the increased income from coffee sales, the farmers have been able to educate their children.”
With organic production being labour intensive, the farmers found they were not getting the best price compared to conventional coffee. By tapping into the Fairtrade market, Bukonzo has been able to overcome this problem, while also quadrupling their membership from 500 in 2011 to almost 2,000 farmers.
The co-operative has made a huge impact on the community, particularly on the lives of women, as they are now getting more involved with coffee production.
“Hello. My name is Tioni Rosalie. As a producer of shea nuts with UGF/CDN, I would like to thank Shared Interest for providing financial support to our Union.
The truck bought by the Union has alleviated my challenges. Prior to that, I used to carry my batch of shea nuts on my head. I would cover a distance of 20 km on foot. With the availability of the truck, I do not need to do that anymore.
With the money earned from these nuts, I have been able to pay the school fees of my three children, to cater their health needs as well as buy food and clothing.”
UGF/CDN is a shea butter co-operative in Reo, Burkina Faso. The women-led association was established 25 years ago and has over 3,000 members, of which only 175 are male.
In order to increase their supply of shea nuts, UGF/CDN approached Shared Interest to finance a new truck, improve their processing equipment, and purchase additional equipment including two roasters and an electric washer.
Although these changes sound small, the impact on the organisation has been significant. In 2015, they employed 128 additional workers due to the increase in the volume of orders.
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The above article by Angela Upex first published on chroniclelive.co.uk in Mar, 2018.