Costa Rica’s Women Farmers Increase Their Presence

February 3, 2006

From flowers to honey to goats, an increasing number of Costa Rican products are being planted, bred, raised or sold by women – a development that the government, particularly the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, plans to continue supporting by providing funds and training.

“This is the first Agriculture Ministry, the first administration that has made an effort to create a focus on women,” Agriculture Minister Rodolfo Coto said Tuesday following President Abel Pacheco’s weekly Cabinet meeting.The ministry has provided technical training to 1,484 women all over the country, according to Coto.

In recognition of the potential for women’s agricultural success to lift families out of extreme poverty, the Mixed Institute for Social Aid (IMAS) has provided ¢1.32 million ($2,650) for training and aid for poor women.

Regional women’s associations have provided the backbone for these efforts, Coto said.

The products women are providing range from tilapia and butterflies in the Northern Zone; iguanas, sheep, goats and orchids in the Central Pacific; to organic coffee and cattle in Brunca, an indigenous community in southcentral Costa Rica.

Ornamental and medicinal plants and handicrafts are other products common among women’s recent efforts.

The east-central area of the country leads the way in number of women producers (215), though projects in the west-central region have generated the most income: ¢99.4 million ($199,198) last year, with 178 producers.Other leading areas are the south-central region, with 160 producers generating ¢97.7 million ($195,792), the Central Pacific with 58 producers generating ¢15.1 million ( $30,261), and Brunca, with 25 producers generating ¢14.3 million ($28,657).

Asdrubal Vargas, an administrador at the Los Santos branch of the National Union of Small Farmers, said the efforts of the Pacheco administration and IMAS are indeed making a difference in his region, though more could be done to ensure funds get to enterprising women – and to help successful small businesses expand, a second step not many local enterprises are making.

Women in Los Santos, a mountain region south of San José, are creating small businesses with products from organic shampoo to paint, according to Vargas.

“It’s very necessary that women become part of the agroindustrial chain,” he told The Tico Times.“The problem is that they’ve never been given the tools (they need) to be able to integrate themselves. Now they are.”

However, he said the requirements to receive IMAS funds are too strict – only those “without a single possession” can receive the funds, which leaves many of the most motivated women out in the cold, according to Vargas.

“One has to have nothing, nothing,” he said.“B ut those people who have nothing never decide to take a training course… It should be more flexible.”

The IMAS funds are crucial for would-be farmers and businesswomen because the interest rates on bank loans are prohibitively high for many women, he said.

 

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