Our mission of doing things right at Eco Ola extends beyond our partner farms and into the local community. In addition to sharing sustainable agriculture techniques with independent local farmers, we’ve also started our own, small-scale, microfinance endeavor.
As a mother of two and co-running Eco Ola, I appreciate and understand the challenges of motherhood and putting food on the table. Mery, the wife of Rider, our Farm Manager, brought to my attention that a friend of hers, Ivone, was suffering hardships. Her husband had been out of work for over three-weeks, and she was looking for some financial help to jump start her stand in the Mazán market to support her family.
I saw this as a great opportunity to help a mother-of-two, soon to be three, establish some economic stability for herself and her family. Ivone requested a small loan of 250/soles (about $100USD) to help buy eggs and other ingredients to make a local drink called ‘ponche’, and also improve her market stand. I presented her with an offer to loan her the money, interest free, with the condition that all her eggshells from making ponche be given to the farm to aid in our calcium fertilizer efforts. Ivone happily agreed to the conditions, and we signed a repayment agreement. Ivone immediately put her funding to work making ponche, selling items from her store, and providing the farm with eggshells.
A few days later, I was asked if we could finance three other women in Mazán looking for some assistance in improving their businesses. One, Juana, has been making juices for 12 years. After a series of setbacks involving a robbery of her store and fires in her house and boat, she was forced to rebuild from almost nothing. Juana began selling juice and small cooked items from a table. Slowly, she moved up and started offering more goods eventually expanding into her present-day kiosk. She needed a loan to buy a new blender for making her smoothies and for purchasing eggs to make her breakfast sandwiches and cakes.
I recently followed up with Juana to see how the micro loan had helped and was touched with her response, saying, “It’s magnificent that you’re helping with these loans. Running my business is tough at times and the capital was what I needed.”
Our other two clients, Mery and Margot, received loans for their juice kiosk and sandwich stand. Both said that our investment helped them reestablish themselves and allowed them to purchase much needed items for their businesses. Mery has completely repaid her loan, and we’re in talks to loan her a larger amount for her upcoming move to a permanent location.
Providing these local women with economic opportunity and independence is very important to me. Being Peruvian, and having lived in Iquitos for nine-years, I’ve seen first-hand the daily struggles of women in my male-dominated culture. Many times these women work 12- to 16-hour days only to see their hard-earned income squandered by their – often times – abusive husbands.
I also see a great opportunity to train these micro-entrepreneurs to become Eco Ola representatives and spokespeople for our healthy sacha inchi superfood snacks and farm fresh produce. We also look forward to using our relationships with them to start introducing healthier eating habits and offering better alternatives to the processed foods that are creeping into their traditional diets.
We look forward to scaling our efforts and reaching more Loretanas to help facilitate their economic independence and spread our message of “Delicious. Healthy. Done Right.”