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Reinforcing Food Security and Women Empowerment

in Ecuador with Kallpa Warmi

By Tasnim Tabassum

· South America,Women,Social Entrep

Despite claiming to be an upper middle-income country, Ecuador continues to suffer from food and water scarcity. This is a result of its geographical location that makes the nation vulnerable to natural calamities on a regular basis. Here, life, income, and shelter are elements that are always at risk of being snatched away making circumstances for men, women and children living below the poverty line even more difficult.

Although, according to recent statistics, more Ecuadorian women are pursuing higher education and embracing progressive values, families still remain patriarchal in nature. This influences women to choose being homemakers over being breadwinners. As a result, women in Ecuador suffer the most when calamities hit the lands as so many of them do not have their own sources of income.

In 2013, Kallpa Warmi Cooperative was founded to dually combat both the issues of food security and gender inequality in the area of Sayausi in Southern Ecuador. The organization is led by female entrepreneurs striving to help empower the rural women of the community by providing them with steady sources of income.

Since most women belonging to these rural communities have no job qualifications and are completely dependent on their families, they are stuck in the cycle of poverty. Being a member of Kallpa Warmi enables them to hone their existing skills into providing the various services of the co-op. It is also a way for them to engage with fellow women by sharing knowledge and other skill sets.

Kallpa Warmi literally means “strong women” and the transition of these women showcase the untapped strength and potential that lies behind the cages of a patriarchal society’s values.​

Photo from Kallpa Warmi

The Beginning

At its initial stage, the organization applied to an international project with the assistance of Peace Corps volunteers. After being selected, Kallpa Warmi received international recognition resulting into more clients who were interested in buying the products and services offered by the rural women.

In addition to catering to their clients’ demands, the organization offers gender-based workshops to encourage women to have and manage their own money.

They have also developed side projects with other women’s groups from neighboring areas like San Miguel and Bella Vista. One such group project is the Mujeres Cosechando Sueños (Women Harvesting Dreams), a community-based micro-credit program that supports women in agricultural production. These credits, when paid by a mass number of women, may seem insignificant on individual scales but these small doles help improve agricultural practices, fields, and the raising of small animals.

Considering the fact that the natural disasters cause the most damage to the agricultural and fishing sectors of the country, the project can serve as a model of the way Ecuador can direct the energy of its people, especially women, towards enhancing food supply in areas that need it most.

Photo from Kallpa Warmi

Products and Services

Kallpa Warmi’s services include the food preparation and catering of traditional and local specialties.

The women also earn through making recycled handicraft products and home interior items. Some of these items include chairs, tables, paintings, jewelries, porta incenses, and crochet fabrics. Lessons on dancing and singing are also offered. The entire production is solely operated by the women of Kallpa Warmi.

Future Plans

Currently, Kallpa Warmi owns an agroecological tourism service and two galleries that showcase its products. The organization further plans to set up a micro business where work shall be offered to those who are in urgent need of it. There have also been initiatives taken in expanding workshops to areas outside Sayausi to make their products and services available throughout the province.

Although, the main aim behind the cooperative was bringing about an improvement in the lives of the Sayausi women, Kallpa Warmi has become so much more to its community. No longer fearful of standing up for their rights, the women aspire to put their own quality of agro-ecological products in the map by exporting them in masses in and outside the country.

Kallpa Warmi’s services greatly reflect the culture the rural women represent. They believe in keeping their identity central to the work they do by sharing their culture and traditions through these services.

Photo from Kallpa Warmi

Ecuadorian girls are brought up to be caring and nurturing individuals who would, one day, have to become the invisible backbone of their own families. Becoming self-independent and confident does not take away those traits but rather makes it possible for these women to support their families in more substantial ways.

Kallpa Warmi literally means “strong women” and the transition of these women showcase the untapped strength and potential that lies behind the cages of a patriarchal society’s values.

Building up a cooperative at the heart of a country suffering from food scarcity has taught rural women to be self-sufficient. Perhaps the rest of the world can learn from them.

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