In the field of entrepreneurship, Dominican women have demonstrated that no challenge is too big to accomplish their goals. A great example of industriousness and business acumen are the Dominican Republic women who overcame barriers in 2014 to launch the Las Productivas agro-industrial project; a micro-enterprise focused on the processing and marketing of healthy delicious products originating from organic cocoa.
“Starting the business has not been easy,” stressed Florencia de la Cruz, Carmen Mueses, Altagracia de León, Sofía Berberé, Oliva de los Santos, Gladis Morel, Vitalina Ramírez, Ángela Ramírez, Isabel Reynoso and María de los Santos, directors of the company. The entrepreneurs have faced numerous obstacles, and have demonstrated that no barrier is too big for them.
The entrepreneurs have shown remarkable perseverance, passion for what they do, and the value of teamwork. Beyond their personal goals, they are committed to securing the economic and social progress of their families and the community. In December, 2019, they were recognized for their efforts and won the Citi Microentrepreneur Award.
The women continue to seek financial and logistical support to expand their productions of cocoa products, to include wine, jam, butter, caramelized grains, nibs, chocolate, cocoa powder, and sugar free roasted whole seeds. The business is located in El Corozo Abajo community in the municipality Yamasá, in the Monte Plata province, a small community filled with greenery.
In 1998, these women came together to form the Mother’s Association seeking economic alternatives that would improve the outcome of Cyclone George, which tragically destroyed the cocoa plantations in the area. Many rural businesses suffer from natural disasters that prevents them from producing their goods. Las Productivas had a goal to expand their clients beyond El Corozo but lacked the financial support to do so. Seeking to expand, they consulted with the Banco Agrícola and obtained financing to purchase a van that would allow them to transport their products to markets. Moved by their vision, Fernando Durán, the administrator of the institution granted them their desired loan.
Durán, with the accompaniment of the deputy general administrator, Gloria Furcal; the manager of Monte Plata, Jorge Carrasco Pérez and the deputy manager of the Yamasá office, Jonathan Contreras, traveled to the community to hand them in the awaited keys to the vehicle.
“I hope that this van will allow you to take your products to the markets. This is the starting point for many initiatives that we want to do with you, because that is what this country needs, people who have ideas, who have entrepreneurship, initiatives that can receive support,” stressed Durán.“We are convinced that we are going to be great,” added Florencia de la Cruz.
Rural Women in the Dominican Republic
Rural women are the largest entrepreneurs in the Dominican Republic at a national level when it comes to small businesses. With this being said, only 25% of Dominican women own land, limiting women to grow their businesses. In a document of the Modern Revolutionary Party (PRM) 2020-2024, current president of the Dominican Republic stated, Luis Abinader:
“Women from the countryside are 43% of the agricultural workforce; They barely have 2% of the land ownership; they only have access to 1% of credits and subsidies and suffer high gender discrimination despite their contribution to food security and family care.”
In relation, The National Confederation of Peasant Women (CONAMUCA), National Peasant Articulation, Latin American Coordination of Rural Organizations and Via Campesina-CLOC/Via Campesina Caribe have placed urgent calls for investment in the countryside and access to land titles without gender discrimination. Migrant, campesina, and black women have been among the most affected by the Covid-19 pandemic in the Dominican Republic.
A FAO report estimates that if rural women (43% of the agricultural labor force) had the same access as men to agricultural resources, then production in the agricultural sector could be increased. If production in the agricultural sector increases, then it would cause a significant reduction in world hunger. The equal participation of rural women is vital to eliminate hunger, inequality, and reduce the country’s poverty rates.
Las Productivas is one of many rural businesses in need of resources to expand production beyond local markets. Rural women are the pillar of the agricultural sector. With access to education, economic investment and social capital, their businesses stand to benefit their families and their communities.
Investment in rural woman is sound economic planning. Local and central government programs that invest in rural women can be transformative agents of change. Women-led rural businesses are typically hidden from exposure yet are filled with potential to grow. Seeking out these hidden gems and helping them reach their full potential can benefit local and broader communities. Investing in rural woman also amplifies women’s role in business and contributes to healthier gender equity policies in landownership and business.
Vanessa Campa is a recent graduate from Florida International University holding a Bachelor of Arts in English on the Writing and Rhetoric track, and a minor in Psychology. Through working for the Latina Republic as a Latin Correspondent, Vanessa has gained a true love and passion for reporting underreported stories in the region. Discovering underreported stories that will inspire her readers, she has specialized in interviewing and writing articles on outstanding Latinx women who have made an impact in their communities, especially immigrants. As a Director of the Future Journalist Program for the Latina Republic, Vanessa will continue carrying the organizations’ mission in changing stereotypes that have negatively impacted the people within the region, and bringing light to another side of Latin America that is concealed.