Las Marias is an association of women coffee farmers in the community of La Plata, Huila. The association was founded in September 2010 by women overwhelmed by the lack of credit available to them to use as working capital on their farms. This lack of critical credit, combined with traditional household roles and duties, was weakening their families and so they sought to change it. Today, Las Marias is a group of 350 women (50 in leadership roles) working as a team on coffee production improvement projects. They started by planting 2,500 coffee trees and installing parabolic drying tables. Las Marias’ mission is centered on family prosperity and generational renewal. The group focuses on food security, economic stability, entrepreneurship and passing on coffee traditions to younger generations. Coffee production is used as the vehicle to drive important change and development.
Las Marias prioritizes gender equality and inclusive decision-making in households and on farms. Before the project was organized, many of the women lacked access to training and had had little or no interaction with other women. Las Marias aspires to empower more women in leadership positions, include more women as cooperative members (regardless of if they are farm owners) and promote equal engagement of men and women in the community.
Though this project is still rather new in the past 6 years there has been a 60% increase in productivity in the surveyed areas. That is an incredible rate for this time period due to the long maturation of coffee plants. It is apparent the people who are part of this project have embraced the changes.