Ana Rosa Gatica Díaz is a 20-year-old new mother who lives in La Pintada, Nicaragua. Like so many new mothers, she speaks of her baby girl with adoration.
She also speaks of the challenges she faces.
“It’s hard” to meet family’s needs
Ana Rosa managed to study through sixth grade and even went on to take a few culinary courses, focusing on dessert-making. She still makes some desserts but cannot sell them. “There is just no demand for them in La Pintada.” The small, rural town holds few economic options for Ana Rosa and she is currently unemployed. “It’s hard,” she says frankly. “I need to buy things for my daughter.”
Ana Rosa also wants to help her extended family. She lives with her parents and her mother has been a big help to her, especially when it comes to carrying for her baby. Yet her parents struggle to meet all of their own children’s needs as well. Ana Rosa has a 15-year-old brother and two younger sisters, aged 12 and 14. “My brother wanted to continue studying, but we could not afford it.” He now works on the family farm. “I would like to earn enough money to help him return to school.”
The affection she expresses for her family—daughter and siblings alike—is touching. Her inability to help them as she would like is troubling.
But Ana Rosa is not defeated. In fact, she recently got excited about the cocoa her family grows and the possibility of making chocolate to sell.
When life hands you cocoa beans
She is the newest member of the women’s chocolate-making group “La Fortaleza.”
Part of a farmer’s cooperative, LWR has supported La Fortaleza in recent years, training women on chocolate-making, packaging and marketing.
The group represents efforts by LWR to bring women into the cocoa value chain. Being part of the entire value chain means women and their families not only grow cocoa, but increase their earnings by processing it into chocolate and chocolate products, such as hot chocolate, to sell.
In the case of Ana Rosa, this is one of the only economic options she considers viable at this stage in her life. “My mother is able to care for the baby while I participate in the chocolate-making.” Ana Rosa’s father also believes there is a future for her in chocolate and instigated her participation. He is a member of the cocoa cooperative, and “since I studied dessert-making,” Ana Rosa says, “he thought it a very good idea for me to join the chocolate-making group. He signed me up right away.”
The women’s group is still growing and they are looking for a small building where they can permanently set up shop and, ideally, earn a greater profit. Still, Ana Rosa is optimistic.
She explains that her immediate desire is to earn money from chocolate and, she reiterates, “to help my parents—especially to make improvements to the house we live in.” In addition, she is eager to buy clothes and baby items for her daughter and help her two sisters to remain in school by contributing money to cover the costs of their books and uniforms.
When asked about her long-term dreams, Ana Rosa confirms, “I want to earn money from chocolate.” And like so many new mothers might respond, she adds with a smile that she just wants “life to be a little easier.”
Under the ACORDAR (Alliance to Create Opportunities for Rural Development through Agro-Enterprise Relationships) project (.pdf), LWR helped farmers to increase their production and sales of cocoa and coffee through technical assistance, business training and environmental certification. Under the same project, LWR worked to increase women’s participation in the cocoa value chain by supporting the creation of women’s groups such as “La Fortaleza.”