Fighting for an economy with equity and solidarity
Santos Claret Ajpop and Angélica López Vicente are seated at a table the the Kuchub’al Network. Both are protagonists of the Network’s story, which began 15 years ago as a collaboration between eight organizations. Currently, it is made up of twelve. Its members make and sell local organic products: jams, chocolate, shampoo, canned goods, honey, syrups, tea, coffee, and others.
Seated there, a rare sight since they are such dynamic women, they recall their 15-year-long fight to develop Kuchub’al. Its genesis was the Inter-diocese Pastoral Letter that offered an agroecological platform provide technical assistance to rural and indigenous organizations and train them on food security and natural resources.
Through this, eight organizations were brought together on August 31, 2007 to form the network. Not all have been able to persevere along the way. Three abandoned the fight and seven more joined later.
Claret says that “It wasn’t all fast, we went step by step.” At first, when she was a member of the directory board, she went to markets in Quiché, San Marcos and Quetzaltenango to promote the Network’s products. The beginning was difficult, but her hope of creating jobs in rural areas motivated her.
“I learned to make chocolate and multiplied by production capacity with 16 women. They were happy to have a source of income to help their children with their education. I bring all that I’ve learned to the association and share it with my partners. We know that in order to work, all we need is knowledge.” Claret, a member of the Association of Solidary Producers says.
The Network works as a solidary economic model with three axes of work: agroecology, to support agroecological production and guarantee food sovereignty through local food sources; agroindustry, to promote the transformation of products through agroecological units of production; and commercialization, to exchange products at local markets with minority and majority clients. Its programs take into consideration gender equality, solidary education, responsible consumption, impact, and generational focus.
“This is a big success. We women are not always given an opportunity, but through Kuchub’al we were given training. We learned that women are equal to men, we were trained in gender and self esteem to value where we come from and our identity. We were given an opportunity. Women can work and earn an income. I don’t depend on my husband. I have my own money in my pocket that I’ve earned with my intelligence,” says Angélica, a representative of the Mam People’s Identity Association.
Solidarity is synonymous with brothers and sisters giving each other a hand. That’s how the members and foudners of Kuchub’al define it. The member organizations are given technical training in production, administration, and commercialization. In addition, distribution and commercialization networks have been established, and let’s not forget quality control mechanisms, certifications, and improvements in product presentation.
The Network has achieved three major goals in the course of its fight: the integration of more organizations, the empowerment of women to transform decision making, and the acquirement of property to house its administrative offices. In the future, it plans on building a training center to offer food and lodging to the public, as well as a training school for agroecological initiatives.