Amaranth Creates Hope in Rural Oaxaca
A single mother without a high school diploma, Lizbeth Espinosa Diaz struggled to find work beyond sporadic house cleaning and odd jobs. Her mother became ill from anemia and moved in with Liz. As the situation became increasingly complicated, Liz knew she needed to find additional work to support her family. She was excited to learn that Puente was looking for a community promoter to grow our health food store, and in 2013 started working with us.
Today the roar of the amaranth popper can be heard in Puente’s bustling health food store in Villa de Etla where Lizbeth is running the machine. She calls the first in a line of farmers to come in and start popping their amaranth. Puente’s health food store hosts this amaranth popping technology while providing space for microenterprise groups to sell their products and serving as a healthy food and farming information center.
In an area where most farming families earn less than $10 a day, Puente’s health food store offers a unique economic opportunity. Its prototype small-scale machine pops 10 kilos of amaranth grain per hour, helping more than 200 farmers in Liz’s community double or triple their income.
Lizbeth chats with farmers as their grain pops while waiting on customers who flow into the health food store to buy amaranth products. She explains that amaranth is a highly nutritious grain native to Mexico and that more than 120 products from health bars to amaranth chips produced by 17 microenterprise groups are for sale in the store, stimulating the local economy and health.
Partnering with Puente to adapt small-scale technology is a path to improving the lives of farming communities. But technology is only part of the solution; it is the talent and commitment of local participants that drives Puente’s projects forward. Young leaders like Liz are improving their communities’ nutrition and farmers are earning additional income by growing amaranth.
When Liz started working with Puente, her job was learning to be a community leader and run Puente’s health food store. In her free time she started the microenterprise group Panchita to make healthy products with hibiscus and amaranth.
“At first, I was motivated to start Panchita to create a healthier snack for children. But then I realized starting a small business could help my entire family. The project has given meaning to my mother’s life as she helps me to fill orders, and my son is the experimental test-taster! Since I am both mom and dad for my son and caretaker for my mother, the extra income I earn from the group helps me better support my family.”
Five years ago, Puente identified an opportunity to increase its impact by organizing micro-enterprises into two regional Amaranth Cooperatives. The dream of bringing together farmer families to build their local economies has flourished in large part to the leadership of young people like Liz. This year Liz was elected secretary of her region’s Amaranth Cooperative. "I’m very grateful for the trust of the Cooperative’s members. I know I wasn’t just elected on a whim; I’ve earned the trust of others. They must have seen potential in me and knew I could contribute.”
Liz’s work has sparked her self-confidence:
“My work with Puente has truly helped me to discover that I can do anything. Before I was very afraid to speak in public. Now I can express myself and have the confidence to say what I think, propose ideas, and work together with others to motivate positive changes. It’s a challenge to work with a large co-op because there are many different ideas. But when you work as part of a team you learn to value the diversity of those voices, and it’s all worth it so the Cooperative can change and grow.”
As young leaders like Liz grow into their roles, the Amaranth Cooperatives have begun to make decisions about the price of grain, commercialization strategies, and investments in farming infrastructure. As Liz says, "I want our Amaranth Cooperative to grow and succeed, and my dream is that in the future, I will make a big difference for my community through the work I’m doing with the Cooperative.”
Your donation of $300 ($25/month) will fund training for one community promoter like Liz, allowing Puente to build local leadership and economies and expand this exciting program.
Your support will help build a stronger future in poor Oaxacan communities. Help meet our goal of $50,000 to ensure healthy amaranth-based foods reach hundreds of farms, tables, and microenterprises in rural Oaxaca
You can join us in being part of the path forward by donating now. Thank you for being by our side for this journey.
With deepest gratitude,