Pioneers from the jungle

‘Women play an increasingly important role.’

GLADYS SHIGUANGO (37) is president of Rukullakta, an umbrella organisation of Quechua communities in the Tena region.

GLADYS SHIGUANGO (37) is president of Rukullakta, an umbrella organisation of Quechua communities in the Tena region.‘I have been president of Rukullakta since the beginning of 2019, the first woman to be elected to this office. I grew up on my parents’ chakra, where we grew cocoa, guayusa, maize, yucca and many other crops. Now we want to add coffee as well. This is my family’s decision, and we aren’t the only ones in our neighbourhood who have opted to grow coffee. The reason is simple: we are paid good money for a good product.

This is appealing and gives my family and many others a chance to raise their living standards a little. Women are playing an increasingly important role in our organisation, which now has 17 communities as members, with around 6,500 people altogether. I am one example, but there are also the two technical experts working as managers in our Waylla Kuri cooperative. Women now have a voice and the right to vote in the assemblies where we jointly decide on our future. This has not always been the case. Today, 40 per cent of the 330 coffee producers are women – and the figure is rising. Soon I too will know more about coffee when my family plants their first coffee trees and harvests the first coffee berries in two or three years. This will be a new experience for me, albeit in a familiar environment. All of us have grown up with the chakra. It feeds us, and in future we expect it to give us a better income. Marketing new products is also part of this. It is our opportunity to be more successful, and this is what I’m committed to as president of our community. We want to progress – with coffee, with cocoa and other products.’ —

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February 2020