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It´s worth trying. This was the idea conveyed by two women member of the Calmañana Cooperative during the Food Sovereignty Forum that took place on August 17 in Uruguay, Canelones department. When they started producing aromatic herbs in an organic way they never dreamt they would end up winning the first prize in a contest of projects led by women and that then they would travel the world to talk about their experience.
Three groups of rural women from the North-East region of Canelones are part of Calmañana. The initiative was born in 1987 when the sugar factory of Montes was closed down, and most of the relatives of the women member of the cooperative were sugar-beet farmers. Back then, anthropologist Kirai de León submitted her project to the North-East Federation of Canelones, which in turn submitted it to the promotion societies made up by delegates of the different farmers groups. Three groups voted in favor of the project. Then, under the coordination of the anthropologist, they started working as a group.
"When we first started working we didn´t know what a women´s group was, since we did participate in school commissions, but never in leading roles. We always worked supporting and helping our husbands", said Alicia Rodríguez, member of Calmañana and of the Network of Rural Women Groups of Uruguay in an interview with Real World Radio. "Kirai de León had worked with rural women groups in Chile and so she was familiar with different experiences with aromatic herbs. We wanted to do something related to the land, which is what we love", said Rodríguez.
So in 1996, this group of women gave way to a collective project. "Our purpose was to have an income that was exclusive to women", she said. Then they created the cooperative to sell aromatic herbs grown organically. "The first thing we did was a greenhouse and we worked on it together, as a group", said Rodríguez. Now they are in charge of every part of the process: they plant, dry, package and sell their products. The herbs can be found in supermarkets all over the country under the brand Campo Claro.
"We wanted something that was for women, but we never dreamed of reaching this far. Rural women tend to be shy. But now we go everywhere we need to be, we face whoever we need to face, and we are not ashamed of being rural women", said the member of the cooperative. In 2007 they submitted their project to the Successful Economic Projects Led by Women Contest, organized by the Network of Popular Education among Women (REPEM) of Latin America and the Caribbean and they won the first prize. This is why they travelled through Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Italy, Spain and the US. "I loved getting to know other experiences in the country and outside the country, since we´ve had the opportunity of travelling, of knowing other ways of working, exchanging with other women. Our personal growth has been significant", said Rodriguez.
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