GenARDIS grantees: ICTs help Dominican women farmers better run their cooperatives

Fundación Taigüey combined ICTs, women’s empowerment and agro-processing empowerment in their project Empowering women in managing rural cooperatives with relevant ICTs and e-business tools, which was awarded with a GenARDIS grant last December.
Victoria Rodriguez is working hard on turning these innovative ideas into reality. Since 2005 she has been working for the Fundación Taigüey on comminty projects that involve women and farmers from La Ciénaga, a small rural community in the Southwest of the Dominican Republic.Fundación Taigüey is an NGO based and incorporated in the Dominican Republic, dedicated to appropriate technologies and methodologies for sustainable development.

The community

La Ciénaga is a municipality of around 8000 inhabitants. According to official sources, 85% of the inhabitants live under the poverty line. Basic health and education needs are not met, and living conditions are poor.

The income from traditional agricultural economic activity (coffee) has declined since the 90s and now people survive mainly on remittances (there is a very high migration rate) and poorly-paid government jobs. The need for quick cash income has pushed inhabitants to destroy the coffee plantations and burn the land to plant short-term cash crops (corn, yucca, peas, etc), which have seriously affected the environment, water production, soil quality, and endangered several species.

In terms of gender, about 40% of the families in the community are headed by single women. According to Taigüey’s figures, only 10% of the women in households where the man is head of family have a say on the distribution of the income. Also, only 13% of women are engaged in remunerated work. Also, women have lower education levels than men, and usually suffer from a very low level of self-esteem.

What can ICTs do?

Taigüey’s project seeks to empower women in the use of ICTs to manage their cooperative and operations such as administration (like bookkeeping), membership management, production (quality control, purchasing), promoting their operations (promotion, client relations, marketing), learning and accessing information (quality online training, information on standards, market information) and networking (with fair trade networks, other similar cooperatives, support agencies).
Specific training materials and content (multimedia) will be developed and adapted to train and support women groups managing rural cooperatives.

The first women who will be trained are part of the COODECI cooperative group, about fifteen women, from 25 to 50 years old, usually heads of families, with relatively low levels of education and very limited or no management experience. The training will be adapted to their starting level (capacity), specific needs, availability (time), use of relevant (gender sensitive) concepts, and strategic interest (income generation for women through the cooperative).

As a result of this, the capacity of women-owned agro-processing rural cooperatives through use of ICTs will be strengthened, and the networking of rural groups of women in agro-processing rural cooperatives will be promoted. This would empower them to be a productive sector of the economy, generate income and be better organized.