NOW WE ARE CAPABLE OF DOING ANYTHING
“Las Azucenas” (the lilies) is a savings group that began in 2009 through the Trickle Up program in partnership with ACODIAV (Comprehensive Community Development Association of Alta Verapaz) in Panhorná II, a village in Tamahú, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala.
Beginning with 20 participants, the group now comprises 54 members, including two men and seven children. Las Azucenas is one of the oldest and most successful Trickle Up savings groups in Central America.
Years after the Trickle Up program ended, “they maintain the organization themselves without involvement of Trickle Up or its partners.” – Efraín Tecú, Trickle Up Program Director
Currently, the group has Q.33,000 ($4,320) in savings. Every member can take out several loans each year, except for the children, who only have savings accounts. The group’s interest rate for loans is 5% and each member receives Q.10.00 shares when loans are repaid, to incentivize the group to provide loans to each other. “Savings groups are a strong support for the local economy, because they allow each household to have access to credit, especially in periods of shortage,” says Efraín.
“When I need money for an investment, I know it will be there for me because it’s safe with the savings group.” – Mercedes Tipol, coffee farmer and Las Azucenas member
Many of the group’s current members were Trickle Up participants in 2009. “Each woman has a different activity. Some raise chickens, some raise pigs,” says Gilma Floridalma Tipol, the group’s president. Other women’s businesses include growing vegetables and coffee beans, weaving textiles, and selling tortillas, tayuyos (flatbreads), and snacks.
“The savings group helps me invest in thread and supplies. With the income, I’m able to buy food and school supplies for my children” – Florinda Chiquín, weaver and Las Azucenas member
Las Azucenas have become more than just a savings group: “We see mothers getting together to share their knowledge about how to nourish their kids, mentor teenagers, and solve social issues in the community,” comments Efraín. The women of the savings group are also mentors to other women in their community and surrounding areas: “Our group is important because we teach women beyond the group and from other communities,” says Gilma.
Las Azucenas is also a catalyst for change in the community. Jorge Coy, Trickle Up Regional Representative, remarks that a savings group “creates social capital. People get organized. That allows them to influence political decisions in their country.” With the support of Trickle Up, Las Azucenas made strategic alliances with the Ministry of Agriculture and the University of San Carlos to produce and export pacaya palm, coffee, pepper, corn, beans, and green beans. They also developed training events on food processing and snacks, and were visited twice by students of the University of Almeria Spain, who provided support to children with disabilities in the community.
“We have gone from seeing people who did not talk, not even in their own homes, to men and women empowered, who see their kids are eating better and living healthier. This is what inspires the Trickle Up mission.” – Jorge Coy, Trickle Up Regional Representative
Gilma describes Las Azucenas as “a group that helps out when somebody falls down. We have learned about solidarity, living together, and how to be a good leader.” Members of the savings group can see that their living conditions and self-esteem have improved. Parents’ attitudes are changing, advocating for their children’s education and incorporating participation of the women’s spouses in agricultural activities, occupational training, and saving. The members of Las Azucenas have big dreams for the future and the catalytic effects of Trickle Up’s approach: “I had never been part of any group before. With this program, my life has changed,” reflects Mercedes.
“What makes me so proud and satisfied is seeing my women coworkers improving themselves. Before we always depended on men. Not anymore. Now we are capable of doing anything.” – Gilma Floridalma Tipol, Las Azucenas President
Las Azucenas of Tamahú, Guatemala
Bold businesswomen and community catalysts