Maria del Pilar Castillo
Acopagro Cooperative (Cacao)
Maria del Pilar Castillo is from a cacao farming family, and studied engineering and renewable natural resources at the University. She has a specialization in agroforestry . In 2009-2010 she was the coordinator for Acopagro; she would go around to the various cacao farms to interact with the different members of the cooperative (2,000 cacao farming families). Maria received her degree from la Universidad Nacional Agraria De la Selva in Huanuco. She designed botanic gardens after graduation. She currently works for the Foundation Amazonia Viva (Reforestation and conservation projects developed in the region with acopagro cacao farmers), in the technical department (technical support, coordinating, etc). Currently she promotes the diversification of activities / revenues for the cacao farmers (so that they are not just depending on cacao, financially). She also organizes the Comite de Damas to promote women empowerment (cacao’s farmers wives and daughters, learning how to process cacao beans to market final products); and supports the women in creating their unique Chocolate products.
“The women know how to grow cacao, plant the trees and are decision makers. The women have more knowledge now than the men. And the women still have much, much more work: being a mother, a wife, in the kitchen, in the field and now part of the committees. That’s why women empowerment and recognition of their work are a priority.” -Maria