Location – Esteli, Nicaragua
Elevation – 950-1200 meters above sea level
Established – 1996
Diversification – Corn, Beans, vegetables, hibiscus rose, fruit trees
La Fundación Entre Mujeres (La FEM) is a well organized all-women’s NGO in northern Nicaragua that promotes ideological, economic, and political empowerment of rural women through projects such as the fight against violence by creating community networks of rural defenders, an education program promoting literacy, primary and secondary education with a focus on gender equality, education in alternative careers connected to sustainable development, the promotion of sexual and reproductive rights and access to health services for women, and promoting a strategy of economic empowerment, prioritizing food sovereignty, diversified and organic production. All projects are carried out under a focus of sustainable economic development for the adults and youth that these programs reach. Through such programs, women from the rural communities are able to participate and be real actors in transforming their own realities, making decisions in the development politics carried out by la FEM.
FEM began in 1995 when director Diana Martinez began to organize women from rural communities in the north of Nicaragua. The initial focus of the organization was to create an autonomous space for rural women that would challenge the traditional, male-dominated model of rural development and to promote women’s rights. Access to land has always been a key aspect of FEM’s proposal, allowing women to be autonomous and individual subjects of their own development. With that, comes the need to provide adequate access to reproductive resources such as credit, seeds, alternative technologies, infrastructure, and markets. With an overarching feminist vision, FEM participates actively in the larger Feminist Movement of Nicaragua and promotes raising consciousness on the rights of women.
Under the larger umbrella organization of La FEM are six smaller cooperatives of Las Diosas scattered throughout the northern region of Nicaragua and groups together nearly 200 women farmers. These women are cultivating a total of 164 manzanas of land, focusing on organic production. Through their connection with La FEM, women farmers have access to training on different topics relating to organic coffee production in order to improve their production. At a centralized location, women also have access to a large nursery full of 80,000 healthy, new, organic plants as well as organic fertilizers made with recycled materials from the nearby farms, as well as a coffee roaster. Each of the cooperatives contains a wet mill, where coffee is depulped before it is sent to a nearby processing facility to be dried on patios, milled, and exported. Focusing on alternative markets and being educated on the entire production chain, FEM sells their products both locally in Esteli as well as internationally. All local products are marketed under the label “Las Diosas” (goddess in English), with a symbol that represents the moon and the rain together with the women’s symbol.
By having access to their own parcels of land while also participating in the fair trade market, women organized under La FEM have seen dramatic changes in their lives. This organization not only helps women to increase their household incomes, but it is also changing the machista culture of each of the communities that it reaches. Through their relationship with Just Coffee, many women farmers have gained access to new information through delegations and farmer exchanges both in Nicaragua as well as in Madison.