Asociación de Productoras Libres de Marcala (APROLMA) lies in a region of Honduras marked with a history of violence against women. Traditionally, women worked from sunup to sundown, combining the travails of the house with the needs of the field. Today, APROLMA members hold their heads high making quality Arabica coffee and centering women in their business. The women are descendants of Lenca warriors and artisans and find pride and meaning in their work through their history and connection with the land.
In the 1990´s, producing organic coffee became a production alternative in Marcala, and was driven mainly by women who traditionally focused on household chores. At the time, conventional coffee production was dominated by men. APROLMA identified an opportunity to change traditional production practices and create opportunities that would allow their members to achieve economic independence. By 2013, APROLMA formalized their association, allowing them to produce and commercialize quality coffee products, while remaining sustainable. In each step along the way, they have been working towards reducing gender inequality. Today, not only do they sell high quality coffee, but they also train on gender equality topics, have increased their membership numbers, and provide training on mitigation of climate change impacts.
Since 2019, APROLMA has completed three USAID Farmer-to-Farmer assignments with NCBA CLUSA. During their first assignment on branding strategy, APROLMA learned about utilizing social media, stories, improved outreach relationships with current clients and their webpage to increase their markets. Such that, from 2020-2023 the amount of origin roasted coffee sold to clients increased from 8,000 bags annually, to approximately 24,000 bags of roasted coffee sold to a German client just this year. Financially, APROLMA has increased their savings and agricultural lending capacity for their members. The organization currently has 764,636 lempiras ($30,511.9 USD) of their own funds available in the form of loans for their members. They also have around 656,000 lempiras of loan funds available, provided by other local partners, alliances, or projects.
Their second assignment focused on organic fertilizer for vegetables. The members saw the importance of diversifying their products, so coffee isn’t their sole source of income. The women were also concerned about food security for their families. Approximately 20 members received a greenhouse for their homes.
Most of the members have improved the management of vegetables by implementing techniques taught during the assignment, such as crop rotation, use of microorganisms, properly preparing the soil and identification of various crop diseases. As a result of this training, many members are now harvesting the crops to nutritiously feed their families and are selling the surplus locally.
Lastly, during their third assignment on beehives and byproducts development, six new beehives were produced by APROLMA’s technician. With the knowledge gained during the assignment, they were also able to monitor and treat six beehives to control Varroa mites, an external parasite of honeybees. After the assignment, more honey was harvested, beehives were healthier, and new products were developed such as pollen and bottled propolis after being more careful with their honey extraction. Currently, APROLMA harvests 50 pounds of pollen, from which 25 pounds have been sold, resulting in $359 of revenue. In addition, they have harvested 100 more bottles of honey than the previous year, with just two harvests. After the assignment, they improved their beehive management and went from harvesting 314 bottles from 4 harvests to 428 bottles in just 2 harvests. This year, they are selling the bottles for 180 lempiras each and 100 bottles have already been sold. If they sell all 428 bottles, it will generate an income of 77,040 lempiras ($3,074.19), which APROLMA is confident they will do.
Due to the improvements made as a result of all three Farmer-to-Farmer assignments, APROLMA has even been able to grow their team, hiring two additional women for support.