Reviving a Farm and a Family
The day begins at 6 a.m. for Cintya Torrentes. She and her workers have 4,500 chickens to tend to and 3,600 eggs to gather, clean and package for sale. “Life on the farm is busy, but I love being an entrepreneur,” says Cintya from her home in Niquinohomo, Masaya, Nicaragua.
Cintya’s business is thriving, but this was not the case three years ago. The chicken farm was not producing enough to support Cintya, her mother, father and two brothers. The family was forced to shut down the business. “I thought I was going to have to leave my family and find work someplace else, maybe even in a different country,” says Cintya.
Finding work near her home would have been difficult. Jobs are scarce in Nicaragua, the third poorest country in the Americas. Nearly 50 percent of residents live in poverty; many of those are young women and the breadwinners for the family.
To address these conditions and help women like Cintya, non-governmental organizations like the Asociación de Consultores para el Desarrollo de la Pequeña (ACODEP) provide business training and micro-financing—a type of loan—to female entrepreneurs. These programs help women jumpstart their businesses and manage them well. In Cintya’s case, the training and funding helped her revive the family farm.
A HEALTHY APPROACH FOR ENTREPRENEURS
For the past six years, Johnson & Johnson has provided program support to help entrepreneurs in six countries in Central America. Johnson & Johnson works with The Resource Foundation, a U.S. non-profit organization, to help identify partners like ACODEP that can implement programs in Latin America and the Caribbean.
In addition to supporting the micro-financing effort, Johnson & Johnson brings a crucial component to the program—support for health care training. “There’s a strong link between health and hygiene and the productivity of employees,” says Silvia Velazquez, an ACODEP staff member who works with the micro-entrepreneurs. “When we train micro-entrepreneurs, we teach them business management skills, as well as good health practices, like hygiene, disease prevention and reproductive health.”
The results have been “terrific,” says Rick Martinez, Director of Corporate Contributions, Johnson & Johnson. “When we visited the micro-entrepreneurs, we found they were able to provide food, clothing and housing for their families. Plus, they had improved the overall health of their families.”
“People from the community come to the farm to buy our eggs, and we sell them in local markets,” says Cintya. “We’re providing the community with a healthy food source.”
The farm has been so successful that Cintya’s family has expanded the business and now sells fruits and vegetables too.
The chicken farm is one of about 50 female-owned Central American businesses that have benefited from micro-financing programs during 2009. Others include a beauty salon, clothing store, grocery market and crafts store.
“The impact has been tremendous,” says Marcela Lopez-Macedonio, Deputy Executive Director for The Resource Foundation. “Many of these women had no other way to make a living, and very few had any type of training. The program has improved the health and living conditions of women, their families and communities in Central America.”
Cintya says she’s living proof that micro-financing works. “I’m so thankful for this opportunity. I get to provide for my family, be with my family and keep my farm.”