Life on the mountainous farms outside of Intibucá is far from easy, but you wouldn’t know it with Joaquina as your guide. While she struggled to get by earlier in her life, this young Adelante client proves that hard work and optimism can be transformative.
Joaquina has lived on the same hillside all her life, where she now resides with her husband and four daughters. In 2007, she took out her first loan of L.500 (about $22) and used it to make and sell bread and tamales. She continued selling food products until 2009, when she decided that the demands of raising her very young children did not leave her sufficient time to work and pay back loans.
Then, in 2013, Joaquina felt that she was ready to start working again, so she took out a loan of L.6,000 (less than $275) and developed a new business strategy. Four years later, she farms potatoes, corn, and beans, raises chickens, and runs a small store out of her home. On a typical day, she wakes up at 4:00 a.m. to cook for her family and take care of other household chores. By 8:00 a.m., she is out in the fields tilling, fertilizing, sowing, weeding, or harvesting. She stops for lunch at noon and then returns to the fields until 4:00 p.m. Occasionally, she comes in from the field to make a sale at her store, where neighbors come to buy soda, chips, flour, pasta, coffee, spices, candy, or other packaged goods. When her eldest daughter is not at school, she helps Joaquina to run the store.
In addition to using loans to buy the necessities to sustain her farm and store, the benefits that Joaquina has enjoyed since becoming a businesswoman have been enormous. With three thriving crops, the family of six has more than enough staples to eat before selling the majority of Joaquina’s harvest in Intibucá. Several years back, Joaquina was able to replace the dirt floor in her house with durable tile. She and her husband purchased a truck that he uses to take Joaquina’s and her neighbors’ agricultural products to town to sell, an essential element to the profitability of her work and another important source of income for the family. They also bought a mill that they use to grind corn for tortillas — what’s more, many neighbors come to Joaquina’s house to grind their corn. Very importantly, Joaquina is also able to pay for the fees, uniforms, and other supplies necessary for her daughters to attend school. When asked if her life has changed for the better, Joaquina humbly says, “Thanks to the loans from Adelante Foundation, yes. The agricultural loan has helped us a lot. The change has been quite significant.”
Joaquina is also proud of what she has learned through business education and being involved in an assembly group. She explains, “The loans are to invest, not to spend. One can’t be buying kitchen provisions, no. The loan is to invest, to make profit, and to be able to pay back the loans we’ve taken out. I’ve appreciated this, and my credit officer has also taught me that I can’t only plant potatoes, because with only potatoes we won’t be able to pay back the loan. That’s why you have to have an investment plan, and that’s what we do.” Indeed, Joaquina has consistently made profits and paid back her loans on time, even when bad weather or diseases have decreased her crop yield. Furthermore, she notes, “Adelante has enabled us to learn the motto (unity, discipline, hard work, and courage) and to participate in the group. This has been a great change because there never are women’s groups, so one doesn’t take part, but with Adelante we participate — we set goals for what we’re going to do that year and more.” Given the ways in which they share ideas, provide feedback, and cover fellow group members when they aren’t able to repay on time, it’s clear that this supportive women’s assembly has helped Joaquina and her compañeras to succeed and grow.
Looking to the future, Joaquina hopes to continue investing in her business activities and improving her family’s quality of life. She says, “I would like to invest more in agriculture and to have access to electricity and potable water because there isn’t any here.” She hopes to be able to take out an individual loan and thereby be able to make swifter progress toward these goals. Otherwise, what is her greatest hope of all? “That my daughters become professionals.” Seeing her older daughters diligently completing homework assignments at the kitchen table, and knowing that the eldest at age 13 already has her sights set on a university in Intibucá, it seems very likely that Joaquina and her family will be able to realize their dreams.
Joaquina concludes, “No other bank is going to say to you, ‘work!’ No, instead they come and look to see if you have valuable things in order to give you a loan, and if you don’t, they won’t give you anything. We like Adelante Foundation because … they’ve taught us to work.” With a productive farm, a small business, a healthy family, and a radiant smile on her face, Joaquina not only shows how much one woman is capable of but also makes her hard work look easy.