|Brigida Coutino Espiñoza performs quality inspection on eco-palms prior to shipping to the US. Photo: Pronatura Sur A.C.|
My name is Brigida Coutiño Espinoza, I am 32 years old and I live in Sierra Morena community in the Sepultura Biosphere Reserve, in the Sierra Madre de Chiapas, Mexico. I began working to help my husband in the palm quality selection when I was 16 years old. Back then we were selling palm illegally and they only employed men. But now we are a well-organized enterprise, women are working in the selection process and we are legally selling palm fronds directly to the US market.
Three years ago I began working as the coordinator of our selection team, which is composed of four other women. Some say that this is not a job for women, but we are all very proud of it because there are not many opportunities for women here. Our job is very important because the people in the US and especially the churches for Palm Sunday are expecting a high quality product. The payment that the palm producers receive depends on our work, so we always give our best. Now we are teaching other communities how to do it.
This job is very important for us as women because it enables us to have more freedom. We no longer have to depend entirely on our husbands. Thanks to the eco-palm rebate we can buy better clothes for ourselves and for our children. We can afford a better and more diverse food, too. Some of us in the team invested last year in knitting tools, and with that we can make additional income.
I feel very proud to live here in these mountains because there is no contamination here. We have fresh air. And this is the future for my three children. That’s why we are cultivating palm, because thanks to it we can preserve the trees and all the nature around us.
I would like to thank all the people from the churches that are participating in Eco-Palm program and invite them to visit us here in my village.
By Brigida Coutiño Espinoza
his story is courtesy of Pronatura Sur A.C. The projects are part of the Sacred Orchid of Chiapas project supported by Global Environment Facility (GEF). UMCOR is a supporter of the Eco-Palm Project in partnership with the University of Minnesota. To order Eco-Palms visit www.ecopalms.org.