Although Honduras is, on the whole, a wonderful country, a select few pockets of Honduras still struggle with poverty, homelessness, and hunger. A cooperative of indigenous women in one of these poor areas, Gualicince, saw the problem and found a creative way to supply food and income to their communities and turn a profit their families could take home.
The Lenca people inhabit southwestern Honduras and eastern El Salvador and have been in that area of Central America since the Spaniards arrived, although their existence extends far before the arrival of European forces. Boasting a full and vibrant culture, the Lenca created distinctive pottery, traded with other local people, and observed local holy days with dancing and celebrations.
Today, some members of the Lenca people live in an incredibly arid area of Honduras that receives little rain. As droughts continue, the crops die and leave the farmers in poverty. Some turn to crime as economic distress rises to new levels; others choose to leave Honduras altogether in long migrant chains, such as the one attempting to enter the US from Mexico shortly.
After going through a workshop on gender equality, one of the women was inspired to actively contribute to the efforts to alleviate poverty in her community and draw other women out of homekeeping to participate in the market. The Lenca women went about forming a cooperative and creating an organic farm where she and the other women farm coffee, guamo, plantain, orange, animal feed, and more. What the families don’t consume they sell at the market or to local grocery stores to pay for more seeds for the following year and to keep as income for their households.
Because of changes in the supply chain and logistics, the women coffee growers are no longer at the whim of the coffee prices set by intermediaries for what they can earn. Rather, because they sell a number of products directly to their end-buyer, the women can get higher prices for their produce. In addition, the women utilize the “waste” from the coffee growing and harvesting process to fertilize their lands. This sustainable process has allowed them to keep their operating costs down and maximize their profits as their goods hit the market.
These Lenca women truly embody the entrepreneurial spirit which is required to bring generalized human prosperity to every corner of the globe. These women saw a market gap, identified an opportunity to make themselves and their community more wealthy and prosperous, and took action to make this vision a reality. Within Honduras, there was demand for more fruits, and globally, Western consumers put a premium on high-quality coffee beans. With some support and instruction, the Lenca women carved out their niche and came into their own.
This is conscious capitalism: give people the framework required to lift themselves out of poverty in a sustainable way, and then let the untapped potential of human ingenuity flourish.