By transforming milk into artisanal cheese, a small group of women in the municipality of Bolivar in north-western Colombia—an area once known for its guerrilla, paramilitary and drug-related violence—are transforming their lives.
The initiative — developing a processing business to create semi-aged Cerro Azul cheese for sale in farmers’ markets and fairs — is carried out under the umbrella of the Association of Livestock Breeders of Bolívar (ASOGANABOL). The women involved with ASOGANABOL are either members, or their spouses are members, of the group. The cheese processing takes place at the farm of ASOGANABOL manager Luisa Fernanda Padilla. The extra income grants the women some measure of independence, allowing them to proudly say, “I earned this money with my work, with something I learned to do.”
Members of ASOGANABOL are supported by the organization Improving the Economic Performance of Agriculture Co-operatives (IMPACT), which is funded by the Co-operative Development Foundation of Canada and Global Affairs Canada. IMPACT helps ASOGANABOL members develop stronger manufacturing, agricultural and environmental practices and develop a business plan based upon gender equity and generational change. ◊