Las Molineras: a story of women’s entrepreneurship in Peru

It is always inspiring to discover that somewhere in the world a brave and hard working group of women is closing the gender gap in the business world. But it is even more impressive when success is achieved by women belonging to an isolated community, fighting against natural and social obstacles, with little external help.

This is the adventure of 14 female entrepreneurs named Las Molineras de Canaria (the miller women of Canaria) after the creation of a business venture in the agricultural sector. Canaria is a Peruvian peasant community situated 3,031 meters above sea level, and the first city in the area.  The capital of the region of Ayacucho is five hours’ drive away.

In 2007, the miller women of Canaria received financial aid from the Trafigura Foundation, via local partner FIC (Fundación Integración Comunitaria), which promotes new agricultural projects in the vicinity of Trafigura’s copper and zinc producing mine at Catalina Huanca. The group of women became responsible for a consignment of land (10,000m2), which had been abandoned for the last 50 years, and started to make it productive by planting Canola seeds.

Despite many challenges, including local pressure and the lack of a guaranteed supply of water, the women stayed together and from the original Canola project they went on to create a small company growing a variety of grains and seeds that capable of growing at altitude. These include beans, barley and broad beans, amongst other crops and the group also mills grains such as harina de siete semillas (seven seeds flour).

To support local sale and distribution efforts for the siete semillas flour, they created the Asociación de Mujeres Organizadas de Canaria - AMOC (Association of Organized Women of Canaria). In 2013, the FIC included AMOC and other agricultural producers in the programme Mi Chacra Productiva (My Productive Farm), financed by the Trafigura Foundation. This strengthened their production capacity and supported the regional commercialization of their operations. The results of the training organised for the AMOC group were impressive: they managed to sell 18,600 kg of siete semillas flour between March and June 2017 to Global Alimentos SAC, which is affiliated to ALICORP, one the most important food groups in Peru. Another order of 10,000 kg has already been planned for July and August worth over USD 76,000.

This is an incredible outcome for a 14 strong group of women whose business is still at a semi-artisanal phase of development.