The art of sustainable handicrafts, a different way to prosper and care for the planet

It is difficult to erase from one’s memory the image of Diana Céspedes walking through the banana groves in Azua, Dominican Republic, with Queen Letizia of Spain. An encounter that made the front pages, occupied minutes on news programs and took up radio airtime. Diana gave visibility to the reality of thousands of female banana growers and who have succeeded in changing the labor rules in the countryside, which too often are in favor of men.

130 km from Azua, in Mao, Renata de los Ángeles Montesinos also works with guineo –a variety of banana grown in the Dominican Republic– contributing to a sector that provides livelihood for a town of nearly 80,000 inhabitants.

Using the bananas that are not eaten and the waste they generate, Renata makes hand crafted items to improve her family’s life and  care for the planet. Before starting her business, she learned to make costume jewelry out of banana fiber and later, all that was needed to create a brand. After much hard work and effort, “RAMY Artesanías” (from the initials of her name) became her dream come true.

The workshop opened eight years ago and, with support from Banco Adopem, the BBVA Microfinance Foundation’s institution, she has managed to make it work. At the beginning, all the work was manual but over time and with small loans, she has introduced machinery and other tools that have made the processes faster.

She was able to see in the organic waste what nobody else could: art. Her creations attract the attention of everyone who passes by her workshop, and the articles she makes are so delicate that the banana fiber is imperceptible to buyers who visit her workshop to do their small part in Renata’s family’s success and also, perhaps without being aware of it, in caring for the environment.

She doesn’t only make costume jewelry, she also makes picture frames, accessories and ornaments, among other things. These daily tasks make her proud of everything she has built from zero and that encourage her to aim higher. In the future, she wishes to open an art gallery and be able to enlarge her workshop.  But she’s not going to leave anything to chance: with her determination and hard work, she will not stop until this project becomes reality.

Renata, like Diana and thousands of other women in the Dominican Republic, is the reflection of all that can be achieved with the right kind of help. Her success encourages other women to set up a business and the eight years that her workshop has been open are an inspiration for them, to push forward along with her, this very necessary change.