Growing strawberries to build a future

In the indigenous language of the Mapuches, rucapangue means “puma’s lair”. It is also the name of a rural Chilean town located in Chol Chol, where farmer María Leviman, lives.

Although she was brought up in the countryside and has always loved nature, she never imagined that farm produce would be her main source of income: she inherited a two-hectare plot of land over 700 kilometers outside the capital of Chile, in the heart of this indigenous community. That was when she decided to establish there and try her hand at vegetable farming.

“For a small farmer, it’s not easy to find capital to develop good crops and make your business grow,” María explains.

With the experience she acquired, she chose to concentrate on growing frutillas, a typical variety of strawberries in Chile, where the autochthonous fruit had been crossed with a European strain.  She sought out technical advice from local organizations and was soon able to experiment with the best ways of planting, irrigating, harvesting and selling her produce. She currently has two orchards with 5,000 and 10,000 plants, among which are vegetables.

Rural life can be tough, especially for people with fewer resources. “For a small farmer, it’s not easy to find capital to develop the orchard and get good crops to make your business grow,” María explains.

María grows native Chilean strawberries called ‘frutillas’

She heard about Emprende Microfinanzas from her neighbors, who are farmers like her. They said that the Chilean institution of the BBVA Microfinance Foundation provides not only financial support but also technical advice. They shared how the loans have allowed them to increase production, buy greenhouse materials and install irrigation systems.

“It’s lovely what I do. I wake up every day and see my fields and the ripening fruits,” she says. María plants, tends and picks the strawberries herself. Then she takes them in her van to sell them at the Pinto farmers’ market.

She always encourages other women to work, to get ahead in life and take control over their future. She knows that dreams don’t just easily come true, one has to patiently work on them, just like the grooves where frutillas grow.

Cristina González del Pino, Communications BBVAMF