My First Experience Of How The Power Of Markets Can Transform The World
I am a biologist, and graduated from Cornell University with a Master in Agriculture, after being able to get a Fulbright scholarship.
When I came back to my country, I came back to a country at war. I decided I could not change my country or the world, but I decided I was going to start my own world. So I moved to a rural area, started and organic farm and began teaching people from rural villages how to farm with healthy local products. We began building a connection to local restaurant markets but eventually ran into our limits when we began to look to export.
In talking with one of the people I was working with Patricio Coroy, about what we could next, he told me: “Maria, I have a dream. I want to see my community prosper, but I also want to see mountains with trees again, I want to see the springs recovering, I want to see birds and rabbits. I want to see a thriving community.”
That began our next project which was to plant trees for sustainable lumber harvesting. He had 10 friends who wanted to be part of this and they each planted 300 trees. As the trees grew, we started to harvest them sustainably. Then we began a carpentry business and landed our first customer – CEMACO, one of the great socially conscious businesses in Guatemala. I will never forget the day that Isa, one of my friends working in this project said: “We have an order!” I had come a long way from my studies as a biologist and was firmly planted in believing in the power entrepreneurship.
It’s now been 26 years since that first day Patricio and I shared the dream of revitalizing his community and today 2,500 families, from 12 villages, are participating, not in a project, but into an organization that has gained national recognition and is a source of pride.
As for me, that was the beginning of realizing that markets are very powerful tools. For me I found special value in markets that value ancestral cultures, that value the Earth and that bring new people into their value chains. These are markets that can change the world!
This first experience with Patricio, CEMACO and the lumber business was where the Wakami System has its foundation. It is a foundation that acknowledges that through markets we can create new realities. . . ones where as we work together, the people and the Earth . . . start becoming happier!
(As a personal note on how small the world can be, my daughter Stefani now works in CEMACO, and is part of the Corporate Social Responsibility unit. CEMACO continues to be an excellent corporate citizen in Guatemala and my daughter is now also promoting the planting of trees! I could not be prouder).