Empowering Women Farmers: an Interview with Comultrasan CEO, Socorro Neira
Grace Tellez, Constanza Nieto, and Madison Sawyer had the opportunity to interview Socorro Neira, CEO of Comultrasan - a 400,000+ member Colombian credit union that has been an instrumental partner to Agromovil in Colombia. In this interview, Socorro told us about her family’s farming origins, how the Agromovil-Comultrasan partnership has impacted the Colombian countryside, and how Agromovil can empower women farmers.
From Field to Boss
Socorro has always been deeply connected with agriculture. She comes from a farming family where hard work and perseverance were taught by example. While sharing stories of her grandmother on the farm, Socorro illustrated what life is like for women farmers in Colombia – where taking on extra work to support their families and help others, while raising children, maintaining the home, and running a farm, is the norm. Socorro expressed that she was “impressed by the inherent desire of women farmers to improve quality of life through hard work.”
Just as her grandmother wove sacks to bring in more money and provide for the town, Socorro learned to go the extra mile with her studies and work. “My family did not have the necessary resources for my studies. But since I was a little girl, I understood that if I did not prepare myself, I would not develop in my work – I would lose opportunities,” Socorro explained.
Then, when she began at Comultrasan in 2000, Socorro dedicated herself in a way that the job was not a burden, but a passion. “I had total certainty that, in the end, we were forging a better, brighter future: for our members, our employees, and the community in general,” said Socorro. By engaging the values of preparation, commitment, hard work, and leadership that she inherited from farm life, Socorro rose through Comultrasan to become the credit union’s first woman CEO.
Impact of Agromovil & Comultrasan on Rural Colombia
Agromovil and Comultrasan make a great team in support of Colombia’s farmers. The combination of Agromovil’s software capabilities with Comultrasan’s expertise in the region has already seen success. With the help of Comultrasan’s field professionals, Agromovil brought on nearly 1,300 users who posted more than 500 tons of goods on the platform. And, through these efforts, Comultrasan’s small farmer segment grew by over 500% in 6 months.
Socorro spoke about how Agromovil helps put an end to intermediation in the farm-to-market supply chain – an outdated system that consumes profits and leaves next to nothing for small farmers. “We saw the importance of facilitating the value chain for our farmers and, by partnering with Agromovil, have been able to improve our farmer members’ profitability and visibility,” she said.
The Agromovil-Comultrasan partnership creates a secondary, yet equally valuable, benefit for small farmers in Colombia. Socorro explained, “The platform helps to formalize farmers, so that they can manage their accounts and control their cash flow.” By conducting transactions through Agromovil, small farmers develop a financial history that enables them to apply for loans from institutions like Comultrasan to improve their business – “creating wealth that will lift families and communities across Colombia for generations to come.”
Empowering Women Farmers
Out of our 1,300 users, 32% are women - hardworking, resourceful women farmers who are looking for ways to grow their businesses and, as Socorro illustrated, “move their families forward.” Designed with input from women farmers in Colombia, Agromovil provides the market visibility these women need to realize their goals.
Together, Agromovil & Comultrasan are paving the way for women farmers to become more profitable. Agromovil is gender agnostic, empowering women who have been historically excluded from a supply chain dominated by tight-knit male relationships. In general, most buyers, transporters, and intermediaries are men, and selling the harvest is typically the responsibility of the men on a farm.
Through Agromovil, women farmers have the “opportunity to promote their products, negotiate sales, and pay on the platform, without the interference of intermediaries or constraints due to exclusion,” Socorro said. And, through Agromovil’s data connections with Comultrasan, women farmers build their own financial history based on their production and sales – strengthening their separate financial identities and access to credit.
Agromovil looks forward to future work with Comultrasan that will put more power in the hands of small farmers. Socorro described it well, “the social impact of our partnership will be striking.”