“Mujeres de Oro en Acción” (MOA) is a work cooperative dedicated to empowered women that have been abused and discriminated against by giving them a sense of purpose. They are employed in the production and sale of organic marmalades, sauces, and dressings. Also, MOA helps women get out of poverty, a severe problem in Argentina, especially for this population sector.
Ana Eugenia Sancholuz
Pontificia Universidad Catolica Argentina
Most of the women who are part of MOA have suffered gender violence, discrimination, and abuse. Since they formed the cooperative, they had been empowered and had gained respect in the community. In addition, the microcredits that MOA provides the help many other women to start their own enterprise. According to Inés, the leader, “We built from the pain of our life experiences. We work for the common good. Our purpose is to be a bridge for a less unequal and violent community".
MOA business is also sustainable. They produce and sell organic marmalades, sauces, and dressings made by them in a venue share with other cooperatives to reduce impacts and expenses. The raw material used in the production comes from the discards of the local farmers´ seasonal fruits and vegetables, and all the production process is environmentally managed with no preservatives added and no waste generated.
General Fernández Oro's economy historically depends on rural work directly associated with male labor. Ines Ríos had always perceived this as a gender gap inequality. Due to advanced age, many of her neighbors, lack of education, or health problems, could not access a formal job. She decided to organize work cooperatively so that all of them could have a job and be owners of their efforts, ensuring effective participation of women and equal opportunities for them. The phrase that Inés mentions repeatedly is that "you don't have to resent yourself, you have to resist and move forward by transforming pain into action." Her contagious energy made both elder ladies and young girls follow in her footsteps, strengthening their love for work, solidarity, and Nature.
Her own family experienced empowered Inés. The family's only income was a low salary that her single mother received working as an informal employee in a family house until she was fired for becoming old with no social protection or savings. The memory of her mother's crying in pain still breaks Inés into tears. These experiences formed Inés and made it impossible for her to sit idly and ignore many of her women neighbors' desperate situation.
MOA is the innovation. MOA started in 2010 with five women producing 15 jars of marmalade a day in a small kitchen and a borrowed saucepan. In May 2015, after much work and learning, 11 women received the registration papers and formally became the worker cooperative, Cooperativa de Trabajo Mujeres de Oro en Acción LTDA. Today they work in a venue along with other cooperatives and have 18 associated women. The place has a well-equipped production plant, "a dream come true,” in Inés words. In optimal conditions, the factory will process 1,000 crates of fruit and vegetables per season, resulting in an average of 40,000 individual products between jars and bottles.
MOA is also an executor of microcredits to "strengthen entrepreneurs," according to Inés. Currently, 70 projects are beneficiaries. These are loans with a very low-interest rate, making them accessible and attractive for low-income workers who are thinking about developing their enterprise.
The innovation of empowering women had benefited the business since women want to grow and learn. To do so, they have been taking educational courses on food safety, machine safety, and environmental management. This knowledge has been applied to the production process and is explained in the Manual of Good Practices and Procedures. In the Manual, each product and plant operations are described.
The new plant allows preparing 260 jars per day, unlike the 50 jars that were prepared manually. And a pulper can produce up to 60 kg of pulp per day, something that manually would take about a week. This first season was abruptly interrupted by the quarantine due to COVID-19; nevertheless, MOA women were able to produce 2,500 individual products. With current sales, MOA has managed to cover operating costs. It has no debts, and its financial statements are approved. As we complete this document, the cooperative is celebrating another significant milestone. It received the permissions for the production and commercialization of 10 types of marmalades at the national level, which will allow the sale of products beyond the valley in all the country.
In terms of social impact, MOA is a social enterprise. Thanks to MOA, women have a decent job and a growing income, but also they are being trained and stimulated. For example, Elena is completing her studies as a Technician in Bromatology, and Natali is taking Digital Marketing courses.
Furthermore, the loans provided are helping local entrepreneurs to flourish, and some are offering services and products to the cooperatives.
All the suppliers are from the Valley, and this is not by chance, given that MOA's principle is to promote collaborative work in the community.
On the outskirts of Fernández Oro, a dining room called “Adonai” was created, where very low-income families go to receive their only daily meal. MOA provides free sauces, marmalades, baked goods, and various products and became the godmothers of the venue.
MOA also helps with an educational project of the “Virgen del Lourdes” school. They teach women teachers and mothers to make marmalades and sauces.
In terms of environmental impact, MOA has an ecological spirit. The raw material used for production is organic waste from the local agricultural farms. Proper management is given to the waste in general through compost techniques. The water used for cleaning fruits and other processes (no longer suitable for human consumption but without chemicals) is taken to a pool from where it is then taken to irrigate a plant nursery created on the same property. No type of plastic is used. The jars and bottles are made of glass with metal lids. No type of preservatives is used in the products.
Inés Ríos, Founder and President of MOA
Natalí Melo, MOA Marketing Manager
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General Fernández Oro, Río Negro, AR
Year Founded: 2015
Number of Employees: 11 to 50
“Mujeres de Oro en Acción” (MOA) is a work cooperative dedicated to producing and selling organic marmalades, sauces, and dressings that provides a place of belonging and job opportunities for women of any age that have suffered gender violence, discrimination, and abuse.
The MOA production plant is based in an agroindustrial venue shared among five cooperatives that pulled efforts to pay for the expenses.
MOA also gives microcredits for entrepreneurs along with another cooperative, “Valle Verde.” They are currently servicing seventy projects in the area.