From Flowers to Chocolates, Empowering Women Through Agriculture
Kenneth Mheil Mangaya- Ay | June 18, 2020
by Vina Araneta-Pilapil
80 – year old Charita Puentespina was first known as Davao’s Queen of Cut Flowers. She organized the Apo Cut Flower Cooperative that assists women cut flower growers by providing them with planting materials, thus empowering the local women aside from contributing to the local economy.
She established her own farm in 1977 that is now called “Puentespina Farm,” the biggest producer of cut flowers in the country. “Ang advocacy for women. Empowering women nga matudluan og livelihood murag dako ang impact kung magtan-aw kita nga nag-successful sila. (My advocacy is for women. Empowering them and teaching them, it’s a big impact seeing them become successful.)” said Puentespina.
She also ventured into cacao industry business in 2003 and successfully exported the first shipment of cacao to the US. A portion of her farm became a training facility for small cacao growers in Mindanao. From cacao beans, she turned them into premium Philippine chocolates and built a chocolate factory. This led to the establishment of Malagos Agri-Ventures Corporation that makes premium single-origin fine flavor chocolate that is being awarded as one of the best chocolates in the world and was given the heirloom cacao status in the world.
Because of her advocacy in flourishing the cacao industry, she was given many awards like the Gawad Saka Outstanding Agricultural Award and Outstanding ASEAN Entrepreneur in 2017. In December 2019, she was awarded as one of the Outstanding Rural Women in the Philippines. “Kanang mga young entrepreneurs hawod naman sila sa IT bah so ang ilang opportunity to market kung unsa ila nahimo, ilang na-innovate especially out of cacao karon mao nay pinaka popular and then ang cacao naa ra gyud diri sa Davao. Dako ang tabang kung ang mga babae ang mag-alima sa mga punoan sa cacao (The young entrepreneurs are good in IT so they have the opportunity to excel in the market with their innovation, especially with cacao. It’s a big help if the women will plant cacaos).”
Charita Puentespina is currently the Chairperson of Davao City Cacao Council.