The Women's Collective - ASTillero 

Photos: Timothy Nathan


Commitment:  Rockflower is partnering with Casa Congo to develop and expand the Women's Collective in El Astillero
Location: El Astillero, Nicaragua

Purpose

The Women's Collective at Astillero is a partnership between Rockflower and Casa Congo. Casa Congo’s focus is on cultural and environmental conservation and the Women’s Collective will be designed as an extension of this philosophy.   On completion of the physical structure of Casa Congo space will be available for the women to meet, share ideas and concerns, and to conduct training workshops and group gatherings on subjects such as financial literacy, agro-ecological farming techniques, micro gardening and bamboo carpentry.

The overall objective of the Women’s Collective is to provide a shared space for the women to learn, gain confidence and expertise and increase their potential for economic empowerment. Through the provision of access to credit and micro loans, educational workshops and collaborative endeavors the Rockflower/Casa Congo partnership will act as a gardener to facilitate the growth of this Collective.

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The Project

Phase One: The founding members of the Collective are Las Tejedoras "The Weavers" a group of 21 women founded in 2007 who have already demonstrated their willingness and capacity for enterprising economic advancement. A group of local women in Astillero who have already recycled over 400,000 plastic bags found on the beach and roads and transformed them into beautiful products such as wallets, hats, phone cases, bags and water bottle holders. Originally the start of their upcycling business and idea to create a women’s group was not well received by the community of Astillero, however over the past 11 years they have persevered relying on the strength of each other to become a strong positive impact in the community.   

An early investment was made in December 2017 in a Juice and Smoothie bar. The Tejedoras will be assisted by Casa Congo in the planning, training and implementation to bring this  business opportunity to life. 

Phase Two: May to July 2018 saw the completion of an upgrade to the Juice and Smoothie bar enabling the Tejedoras to expand their retail business and provide additional menu items to the local community and visiting tourists and surfers. 

 Tejedoras standing in front of the completed upgrade of their Smoothie Bar.

Tejedoras standing in front of the completed upgrade of their Smoothie Bar.

 Compleeted new smoothie bar, August 2018.

Compleeted new smoothie bar, August 2018.

Lessons learned from this pilot project will provide information for future projects expanding on vegetable gardens, training in permaculture, bamboo workshop training and other income generating ideas in keeping with the sustainable principles of Casa Congo. 

Through creating a central hub of activity and financial support for the women to pursue their dreams of enterprise, The Women's Collective will provide opportunities not just for them but for their daughters and by extension their whole community.   

ABOUT CASA CONGO  

Casa Congo is a social enterprise based in Astillero, Nicaragua. Their mission is to empower the local community through environmental and cultural conservation. 
Casa Congo has 4 pillars for community-based conservation: 

1.    Public Art – creative workshops, community art [INSPIRATION]
2.    Ecology – education, agroecology, ecotourism [NATURAL RESOURCES]
3.    Ocean Advocacy – surf, marine biology, coastal preservation [WELLBEING] 
4.    Built Environments – sustainable design & construction [INFRASTRUCTURE]


The vision is to provide a community with the skills and inspiration to transform their land into an asset for economic regeneration. In order to truly support this vision, their first goal is to build a community center and school of conservation, with an eco-tourism component to generate funds to support new programs. This will be a global benchmark of sustainable architecture and a facility where the pueblo of Astillero can come together to learn, live, work and play.

According to Co-Founders Sol Lewites, Luca Marsaglia and Tommaso Bellelli together with Managing Director, Nicholas Kaspareck, Casa Congo is achieving their goals through a dialogue with “el pueblo”. Casa Congo believes in building authentic relationships to secure future generations the right to an environment that allows the elements of nature to coexist with mankind. 

 

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