Cecilia and her daughter Isaura are two women who, thanks to the planting of oil palms, have helped to create employment for others while also working to take care of their own family.
She laughs about it now, but Isaura remembers how less than 20 years ago, when oil palms were first sown in Mexico’s southeastern region, the small bits of fruit produced by the plants were thrown away or fed to pigs and horses.
In 1998, a government program gave away specimens and covered shipping and maintenance costs to better understand if the African palm can be produced in Mexico.
Isaura del Carmen Sánchez Domínguez and her mother Cecilia divided up their 38-hectare plot to plant a crop with origins in the Gulf of Guinea about which they knew very little about. This federal policy was promoted by the then President Ernesto Zedillo, and it was well received by producers who were tired of the hassles associated with raising cattle and planting cassava or sugar cane. The producers who planted the oil palm back then are now seeing the fruits of their labor.
Isaura is now 56 years old. Like many oil palm producers, she continues the tradition of raising cattle. “It’s not a good business anymore. Keeping animals is very expensive, and you never make your money back when you sell them.”
The 19 hectares on which the oil palm grove was started in 2000 has grown to 25 hectares. And she knows that sooner rather than later, she will live to see her children succeed in whatever they decide to do. Today, the oil palm is one of her main income sources, and it makes it possible for her children to study and participate in sports.
For example, Samuel Humberto is the youngest of Isaura’s five children and thanks to the oil palm, in October 2019 he traveled to Colombia to play baseball, the most played sport in Tabasco. Over the years, oil palm growing has become a profitable business for Isaura,-who, after a period in Villahermosa, has now returned to the countryside to tend crops belonging to her mother, an 80-year-old woman who has always been devoted to rural life.
Isaura knows that things would not have turned out as they did if she had not taken that chance 20 years ago. It has not been easy, but it has been worth it. Today she is embracing the challenge of obtaining Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO certification) under the guidance of the company that buys her fruit: Oleopalma, who promotes and practices sustainable production.
If she succeeds, she will continue to find irony in the fact that this fruit, which nobody used to think was important, will only increase in quantity and quality. And as a result, it will give her even greater earnings to support her family.