Gifts in action

Small business, steady income

An enterprising dairy farmer turns milk and cheese into cash. Photo: Percy Ramírez/Oxfam America

In the rural high-altitude region of Espinar, Peru, opportunities to earn a living are few and far between. Many locals end up leaving home and seeking jobs in other parts of the country.

But thanks to support from Oxfam, Evangelina Hiladio Chuyo didn’t have to be one of them.

“My husband and I have a small dairy. We have milk, and I can make cheese [to sell],” said the 38-year-old mother of two sons. “I don’t have to leave my community to earn income.”

In 2010, Hiladio and her neighbors learned how to raise dairy cows and make cheese in a training led by Oxfam’s local partner organization. She put that knowledge to use the following year, when her family joined an Oxfam America-funded project designed to help communities in Espinar adapt to climate change. The project helped farming families like Hiladio’s pilot new technologies, such as rain-fed reservoirs to conserve water, sprinkler irrigation systems for their pastures, and cold-resistant grasses for animals.

“At the beginning we didn’t have good [pasture] and we didn’t have a reliable source of water,” said Hiladio. “With the support of this project, we have grass; we have water. We sold the cows we had before and bought milking cows, which are high quality.”

With their herd flourishing, Hiladio and her husband were able to build a dairy on their farm, where she makes cheese to sell in the market in the regional capital.

“I sell [each cheese] for about 13 soles (about $4.50) each, so that’s about 400 soles ($145) a week,” she explained. “Little by little, with the sale of cheese, I am improving the dairy: the walls, the floor, the kitchen, the equipment.”

Besides earning much-needed income, Hiladio said she’s also transformed her role within the household. Now, “as a woman, I don’t need my husband to do all the work with livestock,” she said proudly. “I know how.”

Share this story: