Holcim Apasco, Mexico: CECAF evaluation in Orizaba.

Holcim Apasco, Mexico: CECAF evaluation in Orizaba

Following retirement, former teacher Esperanza Cruz had a lot of free time but little income. With the support of CECAF, she developed her greenhouse business and today sells more than 350 flowers per month: "CECAF helps us to improve our quality of life by providing opportunities for extra income generation. It has given me an identity."

The agricultural and ecological training centers known as Centros de Capacitación Agropecuaria y Forestal (CECAF) near each Holcim Apasco plant go back more than 20 years. They help to strengthen Holcim's reputation in the communities while at the same time contributing to rural development and promoting the preservation of the environment, particularly through reforestation. They establish self-financing training programs that lead to income-generating activities for community members.

In 2005, the work of CECAF in Orizaba, established in 1993, was evaluated. CECAF staff and community representatives checked to see if objectives were being achieved and whether adjustments to the strategy were necessary. They found that knowledge transfer to the community, including training, basic materials and an initial supply of seedlings, ensured that most families could now produce anthuriums (flamingo flowers) for sale. CECAF activities have also significantly changed the community's initial negative attitude toward Holcim.

Over the past 14 years, Salvador Gallaga has been Holcim CECAF coordinator in Orizaba. By encouraging the production of the tropical anthurium (flamingo flower), instead of the traditional chayote and coffee, he created new income opportunities for the community.

The project enabled greater participation by women, thereby challenging existing roles and improving gender equality. Increased incomes also led to better integration of families and enabled more educational opportunities for children. Basic infrastructure to generate sales such as fax, phone and computer access was lacking for the start-up businesses. However, knowledge sharing among the producers, facilitated by CECAF, as well as growing incomes, enabled reinvestment in these micro-enterprises.

In 2008, 57 producers were trained in Orizaba, and greenhouses for 40 families supervised, efforts benefiting more than 400 community members. Other plants such as orchids and ferns were introduced for sale, and the potential for the implementation of "Familiar self-sufficient units" is being investigated.