The Feed

Stories of Feeding God's Children Hungry in Body & Spirit

In Nicaragua: Pine Needles and Ambition

In Nicaragua: Pine Needles and Ambition

Isabel’s blistered hands were cramping. She had just arrived home from a long day weaving pine needle baskets for a cooperative run by Fabretto. The pine needles poked her fingertips and dug into her skin causing splinters.

She still had a long night ahead caring for her babies. But she had finished making her first basket. Making that basket had taken her 30 hours of hard labor.

Years later, she smiled recounting the story of making her very first basket to staff at Fabretto, an FMSC MarketPlace partner.

“Finishing the basket made it all worth it,” Isabel said. “It was more than just a basket to me. It was proof that I could do it. I could fight and overcome the machismo culture and I could sustain myself and my family.”

Machismo is typically understood as male dominance. Many communities use the term to describe responsible male traits like presence of mind, stoicism and bravery, according to “Machismo,” a paper printed by Oxford University Press.

In Nicaragua, the first definition applies. Women in the Central American country are given few opportunities outside of being a housewife, according to staff at the basket cooperative.

“We [the women at the cooperative] used to all be shy, quiet women. We silently struggled watching our male counterparts getting opportunities in education, business and all other aspects of life,” Isabel said. “But that was all before the cooperative.”

More Than Baskets


Fabretto Children's Foundation created the Cusmapa Basket Cooperative in 2006 to promote empowerment and economic growth in the community.

Fabretto empowers underserved children and their families in Nicaragua to reach their full potential, improve their livelihoods and take advantage of economic opportunity through education. Last year, FMSC's partnership with Fabretto  provided 10,637,568 meals for their school programs.

The co-op Fabretto runs employs around 40 women who weave baskets and other crafts with pine needles.

Isabel knew that if she learned to make baskets, the additional income could better provide for her three children.

“I also wanted to know I could do something and provide for myself,” she said.

Working at the cooperative is more than a job for Isabel. She considers the other women there a second family – and they inspire each other, she said.


“Each woman has had their own difficulties throughout the years, but together we have fought, persevered and become strong independent women.

Isabel’s dream is to see the co-op grow and sell their products all over the world.

If they can sell more products, she can fix the leaks in her tin roof, put tile floor over the dirt ground and maybe even build a cement kitchen instead of adobe.

Isabel wants to see her children finish school and go on to have families of their own. But Isabel’s ambitions extend past her family. She wants to help other women in Nicaragua.

She hopes that the work they do at the co-op can inspire other women in Nicaragua to embrace independence and overcome the machismo they encounter.

You can find Isabel’s handiwork in the FMSC MarketPlace.

“Without your support in buying our products we would never be where we are today and we will never get to where we want to be,” Isabel said.


Connect with Us  

Related Items