Leidy Fernanda Ortega, leader who is expanding cacao production in Tumaco

If you want to reach the headquarters of the La Asociación de Productores de Cacao - ASPROCAT (Association of Cocoa Producers) you must depart from San Andrés de Tumaco, travel over 20 kilometers along the road towards Pasto and arrive at the village of Inguapí.

The unassuming entrance is located on one side of this road and leads to one of the most significant cocoa production centers in the region. It happens to be responsible for supplying both national and international markets with cocoa of the highest caliber.

Leidy is a professional in Finance and International Relations with a specialization in Development Projects from the School of Public Administration (ESAP, by its Spanish acronym) and is currently serving as a production counselor at the Agency for Reincorporation and Normalization in Nariño, Colombia.

Visible Pathways

Her involvement in the master’s program in Management and Development Practice stemmed from a call for applicants published by Manos Visibles and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), with the support of La Universidad of Los Andes who hosted the program over the course of a two-year period.

"The cocoa cultivating process is deeply engrained in my family lineage. It has been a part of us since my childhood; I grew up watching my grandfather sow, harvest, and trade cocoa in Tumaco, a region that produces some of the world's finest cocoa. It's currently one of the most income-generating agricultural chains in the area,” Leidy Fernanda intimated during our visit to the main offices of ASPROCAT.

A master’s-degree holder in Management and Development Practice, Leidy explains that “this is one of the most comprehensive processing centers we have in the region. It has a clonal garden spanning approximately three acres where various genetic materials are planted. We undertake research processes that encompass resistance to diseases, increased production, compatibility with regional soils, and academic activities that are conducted by universities like La Universidad Nacional, La Universidad Antonio Nariño and SENA.”

Education for Development

For Leidy Ortega, being part of this master's program has been incredibly meaningful as “it has allowed me to clearly identify the stakeholders involved in this process. I cannot understate how important this is to one of Tumaco's most important agricultural federations. Today, it has become a pivotal transformational process for the region and a strategy to address social issues such as poverty, violence, illicit crop substitution, gender and social inclusion.”

“These academic opportunities undoubtedly provide women with new avenues for growth within their careers, especially those from agricultural families. It facilitates the development of entrepreneurship and projects focused on productivity. I wholeheartedly encourage them to participate and take advantage of these programs as they will be instrumental in propelling these women towards the achievement of their own dreams and those of their families. And of course, they will support the economic dynamics of their territories,” Leidy Fernanda concluded.


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