Oxlajuj E is a women's organic amaranth cooperative of 110 members who grow, cook and sell amaranth, a high-protein traditional Mayan grain, to feed their families. They support their families' from selling their grains through the cooperative bakery and export to the city. However, they must harvest the grains by hand, a tedious task that takes women and children 3 days to clean chaff from grain, in what would take 3 hours with our new mechanical winnower.
110 women around El Tablon grow amaranth around their homes to earn a small income. With very low literacy themselves, the cooperative members promote growing amaranth as a means to provide better nutrition, basic education and soil fertility in the region. However, harvesting amaranth by hand is excessively labour intensive and tedious.Delegated to women and children, a small plot's harvest will take them 3 whole days of sifting and separating grains by hand. These hours worked are unpaid.
In 2015, ATC designed, built and tested the first amaranth winnower using locally available and recycled materials. The thresher is small and light enough to transport between farming communities and be shared among cooperative members. This is the first amaranth thresher the cooperative has ever used, reducing the workload of over 30 members in the first season, but more amaranth farmers are asking for machines. 2016 is dedicated to training local mechanics to build more machines.
Now that we've build the pilot winnower in November 2015, in 2016 we are testing and improving the machine and start training a local welder on the design. We have been approached by other amaranth farmers asking for access. As affordable, labor-saving machines become available, organic amaranth production becomes more profitable and will engage more farmers in sustainable agriculture. Social benefits go further because women farmers earn more money to invest in education and health.