MLP drives change through school for women tractor operators in Guatemala

New skills, new wheels, new prospects

New skills, new wheels, new prospects

Through a partnership with our local supplier, Pantaleon, ED&F Man Liquid Products (MLP) is enabling women to learn a very in-demand skill for Guatemala’s rapidly mechanising sugar industry – operating a tractor.

Through its MAS Program for sustainability initiatives, MLP has sponsored two cohorts of Guatemalan students to attend a special Tractor Operator School geared towards women. Not only does the training promote inclusion and broaden participants’ career prospects, but it can also lead to significant improvements in their income.

The tractor school was developed by Pantaleon’s technical specialists in partnership with INTECAP (Guatemala’s technical training institute) and FUNDAZUCAR (the Guatemalan sugar guild’s foundation). The 156-hour course includes 120 hours of theoretical and practical training on operating agricultural machinery, as well as components on topics such as occupational health and safety, personal financial planning, leadership and ethics, and self-esteem. The in-person training sessions took place on Saturdays over a 5-6 month period, further facilitating broad participation.

Participants who complete the training receive a certificate from INTECAP, a technical endorsement recognised and sought by employers throughout Guatemala.

So far, 61 women from 31 different communities have joined in the two cohorts sponsored by MLP. Of these students, 84 percent successfully completed the course and 74 percent have taken up specialist technical roles with Pantaleon and other companies. Importantly, their average salaries are 2.5 times higher than Guatemala’s agricultural minimum wage.

Flor drives a tractor in her new role

Flor drives a tractor in her new role

This qualification can really make a difference for participants.

‘Before the Female Tractor Operator School I did not have a formal job,’ says Flor de María Estrada, one of the students. ‘The school has opened so many opportunities for me.’

‘I am currently working at Pantaleon Mill as a Tractor Operator in Mechanised Harvest which has had a great impact on my life. This job allows me to help my family and continue growing and working on myself,’ adds Flor. ‘My biggest dream is to learn to drive a combined harvester and study Agroindustrial Engineering at university.’

Supporting the women’s tractor school is a natural fit for the MAS Program, which seeks ways to improve livelihoods as part of MLP’s broader sustainability strategy.

‘With the shift from manual to mechanical harvests, women have faced challenges qualifying for certain roles. That’s why we’re pleased to support the Female Tractor Operator School – it literally puts women in the driving seat for new opportunities in a changing industry,’ says Meredith Smith, Sustainability and Quality Director for MLP.

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