Lourdes Blanco Páez

Administration Manager of the Sor Ángela de la Cruz cooperative in Estepa (Seville).

After completing her university studies in labor relations and some work experience, she had the opportunity to work in this cooperative during the olive harvest campaign in November 2001, performing administrative functions. “And what was going to be a one-time support job became the beginning of my professional life and the link with the cooperative for the rest of my life,” Lourdes tells us.

During the more than 20 years she has been working at the cooperative, she has seen many changes, “everything has changed at a technological level, even the building is not what it used to be”, she tells us. All these changes have meant a very significant improvement in the management of the cooperative and member services. “When I started we didn’t use the Internet and now we even have a communication platform with the member; now everything is easier, faster and more effective, but it requires continuous training and constant renovation” confesses Lourdes.

Although her position is linked to the administration of the cooperative, her work is broader, “in the cooperative we have to be very versatile, so that we can lend a hand to any colleague in times of great task”.

When she started working in the cooperative, she was the first woman in an all-male space. Fortunately, over the years, the presence of women has grown significantly in all areas: technical advice, olive mill and administration.

However, from her point of view, the fact of being a woman has never been a handicap in her professional development in the management of the cooperative. “I always had the doors open to continue training or to take any course or activity to improve my work. And when I became a mother, I was also able to reconcile my professional and family life,” says Lourdes. Lourdes was less reluctant to deal with the members, especially the older members, but even so it was not very significant, since most of them she already knew from being neighbors of Estepa and from her previous job.

At present Lourdes considers that women are well represented in all areas of this cooperative, “even in the governing council we already have a female member, and we hope that this will be a stimulus for the incorporation of more women to the main governing body of the cooperative,” says Lourdes.

With a view to the new generations, Lourdes advises young people to get training, whether they want to run farms or work in production, “everything is becoming more and more computerized and mechanized, so they have to have a specialization, but fortunately with this cooperative project in the region there is a future”.

You can see all the stories of cooperative women: https://bit.ly/31YYKY7

Purificación Arteaga Martín

Chemical technician at Oleoestepa’s oil laboratory.

As a former university student of the chemistry branch of science, her first words are aimed at trying to put an end to the myth that science is a man’s world. “During my chemistry courses, I always had more female than male classmates,” explains Puri.

After completing her higher studies, she began her professional career in the newly created Oleoestepa laboratory some 20 years ago. “From the beginning I felt very identified and involved with the scientific project of the Oleoestepa cooperative, so I feel very fortunate to have been able to contribute to its development,” Puri confesses proudly.

As a chemist with more than 20 years of experience, she highlights the great differences in the instrumental and analytical aspects since its beginnings. “The fact of being an ENAC-accredited laboratory has always allowed us to have the latest technology available, being one of the pioneering centers in everything related to oil analysis,” explains Puri.

As regards gender issues in the world of business in general and science in particular, Puri says she has not felt any differences in treatment due to the fact that she is a woman, “we are a team in which gender does not matter when it comes to rights and obligations; I have never encountered any obstacles or limitations to the development of my professional career as a scientist in all these years”.

Beyond the laboratory area of Oleoestepa, where the presence of women is in the majority, she considers that there is still space within the cooperatives where women have not managed to normalize their presence at all, “mainly in areas where greater physical strength is required or management areas in the boards of the associated cooperatives”.

Regarding the young women who are currently training to become the scientists of the future, she knows that the road is full of difficulties, but with determination and perseverance everything can be achieved. In rural environments and those linked to agriculture, this complication is much greater, but in return the reward in the form of continuous enrichment is also greater. In this line Puri conveys her gratitude to all those who make up the great family of the Oleoestepa cooperative, for not ceasing to learn day after day from the olive sector and the rural world in general. “Sincerely, I can say without sounding grandiloquent that I am fortunate to consider every morning of these 20 years that my work is the best”.

You can see all the stories of cooperative women: https://bit.ly/31YYKY7

Many farmers think that by increasing the number of production factors used they are able to proportionally increase the production and profitability of their farm. But the reality is that the use of more production factors than necessary in most cases only reduces the profit of the farm and increases the risk of contamination of the environment and the food produced.

Integrated production is an agricultural production system that uses natural regulatory mechanisms, taking into account environmental protection, farm economy and social requirements, in accordance with the requirements established for each product in the corresponding production regulations.

In general terms, it is an agricultural production system that optimizes the use of the productive environment and uses natural regulatory mechanisms to control pests and diseases, taking into account three key issues. One, environmental protection. Two, the economics of the farm; and finally, society’s demands for increasingly healthier and safer food.

What are the rules of integrated production?

The rules of integrated production have the direction and supervision of an agronomist trained in integrated production, which must be complied with by farmers integrated in farmers’ associations (API), which is embodied in the concept of good agricultural practices.

This concept is based on the following issues.

  • soil conservation
  • optimization of water use
  • optimization of solar energy use
  • biodiversity conservation
  • rationalization of fertilizer use
  • rationalization of the use of phytosanitary products
  • reduction of pollution of agricultural origin

By following these codes of Good Agricultural Practices, agricultural activity is much healthier and less environmentally damaging, without underestimating the significant savings in cultivation costs.

What are the advantages of integrated production?

The cultivation of olive groves through the application of Integrated Production techniques is an environmentally friendly model to obtain high quality products, with all the guarantees of food safety and without renouncing the productive capacity of the farm, making a rational use of natural resources, especially water, while at the same time taking care to avoid the erosion of our soils, in order to guarantee a sustainable agriculture in the long term, and to collaborate in the maintenance of a more habitable planet.

How does integrated production affect the environment?

As soon as spring awakens and with it the vegetative activity begins again in the olive trees, technical controls will warn of diseases and pests that can damage the plant and the fruit. If necessary, the specific actions to combat pests or diseases will be carried out always protecting the fauna and flora, and guaranteeing that the fruit to be obtained will be free of any type of phytosanitary residue.

How does Oleoestepa develop its integrated production?

Oleoestepa’s associated olive mills receive olives from olive trees grown exclusively under integrated or organic production techniques. The plots of land that belong to an Integrated Production Association (API) have an agronomist in charge of it, with more than 24 technicians in the cooperative. This technician is in charge of advising and controlling the different tasks required in the day-to-day cultivation of the olive grove, with each task being recorded in the farm notebook.

Oleoestepa’s 19 olive oil mills are authorized to produce integrated production extra virgin olive oil. In the oil production process itself, one of the most critical, the oil mill industry, like the olive grove operation, must meet demanding technical requirements to guarantee the success of this important phase. One of them ensures that the olives and oil will be permanently in contact exclusively with authorized food material, or the different analyses to which the olives and oils are subjected in preventive controls and quality certification.

In terms of corporate social responsibility, the integrated production system contributes to a better rural environment and oils with certified food safety.