Catching up with Amarylis Castillo

Two years after awarding Amarylis Castillo the title of Hero of the Hemisphere, she has continued her fight to raise living standards of the poor farmers in the Dominican-Haitian borderlands. PADF met Amarylis at the site of her newly completed avocado processing facility.

“This has been a dream of mine for 10 year,” Amarylis explained. “I’ve been helping farmers to improve the production of lemon-avocados and we’ve dramatically increased production. However farmers were selling their crops to middlemen at low prices. With these washing and storage facilities, we can now bypass the middlemen and sell straight to the national buyers. The quotes that I am getting are twice as high as the middlemen used to pay us.” Luis Miniere, the mayor of Comendador, strongly supports Amarylis’ strategy.

“Our biggest problem in Comendador is that middlemen pay farmers too little. We need more of these storage facilities throughout the municipality for all of our crops. If we can bring our farmers together, we can help them to earn much more for their crops—this is our best route out of poverty. Based on the training that she had done with PADF and the relationships that she had built, Amarylis was able to obtain a $350,000 grant from the Americas Development Foundation. The land was donated by the municipality of Comendador. The building was inaugurated last week and the first avocados will be brought in at the end of the month.

“When PADF first started working with me nine years ago, I had a small foundation but didn’t know how to help my community.” Amarylis said. “PADF helped me to focus on the farmers’ needs. They opened doors for me and helped me to win my first grant. Other organizations have come and gone, but PADF has taken the time to understand our dreams and stayed with us to help us to realize them.”