Isabel Martinez Vargas manages Concession 17-TAH/C-OPB-J-092-04, which is in Madre de Dios region, in Tahuamanu province; it has a surface area of 1,024.48 hectares.
Isabel harvests and sells Brazil nuts for a living. She is 46 years old and was raised in the Tahuamanu province by her parents who migrated from Abancay (in Ayacucho region). She began her business activity as a Brazil nut seller after a tragic event that changed her life.
Isabel was married to a chestnut seller who devoted all his life to his work. Unfortunately, in 2010 he was diagnosed with a terminal illness. Before dying, he expressed the desire to leave his Concession to his son, Yosmer, who was about to be born at the time. He is now seven-years-old. The father died the day he was meant to sign the will, but Isabel, despite the grief, and showing immense strength, did everything she could to fulfil her husband's desire. After her husband’s death, Isabel took care of all documents and paperwork needed to assign the property to her son. Yosmer, though still a child, is growing up aware of his father’s dream and is sure that he will follow his path and one day become a great chestnut seller.
Isabel never received any proper training from her husband, who didn’t want to involve her in work that was too hard and physically demanding, like the harvest and transport of heavy drums full of chestnuts, which can sometimes each weigh as much as 75kg. Since the death of her husband, Isabel managed the family business, but a lack of knowledge in the sector has created many problems for her and resulted in a severe depression. She was only able to overcome this by focusing on the care and growth of her child, and the future she hoped to offer to him.
She continued working despite her depression, and obtained a grant to continue her work. However, this fund forced her into extreme restrictions, with the strict conditions which took advantage of her poor knowledge. In these last years she hasn’t been paid sufficiently for her Brazil nut production, with payments lower than market price, resulting in her loss of more than half of the profit. To improve her situation, Isabel is receiving help from Tejiendo Sonrisas and from other organisations. She started producing aguaje (a typical fruit from the amazon region) for private consumption but the idea of selling it in the future. She hopes to grow as a businesswoman and create more income by differentiating her activities, but always by prioritising the respect and preservation of the Amazon Forest and the natural environment.