By Tanya Maswaure
From migration to agriculture and business, Lucia has made a significant impact with her work in STEM. Her story paves the way for many young girls who do not see a future in tech but want to make a real difference in their societies. Lucia was also one of the speakers at the CELD and Amazon Watch STEM symposium, and as the first speaker of the group, she set the tone to inspire and make a real change.
Lucia Gallardo started the conversation by stating that this is probably the only topic she is willing to wake up in the middle of the night to talk about. Located in Honduras, Lucia was one of the attendees in the furthest time zone. One may not have noticed this, as she enthusiastically expressed that she grew up thinking she was terrible at math and is now working on artificial intelligence. “I have the best job in the world,” she explained, and it is easy to see why. “We are brought on to design experiments that mix the Sustainable Development Goals with innovation, and we find ways to make that financially viable. So when we design an experiment, generally we try to figure out the impact we’re trying to achieve.”
Lucia first explained how her organisation had helped extensively with migration and the issue that come along with it. She went the extra mile to not just research and experiment but also to apply herself as best as she could. “We designed a digital identity and labour migration-based system for making refugee resettlement a faster experience for many people who wait years to have the opportunity to claim asylum or be resettled in a part of the world.” She explained, “To us, that work is really important. I’ve spent a lot of time with refugees at Borders. I’ve also lived as an undocumented immigrant to try to understand what the invisible barriers to, you know, living and existing as an undocumented person might be. And it’s work that speaks very true to my heart, especially as someone from Honduras who unfortunately faces the issue of undocumented immigration a lot.”
She has also worked in agricultural markets in Uganda and their governments, where they could support the mapping of 157 parishes and the issuance of land titling and data around farmers. Lucia explained, “qualities like soil altitude at which products are grown and creating a repository of ways that we could connect farmers to resources or to support in growing their operations and formalising their operations for sale and export”. Some of her most impactful work has been on supply chains. Lucia told an incredible story of one of her previous clients who exported cocoa in line with traditional customs but struggled to control that when the product crossed the border. An indigenous community in Guatemala produces elite and high-quality cocoa of a rare strain that has been a protected particular strain for over 150 years. “They’ve cared for this plant, and they produce luxury, very high quality, beautiful and aromatic cocoa powder from this product, from this plant. And so they were selling this, you know, they could only produce from what they have because it’s such a rare strain of cocoa. They could only produce about 890 bags of this fine cocoa powder, you know, for sale. So 180, 890 bags a month, only to the United States.” There were a couple of problems with their supply chain, and the first was their tradition that only women could touch it. Men would handle all of the administrative and financial operations of the business, and women would handle the actual product because, in their culture, only they could touch it. After all, it’s a holy product to them. This was now hard to monitor and maintain when the product left the country. “We really wanted to change the way that the supply chain worked without disregarding their cultural heritage, amplifying their cultural heritage where it was possible.” Lucia saw this challenge and provided a solution. After looking at a group that also needed help, Lucia organised 19 domestic violence shelters with only women who needed business and entrepreneurship opportunities creating a fantastic win-win situation. “Helping these domestic violence victims also feel more fulfilled in supporting an indigenous community in Central America.”
Lucia has shown that all you need is an open mind and the right opportunity to create a sustainable future. “I think that when a little girl applies her curiosity and the strength of that curiosity, resilience and determination, there is just really nothing that is unattainable.”
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