Mount Holyoke Alumna Reduces Poverty in Her Native Country through Wholesome Dairy
Marie Cavosora ’91 is known as the resident “Dairy Godmother” at CalaBoo Dairyard, a social enterprise that she founded in her native Philippines last year. After a prosperous two decades in corporate America—working in advertising for brands such as Pepsi, Disney, and Kraft Foods—a spiritual crisis and journey of self-discovery led Cavosora back to her home country with the goal of fostering a poverty-free Philippines. CalaBoo sources from smallholder farms raising grass-fed carabaos (water buffalo that produce highly nutritious milk) to create butter, cheese, yogurt, and milk drinks.
On how and why she started CalaBoo:
I climbed the corporate ladder and then said, now what? How do I create financial wealth to share with other people? I thought, why would I work for a corporation that is part of the problem and volunteer for just a few weeks? We are perpetuating poverty if we do not make conscious choices.
I traveled and I explored all kinds of religions: shamanism, Buddhism, universalism, Native American rituals—I shaved my head—but I was still unhappy. Missing was the Christian part. I wanted to love the way Jesus loved. His purpose was to live for others.
In the Philippines, one-third of people live in poverty. We import ninety-nine percent of our dairy, and eighty percent of that is as powdered milk. I saw the opportunity and need for high-quality dairy. It made good business sense to help build a new industry as a social enterprise. When I look back at my life, I was prepared for it—I always wanted to make butter!
Our mantra at Gawad Kalinga is, ‘Less for self. More for others. Enough for all.’Marie Cavosora ’91
On her love of community:
People ask, “What does business have to do with love?” But as a social enterprise of Gawad Kalinga Enchanted Farm (GK), we really are in the business of love. People over profit, transformation not transaction, empowerment as our investment. We seek to end poverty by creating shared prosperity. Our mantra at Gawad Kalinga is, “Less for self. More for others. Enough for all.”
The business exists to solve a problem, not necessarily because it’s a great moneymaking undertaking. The business is run in a way where we don’t wait for profits to help the poor. The business is run with the poor—as partners, staff in training, etc.—but it’s a business, so we also look closely at costing, pricing, and profitability for sustainability and growth.
On what keeps her motivated:
I spend five days a week at the farm working at SEED (GK’s School for Experiential and Entrepreneurial Development). I teach English—“the language of the rich”—mentorship, and communications. We are creating future dairy entrepreneurs.
I am excited about the freedom to create and innovate and discover solutions to age-old challenges that plague our world and the knowledge that what I am doing matters, that it contributes to making our world a better place. Having the support of the people around me, believing alongside me, helps sustain my passion.
I am so grateful for my public/private partnerships with the farm and also with the government agency the Philippine Carabao Center, which serves the poorest of the poor, and our farmers at co-op Gawad Kalinga, whose name means “to give care.” Because, ultimately, relationships—be they professional or personal—are paramount to a productive, meaningful existence.
This article appeared as “Ending Poverty through Dairy and Community” in the fall 2017 issue of the Alumnae Quarterly.
October 13, 2017