1,450 family farmers
Product: Golden cane sugar (Turbinado)
This video taken while visiting our producer partner Manduvirá, in Paraguay, features a co-op member sharing what her children have been able to accomplish academically and professionally thanks to selling on fair trade terms with the cooperative.
Manduvirá co-operative, founded in 1975, is a worker co-operative located in the village of Arroyos y Esteros (Streams and Swamps), in the southwest of Paraguay. Founded in 1975 with just 39 members, the co-op now has about 1,500 members. Our collaboration with Manduvirá began in 2002. In 2006, they began to process their own sugar cane and Camino received their first container of organic sugar.
Traditionally, sugar cane producers do not have control over the processing and marketing of their crops. Farmers have to sell their crops to a mill, which processes the cane and negotiates the sale of the sugar to national and international buyers. As a result, mills dictate prices to the farmers and often gain the largest profits from the sugar industry. In 2003, Manduvira organized and 500 members went on strike until they could get better prices from the mill.
Power and ownership are inseparable, and there was no one who believed we would be able to rent our own place using just the support and hard work of the co-op members.Andres Gonzalez, the general manager of Manduvira
In 2005, following years of low prices, mistreatment, and declining quality from the mill they were using, Manduvira took another unprecedented step toward independence and began to assume more control over the production process by renting a local mill, Censi y Pirotta. “We are the only co-operative of small-scale farmers that have been able to rent their own factory,” said Andres Gonzalez, the general manager of Manduvira. “Every other of the 77 sugar factories are private companies and the owners are very influential, having lots of political and economic power. Power and ownership are inseparable, and there was no one who believed we would be able to rent our own place using just the support and hard work of the co-op members. And we’ve done it with strong management and sound administration, a strong co-operative and strong leadership, and now we are in a very good market position for both the organic and the Fair Trade markets.”
This move was so successful that membership swelled and the co-op began building its own mill, which opened in 2014 and is the first farmer-owned mill in Paraguay. The mill allows Manduvira to be more competitive, build capacity, and provide additional value to its members.
In addition to the benefits of processing and directly selling their crops, co-op members also benefit from Fair Trade premiums. Manduvira invests Fair Trade premiums in initiatives such as medical and dental services (available to the entire community, not just co-op members), uniforms and school supplies for farmers’ families, crop diversification, and technical support for members through agricultural training and a local radio station. The co-op also distributes 50 percent of Fair Trade premiums as cash payments to farmers to support them between harvests when incomes are at their lowest. These payments allow farmers to pay for household needs, such as food and educational costs.
The average farm size is 3 – 5 hectares (7 – 12 acres). Approximately 800 of its members produce organic sugar cane, while the rest grow other crops such as cotton and a variety of fruits. Manduvira’s production is 100 percent organic. The burning of fields is not allowed, and farmers employ organic farming methods to maintain healthy, productive soil. Manduvira’s members use cut sugarcane leaves as ground cover to keep moisture in the soil and reduce weeds, weed by hand to eliminate the use of herbicides, and devote 7 percent of their land to either forest or other crops.
2,100 family farmers
Product: Cacao beans
Initially funded by the United Nations’ program to promote cacao cultivation as an alternative to growing coca leaves, ACOPAGRO was the first co-op to export cacao in all of Peru and is now an established exporter of quality cacao. The co-op, based in the San Martin region, has grown from 27 members in 1997 to more than 2,100 members today and is now the largest cacao exporter in Peru.
In July 2012, ACOPAGRO won first place in the national quality competition, Concurso Nacional de Cacao, in Lima. The co-op has diversified into other products and services like dried coconut, a reforestation and carbon capture program and a credit service for members.
With Fair Trade premiums, ACOPAGRO has invested in a new office and warehouse facility, equipment and quality training for members, vehicles for staff, and social programs such as basic food production and access to medical services like dental and eye care.
The average farm size is 3 – 10 hectares, and many also grow fruit and timber trees. La Siembra has been sourcing cacao from ACOPAGRO since 2010. Read about our recent visit here.
4,790 family farmers
Product: Whole brown sugar (Muscovado), transformed and packaged; coffee beans
Since the introduction of Cuisine Camino whole brown sugar (Muscovado) in 2009, La Siembra has been working directly with Cooperativa Norandino (formerly Cepicafe) when they first developed their sugar project.
The sugar project at Co-op Norandino transformed the co-op from a successful democratically-owned farmer export organization to a democratically-owned farmer organization for social and economic change. Recognizing their success in raising household incomes from better prices and yields from coffee, village co-op leaders noted that sugar cane, which members grew in the low-altitude parts of their farms, had no market. To address this and the increasing practice of turning cane juice into rum, the farmers decided to move forward with investments in village-level panela production and processing facilities. They built 20 cane crushing and drying stations throughout the three departments of Ayabaca, Huancabamba and Morropon.
Today, co-op Norandino is an association of 90 grassroots organizations with more than 4,790 small-scale coffee, sugar and cocoa producers, located on the western slopes of the Andes Mountains in Piura, Peru. The farmer owners of co-op Norandino benefit from five key areas of program services from the co-op: training, financing/credit, certification, processing and sales & marketing.
3,700 family farmers
Product: Cacao beans
CACVRA (Cooperativa Agraria Cafetalera Valle Río Apurimac Ltda) is a democratic, worker-controlled organization of small scale family farmers of cacao and coffee located in Ayacucho, Peru.
The organization was founded in 1969 to sustain its members’ livelihood and preserve their culture and land. Today CACVRA has close to 1600 organic members and has become a significant producer and international exporter of quality organic coffee and cocoa beans. They have invested substantial resources into cultivating and marketing cacao of the highest quality. La Siembra has been supporting CACVRA since launching our first 100g chocolate bars in 2002 by purchasing their organic cocoa beans under fair trade terms.
To provide efficient marketing services, agricultural credit, education, technical assistance, social services, and agricultural industrialization, complemented by efficient business management, leading to the sustained development of families and communities of family farmer members located in the VRAE.
800 family farmers
Product: cocoa beans
El Quinacho (Cooperativa Agraria Cafetalera El Quinacho) is a cocoa and coffee co-operative located in the southern part of Valley Apurimac in the District of Sivia-Province of Huanta-Ayacucho Region in Peru. The co-operative is also part of the larger organizations Junta Nacional del Cafe and Associacion de Productores de Cafes Especiales (APECAFE). We began sourcing from El Quinacho in 2010.
El Quinacho is a shining example of community collaboration. Even through decades of violence and terrorism in the surrounding areas, the co-operative spirit survived. Now with more stability and peace, that co-op spirit is thriving. El Quinacho first started their co-operative around bananas, coffee, and a small general store in 1970, but now the co-op specializes in organic and specialty cacao.
In addition to member benefits like fertilizers, tools, and healthcare, the co-op invests its fair trade premiums in community-oriented projects. One of their projects was to purchase machines to help construct roads. These roads provide better market access for members transporting their cacao, while also ultimately benefiting the greater community.
El Quinacho Co-operative is named after a strong and sturdy wood.