Cañeros Orgánicos Asociados (CORA) was founded in 2007 to improve the quality of life for small-scale organic sugarcane producers of Paraguay. The members united to organize the production and commercialization of their crops and improve the overall condition and fertility of the land. Sugarcane production has been a staple in Paraguay's economy, dating back to 1910 when members began selling their cane to a large processor in Tebicuarymi. This initial project quickly expanded the agricultural frontier of the region. However, dramatic increases in production costs and interest rates eventually made it unsustainable for small producers to invest in their own farms. With costs rising each year, many farmers were unable to continue producing significant harvests, leading to a decrease in their revenue and incomes. Communities quickly fell into poverty, eventually leading to the region’s depopulation. The area was soon forgotten by the Paraguayan government, and residents suffered many years with insufficient infrastructures, including a lack of schools and hospitals. Through Fair Trade, an alliance of family cane farmers worked to take a stand against the poor working conditions, overcoming years of struggle to bring new hope to their communities. Since becoming Fair Trade Certified™, CORA has been able to address farmers’ needs by encouraging the development of local projects promoting self- management, democracy and equality. Members now have access to an operating office where they gather to proactively discuss progress and seek new alternatives to their challenges. Focusing on agricultural development on a sustainable basis, the cooperative strives to promote the production and marketing of their high quality sugarcane with the help from Fair Trade’s links into international markets. With Fair Trade premium funds, CORA has provided farmers with lower-cost tractors and transportation services as well as new machinery to invest in rejuvenating their land, unproductive after nearly one hundred years of extensive use. Today, CORA continues to strengthen their organization by investing in their dedicated members, offering direct cash payments for the farmers to expand and upgrade their farms, enabling them to implement sustainable agricultural practices and also purchase organic fertilizer when needed. Premium funds are also invested in capacity building programs and other infrastructure services.
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