The Asociación Agrícola Cañera del Sur was formed in 1961 by small-scale sugarcane farmers so that farmers could collectively negotiate better prices for their cane with the local sugar processing mill. The producer group is located near the small city of Iturbe, a five hour bus ride away from Asunción, Paraguay’s capital. This remote area consists of grassy plains with some wooded hills. Conventionally in Paraguay, individual sugarcane farmers have little bargaining power, and no access to price and market information, resulting in low prices that fail to provide sustainable livelihoods for themselves and their families. In 1999, Cañera del Sur became Fair Trade Certified™, which has empowered the farmers to receive better prices, as well as Fair Trade premiums for investment in community projects. In addition to sugarcane, the farmers of Cañera del Sur also tend livestock and fish farms, as well as grow self-consumption crops such as corn, yucca, beans, peanuts, melons, citrus, cotton and citrus. Today, Cañera del Sur's vision is to produce their sugar product for sale on the local market, so they can control the full production cycle and gain the value added by processing their cane. The Fair Trade premium has enabled Asociación Agrícola Cañera del Sur to establish various social and productive programs. The organization orients producers to the market by providing training and financing, as well as logistical, technical and economic support. Health care is also provided; two days a week the organization offers free dental care for cooperative members and subsidized care for community members. The organization also supports local schools with free health testing for the whole community. Cañera del Sur invests in the local environment too, by utilizing green fertilizers and practicing erosion control. The cooperative is certified organic and has organized educational trainings on organic and environmental practices. The organization invested in a tree nursery that started out primarily growing fruit trees and now is home to native trees used for reforestation. Cañera del Sur gives the trees to its cooperative members as a service to prevent water and wind erosion. The organization has set up an on-site grocery store with produce sourced from some of its very own members. The local community can purchase food at affordable prices and members can finance food by subtracting its cost from their payment for sugarcane. With its community development premiums, Cañera del Sur has also invested in a radio station to facilitate communication, news and education amongst its members.
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