MANDUVIRA - Cooperativa Producción Agroindustrial Manduvirá
The centre of Arroyos y Esteros is located about 70 km from the capital of Paraguay, Asuncion. Around 22,000 people live in the town and in small rural communities spread throughout the district.
The central region of Paraguay is subtropical, and heavy rains can make the dirt roads impassable for several days during the winter which complicates the harvest. In 2009 a severe drought through the summer meant a reduction of 60% in sugarcane yields, and a harsh frost in July reduced the amount of sugar present in the cane itself.
In spite of the fact that the district is highly dependent on agriculture, the soil is fragile and its fertility is low. In fact, the degradation of the land, mainly due to overpopulation and a lack of land management programs, led to massive migration out of the region in the 1970s and 1980s. The cooperative carries out training programs with its producer members to improve the quality of the soil with organic inputs (manure, compost, ash etc) and good land management practices (such as crop rotation).
Arroyos y Esteros lies on a major road connecting Asuncion with the north of Paraguay. Work to asphalt this road was completed in 2002, cutting the journey time to the capital by two thirds and opening up possibilities for the sale of produce in the capital city and for export. The new road also brings a constant stream of trucks and cars whose drivers are an important source of income and more diverse employment for the town. The electricity grid reached the town in 1986, although it remains unreliable and does not reach out to all the rural areas.
Since becoming Fair Trade Certified™, MANDUVIRA has had enormous success, the greatest of which is that they have become a sugar exporter. Previously, MANDUVIRA’s members depended on a third-party sugar mill to buy their cane, process it to sugar and negotiate the price on the international market. Through Fair Trade connections and financial premiums, MANDUVIRA members now process their own sugar at the mill and the cooperative directly manages the exportation of its sugar.
MANDUVIRA supports environmental stewardship by producing 100 percent organic sugarcane.
The Fair Trade premium has enabled Manduvirá to establish various social and productive programs.
I’ve been a member of Manduvirá Cooperative for three years, producing sugarcane and now sesame too. At the moment I’m weeding my sesame; I planted it with the money I got from the Fair Trade premium. It’s really important because the income for that comes when there isn’t any money from sugarcane. I’m on my own, a single mother – there’s no one I can ask for money. The Fair Trade money came just when I needed it and I’m using it where I need to.
Maria Pabla Cacerez
It is not only about the Fair Trade premium, today we have a much clearer vision, we can look beyond our own coop and business. FLO brought us the contacts with traders and importers, gave us access to market information. Thanks to Fair Trade, we grew from small sugarcane farmers to sugar producers. ”
Andrés Gonzáles Aguilera, Manager of Manduvirá
Tractor bought to maintain soil fertility
Ninety-nine percent of Manduvirá members are small producers with an average of three ha, for whom the purchase of their own farm machinery would be uneconomic. A tractor was purchased for soil preparation. Fair Trade premium was also used to subsidize the construction of 32 sugar collection centers, a transportation system for transporting sugarcane to the mills and a demonstration project for organic soil improvement. The cooperative has also used Fair Trade premium to purchase a platform scale and maintain the tractor.
Premiums financially cover members between harvests
Fifty percent of Fair Trade premium funds are dispersed as cash payments directly to the farmers, who use the money to bridge the financial gap between harvests, allowing farmers to buy food, cover education costs and reinvest in their fields before their next harvest income comes in.
Premiums provide subsidized health services
The health centre also hosts an optician once a month, a service which is otherwise unavailable.
Three professionals provide dental and medical consultation to cooperative members. The services are offered to all villagers, but cooperative members pay only 20 percent of their consultation fees; the rest is covered by MANDUVIRA.