Strengthening Farmer Associations

Published: 13 November 2017
Last edited: 13 November 2017

Runa Foundation’s strategy for community development is to create strong community-based organizations and associations that can invest money and resources into their own development to improve livelihoods. Over the past 3 years, there has been a great deal of organizational advancement among the guayusa producer associations. Unlike other parts of Latin America, there is not a strong history of agricultural cooperatives in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Given this context, we prioritized Fair Trade Certification and strengthening farmer’s capacity for organization and resource management, in order to ensure that indigenous producers are able to connect with markets in a way that is just and equitable. One of the main components of success in establishing producer associations has been to mimic the functioning of current governance structures that are used locally to manage communities, land, or resources. Instead of imposing a structure that has worked successfully in other parts of Latin America, producers determine the structure and function of their associations, and we work with them to build a governance system that is efficient and legitimate in the eyes of producers.

Classifications

Category
Alliance and partnership development
Sustainable livelihoods
Scale of implementation
National
Phase of solution
Implementation
Monitoring

Enabling factors

The advancement of associations can in part be attributed to the participation and buy-in from local actors, which creates and defines a work structure for planning, coordination, and monitors the progress of the associations. A structure that is flexible and able to adapt to the needs of individual associations is essential.  This often requires investing more time and resources to have additional meetings or workshops to ensure that the associations are building capacity to advance in a sustainable way. 

Lessons learned

It is sometimes difficult to motivate associations to participate in the many activities required for the certification of their product. For established crops such as coffee and cacao, the anticipated purchase volumes, higher prices, and established markets for certified products help to ensure that sales and the social premium contribution from their Fair Trade certification act as a sufficient incentive. However, as a novel product, the lack of market stability jeopardizes continued and quality participation of producers and associations. We have also learned the importance of creating mechanisms for collaboration among all stakeholders involved in the value chain and establishing clear guidelines to lead our work.  Over several years we have been collaborating directly with the associations as well as private- and public-sector actors and analyzing and revising the different activities involved in the guayusa value chain utilizing an adaptive management approach that has been highly successful for this collaborative work.  

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