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Helping Latin America’s rural smallholders sell to the rest of the World

FAO helps small-scale beekeepers, quinoa growers and coffee producers develop export opportunities

SANTIAGO, 12 December 2017 - Bolstering the export potential of family farmers and small and medium-sized agricultural enterprises is key to promoting inclusive trade and rural development in Latin America and the Caribbean.

FAO and ALADI, an association promoting regional economic integration, have rolled out a programme that shows this can be done and has trained more than 50 small firms and family farming organizations in 13 countries how to improve their access to international markets.

"Bolstering participation in international markets by family farmers and small-scale operations is a fundamental step in making sure the region's food systems are inclusive and contribute to adequate nutrition," said Tania Santivañez, an agricultural (plant protection) officer at FAO, based in Chile.

The joint FAO-ALADI programme offers training, followed by technical assistance and support through tailored individual consultations so that participants can develop commercial skills and appropriate strategies for products such as coffee, quinoa and honey.

At the recent EXPOALADI, an international business conference and trade fair, held in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, 14 of the beneficiaries clinched pre-sales contracts worth around USD 2 million.

Quinoa, coffee and honey

The Sumak Life Cooperative in Ecuador represents around 600 peasant families who produce quinoa and other cereals typical of the Andes region.

 "The training increased our opportunity to showcase our products outside of Ecuador, especially in markets that prize their added value," said Nancy Caichug, in charge of marketing at the cooperative.

Greater income has in turn allowed farmers to purchase high-quality seeds and fertilizer and pursue sustainable and environmentally-friendly ways of growing higher-priced organic quinoa, she said.

In Costa Rica, FAO and ALADI helped coffee growers in the Coto Brus canton find ways to leverage their environmentally-friendly cultivation methods in export markets. "The programme helped us realize the great potential that our coffee has in terms of quality and traceability, values that can help us pursue integrated agroforestry techniques," said Armando Navarro, a cantonal officer.

Export markets allow for clients to recognize and prize social initiative such as his cooperative's "Happiness Houses", set up to support social integration of youth at risk, he said.

In Argentina, a federation of beekeeping groups had given up on trying to export honey, but Alexis Rodriguez said the FAO-ALADI training has revived enthusiasm and led to the exploration of alternative sales channels.

Meeting the demands that exporting requires has also helped the federation - which comprises 20 cooperatives and about 400 households - realize the value of scale and teamwork. "None of us can do it alone so this project requires us to work together," Rodriguez said.

A guide to exporting

To foster and spread the process, FAO and ALADI have produced a practical guide for small-scale enterprises and family famers interested in exporting their products.

The guide aims to provide basic operational blueprints on the goods trade, tips on how to take it  across borders and ways to generate sustainable international sales, and tools for selecting appropriate export market targets.

It also highlights the useful role played by ruedas de negocios - an innovative form of business-to-business meetings - in promoting international trade.

Photo: ©FAO
Growing quinoa high in the Andes.

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