Importance of Sustainable Microenterprises for Small Farmers

There are 500 million small farmers across the world producing around 70% of the global food supply. They do this despite the numerous threats and challenges that they face on a daily basis. This is no small feat. So, in order to support production, we are working with these small farmers to develop their own innovative low-cost solutions.

We are Cafédirect Producers’ Foundation (CPF) and we are a charity with difference. We are led by small farmers and owned by 38 producer organisations and their 280,000 members across Latin America and Africa.

Together, we are pioneering a new model, one centred on small farmers taking leadership and developing innovative solutions to the challenges they face.

Income Insecurity

One of the main challenges that small farmers face is an insecure income. As commodity prices fluctuate and the twin pressures of pests and climate change threaten their crops, the livelihoods of small farmers can often be quite precarious. However, by working with small farmers, CPF has been able to help many of them to develop and share low cost and sustainable methods to help increase their productivity.

Take Bernardino Ribera for example, a coffee farmer from Chirinos, northern Peru. During an early CPF project at his cooperative, he learned simple pruning techniques from other farmers and extension staff. Using these techniques, and applying some hard work, he has been able to get incredible results from his coffee plants and has seen a 25% increase from the 120 quintiles he produced in the previous year.

As a result. he was able to build a new house for himself and his family. This has been constructed next to their plot of land where, alongside coffee, the Ribera family is also growing oranges, corn and pineapple and keeps chickens and pigs.

Sustainable micro-enterprises

Cultivating these other products — such as the Riberas’ oranges and livestock — and developing them into micro-enterprises to supplement and diversify smallholder income has become an increasingly big focus for CPF. These products allow them use their knowledge and expertise of the land to diversify their productivity, making them more resilient to climate shocks that can destroy a single crop. These types of products also open them up to local markets and as a result decrease their dependence on foreign exports and price fluctuations.

However, farmers looking to experiment will often require a large amount of support and space for trial and error in order to get the most out of new ventures. To help achieve this, we have recently launched 3 Centres of Excellence (CoE) at partner cooperatives in East Africa, each with their own separate but complimentary focus area.

These CoEs are made up of demonstration sites run by promoter farmers, on which techniques can be tested, developed and shared at training sessions for visiting farmers:

  • Mabale in Uganda is looking primarily at environmentally sustainability, and finding ways that responsible production can be increased in line with the needs of the natural environment and biodiversity,
  • ACPCU in Uganda is focussed on developing organic methods for improving coffee quality — both in cultivation and post-harvest handling, and
  • Sireet OEP in Kenya is tasked with microenterprise creation, helping farmers access the skills required to create alternative sources of income on their farms.

Micro-enterprise success

Luke Metto is one of the main promoter farmers at the Sireet-OEP CoE for Microenterprise Creation. On his farm, he has developed a number of highly profitable and innovative microenterprises.

As well as bee keeping and bio-gas generation ,he has developed a hydroponic feed that can help him rear cows for dairy production on even the smallest areas of land. By using fast growing barley seeds soaked in water and natural fertilising chemicals, he is able to grow plants ready for feeding to cows in just 7 days.

Not only does this avoid the necessity of maintaining large areas of grass to graze his cows, but also Luke is able to get a higher yield of milk for sale. He is now able to make over $100 from the sale of his milk at local markets every month. As more and more farmers at the cooperative are growing all sort of extra crops, Sireet- OEP Centre of Excellence are now creating their own drive-through market in a local city where their farmers can sell their products directly to consumers.

As the Centres of Excellence spread to Peru in a new project launched last year, increasingly innovative and diverse microenterprises are being introduced into our network and shared across the globe!

Fairtrade Adventures — CPF’s diversified income

At CPF, we are often incredibly inspired by the farmers in our network and are constantly learning exciting and valuable lessons from them. For example, although we have had some great success with acquiring large grants that have enabled us to roll out our programmes globally, we, like the farmers in our network, are looking to diversify our income.

Therefore, we’re incredibly excited to have partnered up with Sumak Travel to offer some new Fair Trade Adventures. These tours will enable travellers to meet some of our coffee producers alongside visiting Latin America’s most exciting destinations — all at a fair price, with the needs of the locals put first.

As well as 10% of the cost of each tour going to support our work, these tours provide producer communities with the opportunity to continue to sustainably diversify their incomes. What all of the enterprises within our growing CoE network have in common is that they allow small farmers to utilise their existing surroundings to bring in more income and support their families. Our Fair Trade Adventures are no different. By promoting a sustainable and community-led approach, the smallholders and their communities will be able to continuing leveraging the assets on their land to bring in more income in a sustainable way that fits their needs.

Besides, we believe that allowing people to visit their farms, see their work and understand where the products we consume on a daily basis come from will help raise awareness of smallholder resourcefulness and ingenuity.

Our partnership with Sumak Travel brings with it their close ties with community-led providers, ensuring that all activities are led by the needs of local community, entirely on their terms. Besides this Sumak works as cost-efficiently as possible, so that it is able to offer amazing, affordable tours that offer transparency and fair, sustainable incomes for local populations — what more could you ask for?

Blog originally published on the Green Loons website.

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