Some 19,000 rural households in the poorest areas of the Dominican Republic are set to benefit from a $31 million United Nations project to directly link farmers with markets and pilot new risk management mechanisms.
The UN International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) project targets economic organizations of small farmers and rural micro-entrepreneurs, aiming to go beyond the traditional mechanism based on intermediaries, who pay a very low price for farmers´ produce, and strengthen producers’ organisations.
These groups will gradually build capacity and directly link with traders and buyers in niche markets such as fair trade and organic, with particular attention to export commodities such as quality coffee and organic bananas and cocoa.
“We are drawing up creative comprehensive solutions and bringing know-how in partnership with the private sector. In this way we can help smallholder farmers link with markets on a successful and sustainable basis,” IFAD Country Programme Manager Marco Camagni said of the project, which will also include innovative measures to reduce risks and encourage local banks to invest in agriculture on a Caribbean island that is regularly subject to tropical storms.
These measures include the creation of a guarantee fund through an experienced private bank – and the piloting of a weather-indexed insurance scheme.
“Climate change mitigation and sound environmental management will be woven through this project, which will also recognize and endorse the vital role of women in economic development processes,” IFAD Latin America and Caribbean Director Josefina Stubbs said.
Ms. Stubbs will be meeting Government officials in Santo Domingo next week to agree on the next steps to finalize the preparation of the initiative, which will build on the success of the South Western Region Small Farmers Project (PROPESUR), a Government-IFAD plan launched in 2000 in the midst of the international crisis that affected coffee prices.
With a commercial value that did not even cover production costs, many traditional coffee plantations were abandoned. Investing in quality seemed to be the only way to escape the crisis.
PROPESUR provided training to small farmers, supported them in creating a cooperative, and facilitated their access to credit and contacts in the international markets. Today, the coffee produced by Café JAMAO is sold in the select European fair trade market.
The new project targets 11 provinces in the north-west, south and south-west, near the Haitian border.