Producers Trust & NCBA Clusa: A Partnership to Support Small Producers

With our partnership with NCBA CLUSA, we are learning about the benefits of cooperatives and how to best serve the small producers in them.
by on Monday, May 15, 2023

How Cooperatives & Small Farmers Lead to Stronger Communities

Did you know that there are over 4,000 different types of edible (and nutritious!) potatoes in Peru? Did you know that there are over 3,000 species of orchids? Have you heard how vitally important it is for us to conserve the biodiversity of our planet? These little facts may not seem critically related to the work we do with creating transparent supply chains and empowering farmers, but they are! Everything is so connected–from the soil, to the people who work the soil, to our economy and the supply chains that drive it. 

Senora Fausta shows some of her favorite potatoes. She grows over 300 types of potatoes.

Producers Trust has always valued centering the small farmers and producers of the world. As we delved into our work and understanding of the need for transparent and sustainable supply chains, we began to understand even more deeply how critical their work is in the process. 

So what does that have to do with orchids?

On our end, we want to share the stories of the people who do interesting and important on-the-ground work, such as Don Maximo who you may remember from our recent article about conservation efforts in Peru. We also want to be able to use our position to support them in sustaining and advancing their work in holistic ways. 

Fortunately, we have built a partnership with an organization called NCBA Clusa. The National Cooperative Business Association CLUSA has worked to advance, promote, and defend the cooperative business model. Since 1916, the organization has been advocating for people who are using cooperatives to create a better world. In the United States, where NCBA CLUSA began, there are now an estimated 65,000 cooperative establishments in the U.S., each contributing to a stronger economy by investing in people and their communities. 

The Importance of Cooperatives & Wealth Equity

Let’s look at the United States as one example. One 2019 report found that, in the U.S., only about 1% of families hold 40% of the nation’s wealth, while 90% of families hold less than one-quarter. This level of unequal distribution of wealth and resources is related to  many social and environmental problems. 

For example, inequality doesn’t just negatively affect the poor. Increasing evidence from scientists around the world suggests that wealth inequality impacts many health outcomes, such as life expectancy, infant mortality, and obesity for the entire population. Greater economic inequality leads to worse health outcomes–and not just for the poor. Poor health and poverty are certainly related. A high level of inequality, however, negatively affects the health of even the affluent, mainly because inequality reduces social cohesion, which is a dynamic that is necessary to the human experience.  

Most often, equitable distribution of wealth begins at the community level. Cooperatives tend to build social cohesion and greater equality.  A cooperative business, or co-op, is an autonomous association of individuals who all maintain an equal and democratic share in the association. Cooperatives generally hold the intention to better serve their community, the collective and the individual members. Since members of the community own and operate a cooperative business, they will always have the motivation to benefit one another and serve their community.

NCBA Clusa & Producers Trust Partnership

NCBA Clusa promotes just this. They are working to build a better world through more inclusive economies and inspire people to engage in shared prosperity. The organization works in 20 countries across Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia. In 2021, their programs impacted the lives of over 1 million people, including supporting over 342,000 youth. Their programs offer tools and resources that help strengthen cooperatives all over the world. In Peru, for example, they offer 8 free courses and 62 pre-recorded courses and have trained over 2 thousand participants. 

They value collaborative partnerships in development, advocacy, public awareness and thought leadership. 

Producers Trust is honored to be one of their collaborative partnerships. 

Producers Trust is cultivating relationships with NCBA CLUSA in various regions of the world. Our strongest connection is with their Peru program. From this partnership and our work with NCBA Clusa in Peru, we have expanded into other Latin American countries, including Guatemala, El Salvador, Dominican Republic, and Honduras. We offer workshops and tools around capacity building, education, and digitization.

Their office in Peru has an initiative called the Coop Business School, and together we are facilitating workshops for cooperative members. The Peru program works together with a lot of governmental organizations and ministries. It is through them we have connected with the government branch called Pension 65 which serves senior citizens. These are the lovely humans we have been learning about orchids, potatoes, and Indigenous clothing from. 

Pension 65 & Tataynegocios For the Elderly Artisans of Peru

Taytanegocios is a platform that many of these senior citizens joined after the pandemic hit. Some government workers feared for the economic and overall health of their senior citizens and took the initiative to help them. When the pandemic and its restrictions began, most of these seniors lost their way of trading, which meant losing their income. At their age, it was frightening, and for the government workers, it was worrisome to imagine all the senior citizens with no income. 

Senior Maximo is an orchid conservationist.

They got creative in thinking about solutions and took it upon themselves to build the Taytanegocios platform where the seniors could display their products. They began to gather on Zoom to meet and describe what products they had. Often what they would do is trade and barter. Then after one week, they would get together and exchange their goods as agreed upon. Even as pandemic restrictions loosened, this online market exchange continued to grow and thrive. 

There are around 7,300 users in Pension 65 and about 120 of them are active in the online market exchange of Taytanegocios. These are the folks we have had the honor of connecting with: Maximo the orchid conservationist, Fausta, the guardian of the native potatoes, and Rosario, an Indigenous Yanesha clothing maker

Aside from having lovely conversations with them, Producers Trust is offering our expertise through collaboration with NCBA CLUSA. We facilitate workshops and share our knowledge and tools with these government representatives so they can contextualize it and share with the seniors in a way that makes sense given their cultural and geographical context. 

Producers Trust has been working with NCBA CLUSA since October of 2022 and since then we have given 6 workshops and reached 910 individuals.

We look forward to connecting with more of the seniors from the Taytanegocios platform and sharing their stories of sustainability, production, and conservation. Stay tuned for more inspiring interviews and stories.

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