Support Structures for Dominican Sugarcane Producers

After Four Years of Project Cultivar, the ACC Consuelo Continues its Efforts as a Model for Independent Producers

July 2011
 
The Asociación de Colonos del Ingenio Consuelo (ACC Consuelo), a producer's association of 263 independent sugarcane producers in the eastern region of the Dominican Republic, was founded on October 2, 1974 in the town of Consuelo.  ACC Consuelo brings together sugarcane producers, traditionally called "colonos", and supports them in agricultural production. It assists producers in negotiations with local sugar mills on the contract price of harvesting and delivery of sugarcane, lending important inputs for production, e.g.  tractors, and helps members gain access to credit and new markets.
 
Building these support structure has been advantageous for the independent producers, and an overall Project Cultivar success that continues after the project's conclusion. The colonos continue to meet because of the benefits they've experienced from being an organized professional group. 


Sugarcane supplier Estanislao Sano, a member of the ACC Consuelo, personally recalls the advantages of being unified.  During the 2011 harvest, his truck was carrying tons of freshly-cut sugarcane and just missed the cut-off for delivery to the local sugar mill for processing. All the work put into the planting, growing, and harvesting of the sugarcane appeared to be in vain after the mill's refusal, and the sugarcane quality depreciated in value with each passing minute. But Mr. Sano was fortunate: after placing a call to Alejandro Sabino, the current president of the ACC Consuelo, a buyer was found. "Thank goodness, [Sabino] was able to contact another company, and they bought my sugarcane," said Mr. Sano. "Thank goodness he was able to help me."  
 
 The ACC Consuelo is a model for independent producers: it leverages their strengths, and improves access to the technology and infrastructure for production, financing and access to credit. It is challenging for a small producer to take on these large costs alone, especially in the volatile agricultural sector. ACC Consuelo also helped to organize the widespread, dispersed group of sugarcane producers by centralizing communication and establishing a clear line to reach all of them.

The vibrancy and cooperation of this organization is a new path for ACC Consuelo. Prior to its involvement with Project Cultivar, the activities of the association had ground to a halt. When the international demand for sugar declined in the 1980-1990s, and the nationalized sugar mills began to close- sugarcane production and the work of the ACC Consuelo waned in response.

"It was difficult to reactivate the organization at first because the colonos did not have a culture of working together as one unit...it used to be every man for himself," said David Figueroa, Program Coordinator for the Center for Cultural Research and Support (CIAC) who plays a main role in providing training and technical assistance to ACC Consuelo producers. "They used to negotiate with the sugar mills individually which made it difficult to obtain a good price for their sugarcane.  But now, working together, they are able to negotiate better prices."

Through Cultivar, SAI and local partner CIAC, supported ACC Consuelo to strengthen the organization to help its producers improve the historically precarious working conditions, and to become competitive in the ethical market place. Currently, production is on the rise due to factors such as higher import quotas from the United States and the European Union, plus demand for biofuels and other sugarcane processing outputs. The need for the ACC Consuelo has returned.  

"CIAC worked to bring ACC Consuelo out of anonymity, so that it would be recognized by the sugarcane industry. Before Project Cultivar they weren't taken into consideration," said Mr. Figueroa. "Now, with more resources, members can earn more, pay their workers better, and provide safer, cleaner workplaces for themselves and their workers.  They will continue to work together because they see the benefits."

 
For more information, please contact SAI Program Associate, Eliza Wright- EWright@sa-intl.org

 

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