Approximate Program Value: $ 1,420,687
Start Date: October 2010
End Date: September 2014
Implementing Partner: ACDI/VOCA
Paraguay has a population of almost 7 million inhabitants, 44% of which live in rural areas, with 45% of the workforce employed in the agriculture sector. Around 60% of the population that works in agriculture consists of smallholder farmers who cultivate 1-10 hectares, often using traditional agricultural techniques.
The cooperative sector is particularly strong in Paraguay, and in the last few years cooperative membership has grown to over one million cooperative members. Cooperative development represents an effective means of reducing poverty, improving food security, and generating employment opportunities that improve the living conditions for male and female farmers.
To reduce poverty and increase agricultural incomes, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) began implementing the Cooperative Development Program (CDP) in 2002. Now in its second phase, CDP II aims to improve governance, management and advocacy capacity of business-oriented, professionally managed, farmer-owned and operated organizations to better meet the needs of their male and female members through market-driven activities. CDP focuses on the institutional strengthening and capacity building of cooperatives and the organizations that support them to plan and implement changes that catalyze increased production and sales. CDP Paraguay also has a strong agenda to empower female farmers. Gender integration into cooperative activities is critical since agriculture cooperatives can serve as a mechanism for improving the livelihoods of female farmers, and engagement of female farmers significantly contributes to strengthening cooperatives.
Program activities center around the provision of trainings, technical assistance, strategic management and mentorship to facilitate increased agricultural productivity, strengthened cooperative and pre-cooperative groups, improved provision of cooperative services, as well as enhanced knowledge and cooperative development learning.
Implementation and Results
The project has partnered with local and international institutions to help cooperatives and cooperative service providers add value and become sustainable. From the outset of CDP in 2002 through the current phase of CDP II, the program has provided more than 200 volunteer technical assignments through highly qualified professionals who donate their time and experience to help organizations address critical areas for improvement. Through these technical assistance efforts, the project strengthens key value chains like dairy and horticulture, improves the outreach and capacity of cooperative apex bodies and service providers, and also improves value chain-specific production practices, such as the implementation of Good Agricultural Practices among farmers to help them obtain better prices.
The project has a strong agenda to empower female farmers. CDP is committed to promoting gender equality so that women and men have equal opportunities to benefit from and contribute to economic, social, cultural and political development. The project developed a gender strategy that is applied across all program efforts. The primary focus is training cooperative members and boards of directors on women´s inclusion in cooperatives. In one case, the project supported a women-led farmer´s group to increase their membership by 40%, increasing sales of bananas by over 50% to a total of 497 tons in one year. The group also initiated exports of their production to Argentina. CDP has also carried out a series of leadership training for women leaders, inspiring women to establish women´s sub-committees. Simultaneously, the project holds gender sensitization meetings for male leaders of agricultural cooperatives that describe the “business case” for being more inclusive of women. More than 700 cooperative members (women and men) were trained on gender, leadership, management skills and self-esteem. The program has also developed a monitoring and evaluation tool to measure the quality and the quantity of gender equity in cooperatives. Through this tool; CDP found that 1,300 female farmers are registered members of the cooperatives supported through the program, representing 18% of the total number of members registered. Six cooperatives have at least one woman in an elected position. This information will continue to be monitored and used to guide program efforts going forward. It will also be used in working with partner cooperatives in establishing their own gender strategies to promote women´s leadership and the inclusion of family and community members to support gender equity.
In line with USAID Forward’s emphasis on knowledge management and on building local partnerships to promote sustainable development, CDP launched an innovative knowledge management initiative for cooperatives and cooperative development organizations. The program is establishing a Cooperative Learning Information Center (CLIC) in collaboration with a local partner, the Paraguayan Cooperative Federation (FECOPROD). The CLIC is an online platform containing learning materials and tools to help cooperatives perform well economically. The CLIC is designed to store training modules, templates, reports, videos, case studies and other resources. It aims to be an interactive hub for users to share information that can strengthen the operational and organizational capacity of their organizations. The result of this initiative will be a sustainable, user-driven network that will allow agriculture cooperatives, and the public and private organizations that serve them, to share critical information that will enhance the economic and social benefits of cooperatives for their members.
For more information:
Amelia Moro; CDP Program Manager
Last updated: December 31, 2013