The region where I live in north-east Paraguay is called Arroyos y Esteros, which means “salt marshes and creeks”. Most of the families here have little land: only one to five hectares.
We grow mainly sugar cane, but also some pineapple and stevia, a sweetener. We have switched to organic farming because there is a high demand for organic cane sugar. Our cooperative Manduvirá has worked hard to be able to export cane sugar to the fair-trade market. And it’s tastier!
For example, we want to set up our own quality control department because yields on small farms need to increase if they are to remain viable. So we are looking for alternatives like growing yucca plants, better sugar cane varieties and improved fertiliser use. We have used the fair-trade premium to plant a fruit tree nursery and build premises for the cooperative. But our biggest dream is to process our sugar ourselves so that we don’t depend on a factory. So we started to construct a sugar refinery this year.
The older members who lived under a dictatorship for many years now realise how they can help themselves to progress thanks to fair trade. Fair trade gave us confidence to take control of our own lives and make our dreams come true!