The ongoing global economic crisis and food price hike have significantly affected international trade and hit Latin America hard. The Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) countries are suffering from large agro-businesses that are incapable of producing enough crops required to meet the limited market demand. Small- and medium-sized producers in the region often do not contribute to CAFTA trade because they lack access to the finance, technology, and knowledge needed to succeed. Under its Cooperative Development Program (CDP) NCBA CLUSA is addressing these barriers through the implementation of a “Coop-to-Coop” trading system that will link a minimum of 40 CAFTA country-based producing cooperatives with U.S. purchasing and food cooperatives. Coop-to-Coop trade is particularly beneficial because it allows the small producers to influence the trading process, enhancing their role and increasing their returns in the global commercial marketplace.
Through NCBA CLUSA’s Cooperative Development Program, NCBA CLUSA works to strengthen the capacity of indigenous organizations to carry out activities that build and strengthen cooperative systems in their own countries in order to improve their quality of life. NCBA CLUSA began a new USAID-funded CDP initiative Taking an Innovative Cooperative Approach to Food Security and Trade, in 2010 and is focusing on Kenya, Mozambique and Ghana, and the region of Central America, to address issues of food security and trade within the cooperative context.
NCBA CLUSA began this five year initiative in 2010 by building alliances between U.S. and Central American cooperatives through exchange visits and training activities to create additional value from trade and strengthen their ability to generate income for their members. Food producers and sellers in Central America and in the U.S. each have bodies of experience and resources. Bringing together representatives of these organizations to address issues and opportunities identified by the participants will increase capacity, create better understanding of the application of cooperative principles in varied settings, and promote tangible outcomes. Central American cooperatives will receive mentoring and trade opportunities from globally-oriented U.S. cooperatives. U.S. cooperatives in turn, will benefit from additional sourcing of produce to respond to increasing member demands for a diversity of foods. Ultimately, program efforts will facilitate coop-to-coop trade deals through opportunity tracking and buyer-seller matching for the five continental CAFTA member countries.
Empowering Women through Trade
NCBA CLUSA’s gender strategy identifies technical assistance, training and business interventions that contribute to building awareness of the gender dimensions in agriculture and rural enterprise development and to help mitigate specific constraints to the economic progress of women. In the CDP Coop-to-Coop Trade Program, NCBA CLUSA has integrated women-owned producer cooperatives into equitable value chains. On February 7th, 2013, in partnership with Pachamama Coffee Cooperative and Guatemalan smallholder coffee producers, NCBA CLUSA officially launched a women’s organic coffee label, called Café La Femme, at the International Women’s Coffee Alliance conference in Guatemala. Today more than 15 U.S. grocery cooperatives are carrying the label, and this number is expected to continue to grow, empowering women producers through cooperative trade.