Agriculture in central Chuquisaca (Bolivia) is marked by an uneven orography which provides small plots of arable land that historically have been partitioned to even tinier patched through inheritances among siblings.
That is the reason why 217 small farmers of Chuquisaca joined their four small associations to commercialise together their small productions of amaranth, chili pepper and maize through a new association called ASOVITA, supporting the motto behind all cooperativism and associativism initiatives: strength through unity.
By commercialising collectively through ASOVITA, farmers are receiving a product price that is 23 percent higher compared to what they receive from intermediaries. This is a significant increase in a region with 47 percent of the population living in poverty and 26 percent in extreme poverty.
To support this collective effort, Agriterra started working with ASOVITA in 2017. The commercial expansion was strengthened by sensitising and training the leaders on the importance of good accounting and financial practices as well as by hiring a specialised accountant and implementing an accounting software. This has proven to be essential to support future sales growths. In 2018, with all the financial data in order, it was time to expand operations for which a market study in three large cities of Bolivia was developed and a commercial strategy deployed, resulting in a positive impact on sales that reached a 26 percent growth in a two-year period.
Fulfilling the motto strength through unity, in 2019 Agriterra also joined forces with strategic international partners to support ASOVITA. First, with the Spanish university ESADE through the SUD programme which sent the students Mr. Tomás de Rada and Mr. Javier Geisseler for a three-month period to analyse the cost structure and support the marketing strategy of ASOVITA, but which further evolved to incorporate work on budgeting, finances and human resources too.
During their field experience, the two students shared with the association an Agriterra five-day financial management workshop with twenty leaders and employees of ASOVITA and accompanied for one week the Spanish agripool expert Mr. Juan Lázaro Hernández, general manager of the Spanish chili pepper cooperative UPP, who advised the four associations on good manufacturing practices and production planning.
Additionally, Agriterra entered into an institutional partnership with the non-profit organisation OXFAM to strengthen the commercial operations of ASOVITA by elaborating a project for the programme Enterprises that Change Lives and capitalise the association with approximately USD 50,000 through soft loans for working and investment capital and a non-refundable fund to implement the sales network in the city of Cochabamba, to be monitored by Agriterra in 2020.
As the old native American Shawnee leader Tecumseh said a single twig breaks but the bundle of twigs is strong, Agriterra strongly believes that small farmers who share similar beliefs, values and needs, build strength through unity by joining the cooperative movement embodied in the associations, cooperatives and firms owned by farmers that Agriterra supports.