A sweeter deal for landless farmers
Until recently, Raul Antonio Monges was one of Paraguay’s many landless farmers, supporting his wife and 10 children by growing sesame on other people’s fields. With only a sixth-grade education and no land of his own, Monges, 50, didn’t have many chances of making more money to raise his children’s quality of life.
Last year, Monges, along with other 40 families got help from one of the world’s largest agribusiness multinationals, Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) which partnered with a local stevia seedlings company, Oro Verde, or Green Gold. The company provides farmers with seedlings and technical assistance to grow stevia, or ka’a he’e, a natural sweetener native to Paraguay and increasingly in demand throughout the world. In 2010, ADM approached USAID’s Paraguay Productivo project to expand this program to reach more families and improve the technical assistance needed to cultivate stevia.
In 2010, ADM contacted USAID Paraguay Productivo project asking for support to expand their technical assistance program to reach more families and improve and expand the cultivated stevia area.
In July 2010 Paraguay Productivo and ADM Paraguay signed an agreement by which the program will provide the necessary assistance to increase the number of producers in a more sustainable manner.
ADM’s commercial manager in Minga Guazú, Gabriel Ramos, said the company wants to make its assistance sustainable by finding markets for the stevia. Though the sweetener is so far a small business for ADM, for Monges, having a stable buyer has made a huge difference. Stevia yields him five times as much money as sesame, and he can harvest it every three months, giving him a more consistent income flow. In the last year, he has bought pigs and sends his five youngest children to school. Monges said the technical assistance vital to producing a healthy crop.
USAID/Paraguay Productivo, ADM and Oro Verde’s alliance will reach and find more farmers living on the margins and connect them to global markets.