Cooperation and Rurality, a Strategy for Development in Colombia

The Association of Bajo Cauca “FIBRARTE”, located in the north of the Antioquia Department of Colombia, is part of a regional network of small rural producers. It is promoted by the “Apoyamos” project of the Medellin based CFA Foundation in agreement with DGRV- the German Cooperative and Raiffeisen Confederation. The project aims to promote local economic activities in order to mitigate the causes and consequences of internal displacement in Colombia.  Through social and economic intervention processes the project seeks to comprehensively strengthen small rural producer organizations.

Beekeeping: a sustainable productive activity

FIBRARTE is dedicated to making handicrafts based on “caña flecha” (uva grass or gynerium sagittatum) and honey from the hands of indigenous Zenú and peasants. The association impacts 120 families, mostly peasants and displaced indigenous people, mothers who are heads of households, victims of the long-standing armed conflict and rural youth, who has worked in the beekeeping sector.FIBRARTE supports the change  from the informal mining and illicit crops back to licit crops and other economic activities to which these people were previously engaged.

Commercial alternatives through forms of cooperation

FIBRARTE is a member of Campo Dulce SAS, a local company that was created with the objective of strengthening the commercialization chain of honey and products derived from beekeeping, developed by peasant beekeepers located in the subregions of Bajo Cauca (traditionally a very violent area), northeastern Antioquia, and the south of the neighboring Department of Córdoba.

Campo Dulce is made up of 300 families who are direct members and additionally 200 indirect members, they all market their products through this Association. The organizations that form Campo Dulce are linked to the Apoyamos project of CFA Foundation and DGRV, being beneficiaries of the strengthening process in matters of cooperative culture, savings and financial education in rural areas. This local company is the result of a process of cooperative articulation reflected in the alliance of five (5) producer associations, among them FIBRARTE. They decided to join in order to shorten the channels of traditional commercial intermediation, thus achieving fair prices for producers.

Revolving fund as a strategy for the economic leverage of producer organizations

The revolving fund is constituted with funding from the Apoyamos project to respond to the liquidity needs of the producers to finance their productive and commercial activities. The fund thus bypasses the inflexibility of the credit lines of the financial sector that are not adapted to the needs of the peasants. The fund covers up to 45 days that elapse in many cases between the sale of agricultural products to supermarkets and receiving payments. It also finances the purchase of inputs like fertilizers with an immediate payment to the supplier. In both cases, these factoring transactions do not imply discounts or surcharges for the peasants.

For the Apoyamos project in Bajo Cauca, this fund with small volume but high rotation has been of special importance. In this regard, German Arrieta, legal representative of FIBRARTE, expresses the following:
“The creation of the revolving fund was very impressive for FIBRARTE, it helped us to have a minimum working capital, which allows us to capitalize, pay the farmer in time, and ensure production through a commercial alliance model, being an exemplary participative model ”.

In addition to strengthening rural producer organizations and helping them with sales at fair prices, Apoyamos supports organizations in the areas of financial inclusion and financial education. With its four components, the project has managed to contribute to the rural development of the territories where it is present.

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