CONACADO, an association of 9,000 small-scale farmers in the Dominican Republic, was founded in 1988 as a response to low global cocoa prices, and to assist small-scale cocoa farmers to improve their working and living conditions. Its aim is to generate work and income for disadvantaged groups, to decrease dependency on intermediaries by exporting products directly, and to offer technical assistance and credit to farmers to improve the quality of cocoa production.
Cocoa accounts for 90% of CONACADO farmer's income, but frequently the income received from the export of their cocoa is below their costs of production. Since 1997, CONACADO has been selling cocoa under Fairtrade certified conditions, which guarantee a fair return for their work. Premiums from these sales have also directly assisted projects to improve production and the quality of their cocoa. CONACADO cocoa is grown using organic techniques under the canopy of other fruit trees that provide extra income and food security for the farmers.
The farmers of CONACADO have seen many benefits as a result of the Fairtrade premium: medical workers have been providing free advice and medicines; a nursery is providing the farmers with fruit trees which shade the cocoa plants and give the farmers an alternative source of nutrition and income; aqueducts and pathways across ditches make it easier to work in fields which are often far from roads. Their message to fair trade shoppers is simple. "We promise to provide you with a good quality of fruit, so long as you promise to keep buying more!"
CONACADO has focused on returning a greater share of the value of cocoa grown by farmers, to the farmers. The organisation calculates that through conventional trade, Dominican Republic farmers receive only 72% of the global market price for cocoa beans and that the income they receive is not sufficient; the income is barely enough to feed producers' families during harvests, and for the rest of the year they find themselves obliged to work as labourers. CONACADO returns more than 90% of the global market price to its own farmer members through its trade of their cocoa.
With the support of CONACADO, less cocoa farmers abandon their properties every year. This reinforces rural and community infrastructure development and has an impact on the preservation and conservation of the nearby forests.
The co-operative has organised workshops to teach farmers how to improve fermentation techniques, expand sustainable growing methods, increase productivity, and participate more actively in the co-operative. The co-operative is also working to help farmers improve and expand organic methods so that all cocoa can be certified organic.
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