Argentina’s small farming communities reach consumers online – a global problem

One of the small farming groups in Argentina participating in the digital marketing project uses agricultural irrigation and tomato crushing techniques in the province of Mendoza. Credit: Nicholas Heredia / Alma Nativa
  • By Daniel Guttman (Buenos Aires)
  • Inter Press Service

UST, which produces fresh vegetables, preserves and honey, as well as goat and sheep breeders, from the western province of Mendoza, opened its own premises in April in the provincial capital of the same name.

In addition, it has just joined Alma Nativa (“Native Soul”), a network created to market and sell products from farmers and indigenous organizations, bringing together more than 4,300 producers in 21 organizations and now selling its products on the Internet.

“It is easy to sell wholesale to a distributor, but the problem is that a large part of the revenue does not reach the producer,” Manini told IPS from Lavale town in Mendoza province.

The rural leader argues that, due to cost considerations, farmers can only access fair trade through joint ventures, which have increased from the acceleration of digital transformation caused by the Kovid-1 pandemic epidemic.

Alma Nativa is a marketing and sales solution that was officially created in 2018 by two Argentine non-governmental organizations (NGOs) focusing on socio-environmental issues: the Fibo Social Impact and the Cultural Association for Integral Development (ACDI). Their approach was to go one step beyond the financial assistance scheme for productive development projects.

“In 2014, we began to ask ourselves why smallholder farmers and indigenous peoples could not maintain profitable prices for the food and handicrafts they produced and to think about how to stop farmers from relying on NGOs and state grants and subsidies,” Fibor said. Director Gabriela Saberra told IPS in an interview in Buenos Aires.

Sbarra was a regular participant in regional community product fairs, often organized by authorities in Argentina prior to the ban imposed due to the epidemic, which provided stand, accommodation and travel expenses for farmers from their community. And craftsmen.

It was only with this economic support that farmers and artisans were able to make a profit.

“Efforts were made to find a real market for these products, which cannot be sold online because it is very difficult to generate traffic on the Internet and they cannot reach the supermarket because they have no production volume. Informal communities were leaving the market,” Sbarra explained. .

E-commerce, new market

So the founders of Alma Nativa knocked on the door of Argentine-born e-commerce giant Mercado Libre, which has spread to most of Latin America. The company refused to take commissions for the sale of agro-food produced by the local community through an online store.

Alma Nativa then set up a warehouse in the town of Villa Madero on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, where it is labeled for distribution of goods from rural communities across the country.

“The epidemic has created an opportunity because it has helped open the debate about what we eat. Many are starting to question how food is produced and even force agribusinesses to think about more sustainable production systems,” Manini said.

Kozar Beekeeping Cooperative Manager Norberto Gugliota stressed that the epidemic not only accelerates the process of digitization of producers and consumers, but also fuels the search for healthy food produced in a socially responsible manner by a growing section of society.

“We were ready to take advantage of the opportunity because our products were ready, so we joined Alma Nativa this year,” said the beekeeper in the city of Sauce Viejo. Gugliota is the visible face of a cooperative of about 120 producers in the state of Santa Fe in the heart of this South American country, producing certified organic, fair trade honey.

Argentina, the third largest economy in Latin America, is an agricultural powerhouse, a strong agribusiness sector whose main products are soybean, corn and soybean oil, which exported 26 26.3 billion in 2020, according to official figures.

Behind the success lies a vast universe of family farmers and peasant and indigenous communities. According to the latest national agricultural census conducted in 2018, more than 90 per cent of the country’s 250,881 farms are managed by households.

But the infrastructure and technological gap in rural areas is significant, as it has been proven that only 35 percent of farms have internet access.

According to private fundraisers, the deprivation is particularly acute in Chaco, a neglected region in the north of the country, where there are about 200,000 indigenous peoples from nine groups whose economies are closely linked to natural resources.

New platform for indigenous handicrafts

Communities from the rich biodiversity of Choco, which is home to a diverse area of ​​low forests and savannas and more than ten million square kilometers of Argentina, Bolivia and Paraguay, which are home to a diversity of local people, are also starting to market their handicrafts in Mercado Libre. The last few weeks.

“The initiative originated in Brazil through the ‘Amazonia M Pay’ program and today we are replicating it in Argentina, in the Gran Chaco area. It seeks to build bridges between local artisans and consumers across the country,” said Mercado Libre.

“The aim is to mobilize consumers to buy products from the Latin American ecosystem created with respect for the environment, while small producers benefit from visibility and logistical support so that local products reach the entire country,” he told IPS in Buenos Aires.

On Sept. 2, Mercado Libre launched a campaign called “From the Gran Chacko, For You”, which sells more than 2,500 products in 200 categories, including baskets, indigenous and local art, decorations made from natural fibers, honey. , Loom and handmade games.

This includes not only Alma Nativa, but also the Emprendores Por Naturaleza (“By Nature / Entrepreneur”), a program launched by the Environmental Foundation Revealing Argentina, which works to preserve choco and now sells products made by 60 in the countryside adjacent to the impenetrable national park. Living families, the largest protected area in the region.

Fatima Hallman, regional coordinator of the Rewilding Argentina Community Program, said: “The idea for the project came up last year when we conducted a socio-economic survey of 250 families in the area and found that 98 percent of their income came from welfare.” .

He told IPS that “people raise livestock for a living and sometimes work on farm fences or other temporary jobs, but there is no fixed source of employment at El Impentable.”

“That’s why we’re trying to create income for local residents,” Holman explained in an interview in Buenos Aires. Bricks and we have trained people to learn how to turn a brick into an artistic part, inspired by local animals, which conveys the importance of forest conservation. “

According to statistics released by experts in the first week of the “From Gran Chaco, For You” program in early October, 4 products were offered for sale, of which Argent2 was sold to buyers in more than 10 provinces of Argentina. .

“The alternative is to cut down native forests,” Hallman said. That goal. “

© Inter Press Service (2021) – All rights reservedOriginal Source: Inter Press Service

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