Farmers' community enterprise for marketing organic bananas from Alto Beni, Bolivia: Impacts and threats
This study presents the case of establishing a farmers' community enterprise in Alto Beni, Bolivia, and evaluates the success of the project in improving and securing farmers' livelihoods. Alto Beni, Bolivia, is a zone where the spread of coca production was considered a threat to the legitimate economy, and banana production and sales a means to reduce this risk. Project interventions with farm households on organic production techniques and upgraded fruit management, along with the launch of a community enterprise as a collective marketing company (BanaBeni), created the conditions for a new market channel to supply organic bananas to a public school nutrition programme. Results show that project investments in human, physical and social capital at farm household and enterprise level led to significant positive impacts in terms of farmers' financial capital. Banana producers in the area who are not members of grower associations also enjoyed positive effects through the adoption of improved post-harvest practices and the increased competition among banana buyers in the region, resulting in higher prices and a stable demand. Major threats to the sustainability of positive impacts are the dependence on a single market with very specific demands, the stability and administrative performance of BanaBeni and unsolved issues in the production technology of organic bananas.
Collective marketing is a proven strategy to improve market access for small-scale producers and reduce poverty through increased income. In this study, four groups of smallholders in Honduras and Nicaragua were studied to explore whether indicators of social capital can be used to predict success in setting up collective marketing. A baseline assessment of the groups’ social capital endowments during the pre-marketing phase is compared with their marketing success after two years. Results show that the groups’ different initial levels of social capital were not directly linked with market success. All groups built up relevant social capital during the establishment phase with external support, although some members left the groups. For determining how to provide support to emerging group marketing, the commonly used measures for social capital to predict success are therefore not sufficient. Additional indicators are needed - such as access to assets and start-up skills of members - for assessing the capacity of groups for continuous construction of social capital in a dynamic process.