In 2014, Equal Exchange convened six grocery co-ops, including Seward Co-op and Eastside Food Co-op, to create the Grow Together Fund to support a cashew growing co-op in El Salvador called Aprainores. These co-ops donated approximately $5,000 each to Aprainores in a special coop-to-coop development fund project. The money was used to help them start a Revolving Loan Fund to give low-interest credit to their members to tide them over until the harvest. Because much of Central America experienced a severe drought last summer which destroyed their corn and other subsistence crops, farmers were particularly hard hit. This fund helped the farmers buy food for their families and work on their own farms, rather than have to hire themselves out as day laborers on other farms. Equal Exchange also donated funds to help improve productivity through the planting of additional trees, and technical assistance enabling 15 new farmers to join the coop, and additional acreage to be converted to organic production.
Here’s a report from the farm on their progress, thanks to the Grow Together Fund:
We would like to briefly mention how Equal Exchange has helped us to improve our cooperative!!
We started working with Equal Exchange in 2013. Since then, we have been so blessed with their support and we have increased our technical and productive capabilities.
- Before Equal Exchange started working with us, we were only processing 2800 quintales (100 pound bags) of raw cashew nuts because our land certified as organic was only 163 Manzanas (113 Hectares) (280 acres). This last year we hired an agriculture technician to give follow up to a new group of cashew farmers. These farmers were already producing cashew nuts, but were not organically certified, so we put our efforts toward giving them technical assistance in organic agriculture and we got them certified.
- We increased our production of organic cashew nuts from 3000 to 3500 quintales.
- We increased our annual sales from $350,000 to $425,000; this was because we had more organic cashews available.
- We increased labor in our factory one month longer than usual (80 people at the processing plant) providing badly needed jobs for women in the area.
- We added 15 new members in the department of Usulután. We now have 62 members.
- We have planted 700 new trees (in new areas that represents 10 new hectares) (25 acres).
- 700 old trees were cut and new seedlings were created by grafting new shoots onto the old trees.
- We have created a Revolving Loan Fund to make credit available for farmers. We have available a credit line for small cashew farmers who receive pre-finance to do maintenance work on their cashew farms before the harvest time. This helps them increase productivity of their farm and feed their families while they are waiting for the harvest.
On behalf of our cashew farmers, and workers, we thank you and wish that you keep growing and supporting small farmers, not only us, but also all the small producers who really need support to produce the food of the world.
Congratulations to Aprainores on their progress!