Paraguay’s small farmers typically have had little opportunity to sell their crops to large global processors such as ADM, according to Ana Yaluff, sustainability supervisor for Paraguay and Uruguay. But Yaluff is working to change that tradition.
“Normally, small farmers say they can’t work with ADM because it’s too big for them,” she says. “I want to show them that if they have a good product, they can enter a competitive market. And of course, as we support these growers, we increase ADM’s supplier base in Paraguay, which benefits our business. We want to open up our value chain and include more growers who otherwise would not find their way to us.”
Yaluff, who joined ADM in her native Paraguay after earning a master’s degree in economics at l’Universite Paris-Sorbonne and completing the corporate social responsibility program at IE Business School in Madrid, says the task of helping small producers improve their growing practices is challenging.
“They don’t usually have access to good inputs, to good seeds, or to good agricultural infrastructure,” Yaluff notes. “But when we provide them with technical and financial assistance, they can grow good products and do good business.” The first projects she’s directed have been with growers of corn and stevia, the crop that produces an increasingly popular sweetener.
“With stevia, we started with 250 people in different parts of Paraguay and a total of 130 hectares of production,” she explains. “Some of these growers had just 1 hectare of land.
“We then worked with a local NGO to provide these small growers with technical assistance, different agricultural inputs, and seed money to finance implementation. So far, the results have been positive. Many of the growers — about a third — are women, and many are giving the money they make from stevia production to their children to buy school supplies.”
A pilot corn project, she explains, started with 46 families who together had 100 hectares of land under production. “We provided them with credit and with agricultural insurance and technical assistance to produce the corn,” she says. “In that case, we had very big problem with weather, and about 50 percent of the crop was lost because of drought. But the farmers don’t have any debt with us, because we had provided them with insurance. It wasn’t an ideal outcome, but the participating growers are actually quite happy, because they don’t have debt, and next year they will want to continue to produce corn. Now, they know we want to work with them.”
Yaluff also works with larger Paraguayan soybean growers to help them achieve International Sustainability and Carbon Certification standards that can enable them to meet the European Union’s Renewable Energy Directive requirements. But small producers remain an important focus of her efforts.
“For me,” she adds, “the real issue here in Paraguay is to provide small growers with more opportunity. If we give them opportunities, they can do great things while taking care of natural resources, and we will build our base of producers. It’s good for ADM and good for people, too.”