Trust – Leading Locally, The Cooperative Way

Part 1: La Federación De Cooperativas De Producción

The Federation of Producer Cooperatives, or FECOPROD, continues Paraguay’s long-standing tradition of cooperatives. Established in 1975, FECOPROD is a second-level cooperative that aims to promote the economic and social development of agricultural producer cooperatives, and to ensure that their interests are represented within the public and private sector. Currently, FECOPROD consists of 34 producer cooperative members from around the country. Sustainable development of its members and their communities is at the core of FECOPROD’s service culture. They pair institutional strengthening and establishing mechanisms to protect the economic and social interests of their member’s rural families in Paraguay.

FECOPROD’s goal is to strengthen and increase the capacity of small agricultural producers by increasing their access to resources, and improving their competitiveness in national markets. Over the last 20 years, FECOPROD’s team has expanded their donor base from USAID to include funding from the European Union, the Japan International Cooperation Agency, and multiple other bilateral and multilateral funders. Today FECOPROD owns and manages training programs, technical assistance centers and laboratories to support its affiliates.

This achievement is attributed to prioritizing a bottom-up development approach that begins with the people who have a personal interest in achieving change in their communities. Alfred Fast, the president of FECOPROD, credits this model for the exceptional growth of the GDP per capita of cooperative members, demonstrating further that cooperatives are significant drivers of local development.

“People are the most important capital, and these people must be empowered, encouraged to reach their goals, and work together in groups,” said Alfred Fast. “This arises from the members’ need to provide economic solutions while at the same time preserving their independence and individual freedom as they work together to achieve common goals.”

FECOPROD also participates in activities that can empower young people to take the lead today or in the future. FECOPROD implements educational programs in schools to teach the next generation about cooperatives and encourage them to work together so they can understand the benefits of cooperation from an early age.

In 2013, the USAID Paraguay mission awarded FECOPROD a US$12 million cooperative agreement to promote the sustainable economic and social development of about 19,000 small producers. The Inclusive Value Chains (IVC) project encouraged the culture of cooperation to promote economies of scale, increased productivity, and better access to markets. A key component of implementing this project was to trust local stakeholders to define and develop their own path to success. This gives hope to rural communities living in precarious conditions. Through the IVC project that ended in 2023, FECOPROD team strengthened about 80,000 families in different regions of the country.

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