Farmers' community enterprise for marketing organic bananas from Alto Beni, Bolivia: Impacts and threats

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Abstract:

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.
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