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Case study: Vegetable chain with ASOFAIL in Honduras

All you see around here, is production. Production, more than anything, is to produce food. We are smallholder producers of vegetables and fruits. Since 4 years we have been marketing horticultural produce. I didn’t grow vegetables before because there was no stable market. You wouldn’t seed or plant but rather seek other employment that didn’t generate a decent income. We are excited to produce and sell to Walmart through CICOM because it is the best alternative. This is a testimonial of smallholder vegetable farmers, member of the Association of Agricultural Artisanal Lenca Families in Intibucá, ASOFAIL. They deliver vegetables to formal markets. The farmers are managing a good production and processing process, which means both advantages for them and for the consumers. “A fresh vegetables chain with ASOFAIL” financed by VECO Middle America VECO supports smallholder associations. In Honduras, we strengthen ASOFAIL, an association of vegetable farmers in the department Intibucá, in their production process. We realized that we had better access to markets organizing ourselves in a producer network. Our objective as farmer asociation is to find fair markets for our members. Before, our producers harvested without having a market to sell to. They sold to middlemen at prices the latter decided. Now we have opportunities to sell to formal markets. In this case we sell to Walmart and produce the required quality. Walmart is always looking for new suppliers since demand has been growing and growing. Organized smallholders are an option to satisfy this ever-increasing demand. Walmart wants to relate to smallholder farmers like us, but they also demand we apply good agricultural practices on our fields. Therefore, ASOFAIL offers technical assistance to its members to implement staggered planting and promote good agricultural practices. Part of the good practices is keeping the plots clean so weeds don’t damage the plants. Within the good practices drip irrigation is a basic principle. We apply hedgerows, waste pits, crop rotation, flags to indicate whether one can enter an application area. We have been cultivating this plot for 4 months now since we started preparing the soil. Using the AGRIBON row cover technology we use less chemicals. We protect our crops in order to produce better quality. At the level of Honduras, I’m regarded as the best potato producer. I’ve had good yields due to good agricultural practices. He got a recognition from the government and the Secretariat of Agriculture and Livestock. This kind of recognition or achievements of small producers are important for VECO because they prove they really can do it. And the project is already reporting improved yields and incomes of farmers. The yields are the best. When we grew traditionally, we obtained low productivity. Under such a system or technology we have more profitability in our production. and after that also more economic returns. We see our business is profitable and we like it. My family and the other youngsters are ready to continue our struggle. During harvest, the farmers apply the first stage of classification and processing of the vegetables. Here, we have the first quality potato. And then there is the second quality potato we also send to Walmart. These are the 2 dimensions the market allows us to deliver. Here we harvest, then we wash and classify the product. Then we deliver it to ASOFAIL, which we call CICOM. The information and marketing center (CICOM) of ASOFAIL receives and processes its member’s products, generating income for women in the region. The farmers deliver their best quality produce. Here, we select and clean it. We apply Good Manufacturing Practices in our plant, assuring that the consumers buying in Walmart, our principal buyer, are taking home the products according to the quality they want. In the processing plant we make sure the best produce is selected and is sent to Walmart. The trucks leave early in the morning to benefit the chilly hours and reach Walmart’s collection center in Tegucigalpa early. Within the producer requirements, obviously quality is the first. There exists a complete code of conduct that specifies the parameters and requirements to receive and market each product. Then, food safety is non negotiable. We are thankful for receiving Walmart’s notification that ASOFAIL is one of the organizations with the least produce waste or damage. Our produce has a rate of only 0,4% refusal once delivered to Walmart. I haven’t received waste of my products. So I believe I’m producing good quality produce. I have a constant presence in the formal market which assures me that my produce is being sold daily. Thus my income for the support and education of my family is reliable. Walmart obviously gives access to a secure, stable market throughout the year. The farmers have access to fair prices according to market conditions. The main challenges for ASOFAIL are to increase and diversify their product range, improve consistency in the frequency of deliveries, strengthen the communication with Walmart attract more producers and strengthen their productive and entrepreneurial skills. Therefore, ASOFAIL is managing and facilitating financing mechanisms supported by VECO Middle America and other organizations. We are also working with a youth financing program. It is an innovative process in Honduras, the first initiative in which we train youngsters and help them elaborate an investment plan. This project generates work for us and other youngsters We want to highlight the support of VECO Mesoamérica to generate this credit fund for young people. We handle everything within this structure: Funide provides the advisory to generate the credit and ASOFAIL the technical assistance in the field. We have implemented a direct payment fund which we capitalized through different negotiations of ASOFAIL. Now, our members can immediately request their payment when delivering produce. Depending on the necessities they have this allows them to continue the production process. They don’t have to wait 8 to 15 days for payment. We want to show that in a system of this type producers’ associations can be linked very well with the formal market. We, from ASOFAIL, are offering good quality products, produced according to good agricultural practices in our lands. ASOFAIL is pushing me forward, it’s like the guide that shows me the way. I think it has been the greatest richness I have found.

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