Global Programs

Transforming tradition – a Dominican co-op embraces organic agriculture, boosting its resilience and impact

Eduardo Suero, right, shows co-op members how to identify solid mountain microorganisms for organic fertilizer during a Resilient Agriculture Activity training.

In the traditional Dominican farming community of El Batey, environmental activist and third-generation farmer Eduardo Suero has recognized the pressing need for change in his agricultural practices.

Facing mounting ecological challenges and escalating costs associated with conventional farming methods—such as dwindling soil health and increasing expenses for chemical inputs due to external factors like Covid-19 and the conflict between Ukraine and Russia—Eduardo realized that the traditional approach of relying on city-bought chemical inputs was no longer sustainable.

Taking a proactive response to the challenges he faced, Eduardo went on a quest to explore alternative farming methods, both for himself and the cooperative he leads, Cooperativa Agropecuaria y de Servicios Múltiples Espíritu Santo (COOPESPIRITUSANTO).

Suero’s decision to embrace organic agriculture at COOPESPIRITUSANTO was both a sustainable and practical choice. The cooperative reduced costs by 40 percent by producing their organic inputs on-site. This cost-saving had financial benefits and resulted in less time and fuel spent on trips to purchase chemicals from the city. Their organic approach’s success was evident in their crops’ significant growth and productivity. For example, their corn harvest saw a notable increase, with ten trucks dispatched compared to the previous seven. These trucks served local markets and reached urban centers like San Juan and Santo Domingo, expanding COOPESPIRITUSANTO’s regional reach and impact.

Expanding their coffee plantations wasn’t just a matter of increasing acreage; it was a strategic move guided by insights from Farmer Field Schools (FFS) facilitated by field staff and local extension agents supporting NCBA CLUSA’s U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded Resilient Agriculture Activity (RAA). Suero learned valuable techniques from these schools, such as intercropping with complementary species, which enhances biodiversity and boosted yields. Suero later passed these lessons on to his neighboring farmers. This expansion didn’t just benefit COOPESPIRITUSANTO economically; it also provided opportunities for the community’s growth.

By navigating challenges with determination and resourcefulness, the cooperative is paving the way for a more sustainable and prosperous future for all involved.

Established in 2022 with 65 members, COOPESPIRITUSANTO has experienced consistent growth, drawing in new members enthusiastic about being part of its transformative journey. Suero’s invitation to his friends and acquaintances to join him underscores his confidence in his organization’s potential: “I invite all my friends to be part of the project and to give it a try, and they will see that it’s truly worth it.”

COOPESPIRITUSANTO’s initiative is marked by obstacles such as the need for contracts, commercial agreements and space constraints. One key strategy to overcome their challenges involves diversifying income streams. Recognizing the volatility of agricultural markets, COOPESPIRITUSANTO is venturing into value-added products such as jams and other processed goods derived from their fruit crops.

Moreover, COOPESPIRITUSANTO is actively networking and forming partnerships with local businesses, NGOs and government agencies. By leveraging these connections, the cooperative can access valuable resources, market opportunities and expertise that enhance its resilience and amplify its impact. These collaborative efforts demonstrate COOPESPIRITUSANTO’s commitment to sustainable agriculture and the holistic well-being of its community. By navigating challenges with determination and resourcefulness, the cooperative is paving the way for a more sustainable and prosperous future for all involved.

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