This article was originally posted on the Palm Today (US) blog - read it here.
Daabon supports hundreds of family farmers in Colombia and was the first company in the country to commit to buying sustainable palm from small landholders, giving them full support. These smallholders grow palm in addition to other crops like organic fruit (grapefruit, papaya and banana) and cacao. Many growers have been farming their land for multiple generations and it is their lifeline.
We understand how important these partnerships are because we too are a family business. The Daabon team believes—and has seen—that sustainably grown palm protects communities as much as it protects the environment. Our CEO, Manuel Davila, says it best: “How we produce food affects the health of our environment and the communities where we operate. Food should not be a threat to sustainability, instead it should add value to the entire supply chain and the planet we live in.”
It would be easy for us to simply tell you how our programs have improved the lives of our farmers, but instead we will let you hear directly from them.
Focus on education
Marin planted cassava, rice and corn until in 2001when he decided to join the strategic alliance in order to change his life, he says. “It improved our lifestyle, our house and the quality of our food,” says Marin. “This association with Daabon has been of great help to this generation, and I believe that this is a blessing for many generations,” he says. Daabon has supported the education of Marin’s family, giving them a better future going forward. “We have many agricultural professionals, we have professionals in heavy machinery, and we also have a stable crop, which is a blessing for the family.”
Marin also credits Daabon for teaching him how to care for the land and protect it for the future. “We take care of the forests, the waters, the trees, the animals,” he says. “We have done it with Daabon—we had the land, but what was missing was the guide, the strategy to improve our quality of life. We hope we can continue working strategically like this for many generations. I know that with this many families in the future will succeed.”
Assistance with banks and loans
Ariza started growing rice but fell upon hard times that he went completely bankrupt, with “debts up to his neck.” Dropping from 80 hectares of rice down to 5 hectares, he partnered with the alliances of Daabon in 2003 and his quality of life began to improve. “Daabon helped me a lot because starting from scratch without a peso, Daabon got us bank loans, which are very difficult to get, and these were given to us quickly,” says Ariza. “This benefited us so much because we could get the materials, the seeds and fertilizers and everything we needed for the palm to grow, and with Daabon always there for us, supporting us, it is an incredible opportunity.”
Ariza has also seen the shift in his community from what he calls “pure unemployment” to a quality of life where people are working, earning enough money to pay for all their needs and even have fun. In addition to support with farming, Daabon has contributed to housing projects and social projects, where families can recreate. And like Avila, he points to the education that Daabon has provided. “Today we have an accountant, a dentist in the house and we already have almost a psychologist,” he says proudly. “Daabon has had such a big influence in our lives—I think it is the best thing that could have happened.
New goals and a new love for the land
Before his association with Daabon, life was not the same, says Sanchez, mainly because he was limited to traditional crops like cassava and maize. “Now with the birth of the alliance between the Daabon group and the palm crop, new goals are born and many things have changed at both the family and community level,” he says. “We have social and intellectual opportunities we never had before.”
Sanchez also sees how he has sharpened and reinvented his skills with Daabon, moving into the future. “Agriculture is a very essential thing. Throughout time it has served as a means of survival for families, and it has also been modified, becoming more technical and generating greater income for better social and economic stability. Daabon is to thank for these advances,” he says.
Organic is special for Sanchez. “Organic production and cultivation have a single purpose, which is to protect the environment and at the same time care for all the species that are found on the land,” he says. “I also see there is more interest in the market in what is grown organically, and this provides greater income to the family.” And looking forward, he notes: “We have worked to improve many things in the environment. The land is where we do this and take care of what is ours for the future.”