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At National Conference, Dominican Republic’s Agriculture Sector Highlights Cooperatives, Promotes Investment in Women and Youth

Over 600 participants, cooperative leaders and specialists representing the Dominican Republic’s agriculture sector attended the 20th National Conference of Leaders of the Agricultural Sector under the theme “Cooperation in the Dominican Agri-Food System.”

National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA) CLUSA’s Technical Specialist in Cooperative Development, Camila Piñeiro, was invited to give a keynote address on NCBA CLUSA’s key findings from its more than one hundred years working to develop, advance and promote cooperative enterprise. Piñeiro participated in a panel about promoting agricultural cooperatives with key local organizations such as (Instituto de Desarrollo y Crédito Cooperativo) IDECOOP, and (Asociacion de Instituciones Rurales de Ahorro y Credito, Inc.) AIRAC.

The conference was held at the Meliá Caribe hotel in Punta Cana last month. It was hosted by the Dominican Agribusiness Board (JAD), an apex-level organization and vehicle for farmers to advocate for their needs before the Dominican Government. With 170,000 members between farmers and producer organizations, JAD is the biggest organization within the Dominican Republic’s agricultural sector, supporting and promoting national agricultural production.

Importantly, 40 percent of the organizations represented by JAD are cooperatives, leading the board to organize this year’s conference around the topic of cooperation. While agricultural co-ops and associations have received more support from the Dominican government over the last few years, there’s still more to be done to help farmers in the country. Steps are being taken to strengthen the governance of co-ops to ensure their sustainability and maximize the opportunities the government is offering.

During her plenary panel, “Cooperation in the Agriculture Sector” (Asociatividad en el sector agropecuario), Piñeiro shared lessons learned and key recommendations from NCBA CLUSA’s experience developing agriculture cooperatives in more than 80 countries. She also spoke about NCBA CLUSA’s U.S. Department of Agriculture-funded Safe Agriculture/Food Export (PROGANA) project based in the Dominican Republic.

The goals of this project include improving the productivity of the livestock (beef and dairy) value chain, expanding trade in beef and dairy products by adding value to post-production, and more. This $16.2 million, five-year project seeks to reach more than 10,000 livestock producers in 11 provinces of the country, where more than 70 percent of national livestock production is concentrated.

Panelists at the conference also discussed the needs and priorities of the agricultural sector in Dominican Republic.

In a report detailing their concerns and offering proposed solutions, they called for the creation of a new government position to oversee the cooperative sector and warned that action must be taken to address an ongoing lack of water availability for the agricultural sector. They also requested that the Dominican government expand its investments in projects focusing on rural women and youth, within the framework of family farming implemented by the Ministries of Women and Youth. This investment would promote their participation in organizations and promote leadership development, as well as provide them with technical and university scholarships.

The report—which was given to Minister of Agriculture Osmar Benítez to be presented to President Danilo Medina—also asks that access to credit through the Presidential Visits Program be institutionalized, a successful initiative of the Medina Administration. The report concludes by promoting public-private partnerships as a preferred means to support, finance and encourage initiatives managed by women and youth.

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