ATC - Alter Trade Cooperative
The Alter Trade Cooperative was created in 1997 to fight poverty by helping sugarcane workers gain access to land, resources and markets. The Alter Trade Group initiative is aimed at helping former sugar plantation workers obtain land through the Philippines Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program. It also encourages new small farm owners to form a viable, competitive cooperative enterprise capable of raising incomes and living standards for its members.
The producer members of the 27 organizations that form the cooperative are all former sugarcane plantation workers who organized and lobbied to obtain land through agrarian reform. When the farmers finally received their small plots of land, they decided to cultivate the land as a large, communal landholding in order to reach greater productivity. The cooperative helps them obtain better prices and provides technical assistance and credit. Many members have implemented organic production methods that have increased the fertility of the soil and the final price to the farmers. The support of Fair Trade has proven essential for these previously unskilled, mono-crop workers who did not have access to capital or knowledge of how to access the market.
We envision our organization as a professional, innovative and socially–responsible business organization. In partnership with self-reliant and self-determining communities, we are responding to the demands of customers in the Philippines and the world for quality produce from sustainable agriculture, operating in a viable, socially-just economic system that is in harmony with the environment and the society. ”
Infrastructure for Direct Export
Alter Trade Cooperative has created the infrastructure for the organization to process, package and market sugar for direct export. This development allows the sugarcane producers to keep a higher percentage of the value-added price of their product.
Strengthening Food Systems
Sugar producers on Negros face what they call “an annual hunger period” of 3-4 months between harvests every year. With this in mind, the farmers have voted to invest premiums in income diversification and to offer low-interest loans for projects to strengthen food systems. For example, producers have invested in raising cows, chickens and pigs, as well as growing rice and corn.
Organic and Sustainable Agriculture
Alter Trade Cooperative promotes environmentally-friendly production through the development of sustainable agriculture and organic farming technology at the producer organizations level. Specifically, they provide incentives to organic production in the form of collateral-free loan package, subsidies for organic inputs, and seeds for diversification.