Asoguabo has 15 member associations, and every farmer belongs to one. The system gives the hundreds of members better chances to make themselves heard and to participate in the decision making.
Asoguabo’s board consists of seven members from different member associations. They’re supposed to convey the points of view of their associations, and report to them what the board is discussing. There is also a committee of control and vigilance which consists of three members from three other associations.
Asoguabo’s highest decision making body is called the Asamblea general and meets every three months or so. Before the Asamblea the member associations discuss the points on the agenda in order to form their opinions.
The member associations also have internal meetings every or every other week, where they discuss their internal business, such as acceptance of new members and management of assets. Every association gets 20 cents per banana box sold, from the one dollar fairtrade premium. The money has been used for example to improve the efficiency of the farms through cableways, irrigation systems and fertilization, by loans or financial aid.
But the system isn’t entirely fair, because some associations have more (or more productive) members, and thus receive more money. This means some associations can afford their own big projects while others simply distribute the money to the members according to production.
For example, the Pasaje association has a big office- and warehouse building with a big, modern auditorium, while many associations don’t even have an office. However, slowly but surely the associations in Luz y Guía as well as in Rio Joya are saving money for their own headquarters. Both have already acquired land for the purpose.
The association in Libertad has reached that goal, and last year they also built their own centre for banana shipments, where the banana boxes are received, quality checked, loaded onto pallets and into containers. The centre also has a cacao drying room that the farmers in the area can rent at a low price. The association has also been able to help the village school financially. Their next goal is to build a compost plant that the neighbour associations can use as well. The association also has a fish pond, and hopes to attract tourists interested in fishing.
- The first seven member associations were legalized in 2001.
- The reason was that Asoguabo was applying for financial aid to convert into organic farming. Officially the cooperative only had 14 members, the founding members. It was hard to get financing for such a big and expensive project that only appeared to benefit 14 farmers.
- Every farmer has double membership: to a member association and to the cooperative Asoguabo.
- The associations turned out to be important in strengthening the sense of identity and independence in the group.
- Today there are 15 associations: Pasaje, Solidarios, Barbones, Arenillas, Campo Real, Tabanal, Luz y Guía, Río Joya, La Libertad, Santa Isabel de Florida, Tres Recintos, Tenguel, La Florida, La Cadena and Muyuyacu.
Source: Sistematización de la experiencia de la asociación de pequeños productores bananeros El Guabo.