How avocados are making a difference in the Dominican Republic

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How avocados are making a difference in the Dominican Republic

Marielena and Julio come from the town of San Cristóbal, Dominican Republic, where a small green fruit – the avocado – has changed their lives and that of their community. They are avocado producers, and in recent years avocado consumption has grown dramatically as the fruit's taste and health properties turned it into a major food trend raising an insatiable demand. The wholesale price of avocados is up 125 per cent since the beginning of the year, according to the American Restaurant Association. The highest price recorded since 1999. At the checkout counter, the average sales price for an avocado was up 31 per cent over the first half of this year.

Avocados have become a big business. The Dominican Republic is the second largest avocado producing country in the world after Mexico, and Marielena and Julio now have a business plan – exporting their avocados to Europe and the United States.

In the Dominican Republic, a government project (PRORURAL Centro y Este) and the private sector (Dominican Agribusiness Board) is taking an active role in poverty eradication. IFAD is supporting over 70 organizations of agricultural industries, exporters and producers and enabling their certification.

Among these is the Avocado Cluster of Cambita, in San Cristobal. Through the PRORURAL project, the over 220 producers have been given specific training and a new culture change occurred. They are now more aware of the importance of good hygiene practice, how to protect the environment through organic production, and most significantly, appropriate production, transport requirements and cold storage facilities. They have gone from selling their avocados in an informal and often risky market, to selling them in a safe and formal environment. The product now goes from the plot to the distributor eliminating a high segment of brokering.

The project has brought a lot of changes to the producers, and they have already seen the results. Production has improved dramatically both in quantity and in quality. While consumer demand for avocados is high, with it is the demand for quality and traceability, which is why plantations must be certified in Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) that guarantee such conditions. Obtaining these certifications is required for exportation.

"One of the main benefits I see from the business plan is that women are fully integrated in the project, they are not seen simply as a support, but as fully productive individuals with equal conditions. This has done wonders for women of all ages, starting with my daughters, who are very motivated." said Marielena.

Julio added that, "the project has had a tremendous impact on the youth of the community. It has given them the  opportunity to reintegrate in society and feel good about themselves because they are part of a project with a future".

Changing the culture, the approach and the system… the new business plan has energized the farmers, men, women and youth for a product that has become one of the most popular fruits.