Map Paraguay

Silvestre Santa Cruz




sugar cane

hectares farmed



FLO, Organic

Opportunities of a sugar mill

Silvestre Santa Cruz is one of the more than 1600 members of the Sugar Cooperative Manduvira Ltda located in Arroyos y Esteros Paraguay. Silvestre produces not only fair trade certified organic sugar cane, but he and his wife María Andrea Recalde de Santa Cruz also produce sesame seeds, fruits, vegetables, and other products for their food security needs at their farm.

Beaming with pride, Silvestre remarks: “I have worked with the cooperative since 2001, which was before we received our organic certification as a cooperative.” He sits on the patio of his home looking at the trees, tall, wide, and imposing, giving his farm its character, which has been passed down from generation to generation.

Stable market

Silvestre´s farm also has several farm animals, such as cows. His wife Maria Andrea points out: “We used to have more, but the grass feed isn’t very good quality anymore and we can´t feed more than six on our land”. As you walk into the farm, the large floral plants give way to another pasture teeming with crops – plantain, sesame, and vegetables.

Before Silvestre joined Manduvira, he worked at a factory to which he sold his products. The family lived on a meager income which, as his family grew, became more stretched and unsustainable. In search of a true living wage, he eventually decided to join the cooperative.

“What I appreciate most about the cooperative is the market it offers. The Fair Trade market is much more stable, and enables me to plan ahead.” From an economic point of view, I am much better off since I started growing sugar cane for the cooperative. I´ve even been able to repair my house.”

“The Fair Trade market is stable, and enables me to plan ahead.”

The impact that the cooperative has had on the Santa Cruz family has increased drastically since it started operating its own mill in 2014. It was a historic moment not just for the region, but for the global sugar industry: Manduvira is the only fair trade certified, organic sugar mill in the world which is owned by its member producers.

“The opening of the sugar mill was a big change and great opportunity for our family. My son has worked at the mill, which benefits our family economy thanks to the new source of local jobs in our industry. “


Dreaming of decent jobs

The mill is now in its fourth year and improving productivity each year. The member producers wanted to invest in their own mill not just create a local source of jobs, but also to improve the prices that the producers receive. Silvestre’s future wish is akin of many of his fellow cooperative members: “We hope we can improve the price of sugar cane through the efficiencies of the mill, but we also want jobs for our children that they can be proud of. Decent jobs, that they don´t have to move to Asunción [Paraguay´s capital] to find.”

“Maria Andrea weighs on on her husband’s thoughtful reflection: “Nothing is perfect, but we must also focus on the poorest people in Paraguay. Those who even with no money or land, can also have the same opportunities”.

After a long pause, another question. Is the cooperative the best hope they have to improve their future and their family´s future? “Of course, there is no doubt about that.”