The primary objective of the Town and Country program is to act against poverty in urban and rural areas. The idea is based upon a simple principle: to create and maintain trade relations in a sustainable partnership between small farmers, market women and food vendors. The generation of an economic solidarity between the two groups breaks the continuous cycles of poverty faced by these same groups.
By understanding the specifics of supply and demand, this program acts on both ends of the economy: the production and the consumption. Its use of the popular or informal sector economy as a base for the distribution of farm produce and its contact already with women vendors has been key to providing regular outlets for farm production.
In the first phase of 5 years years of the program, here is how the two parts of the program worked:
Through small farmers the program creates the conditions that aid in the development of local agricultural production increasing food security and the incomes of the small farmers. To avoid rural exodus, small farmers are provided loans to access better seeds and fertilizers. They are also provided technical assistance in order to improve crop production. The program then introduces them to women interested in buying their production. Sales of produce are negotiated on a fair basis between farmers and market women. The program facilitates transportation in the first phase (later to be undertaken by a social entrepreneur enterprise between both parties). The idea is to help farmers to know that they have outlets for their crops before production.
Through women vendors the program promotes the locally grown food in the local markets that will increase the level of food sovereignty by the sales of these products, and it stabilizes a direct link between the urban and rural areas. This then strengthens the local food supply (instead of imports) and the quality of the products being sold. Small market women receive larger loans for stocks of produce direct from these producers. They work hand in hand with producers in order to ensure storage, transport, and prices. As a result, this creates and maintains jobs and enhances enterprises for the poorest women of the population and provides practices in leadership roles, therefore acting against poverty overall.
The implementation of this program has centered around a small amount of credit that finances production, acts as a management system that establishes technical support for production, and institutionally structures groups at the levels of operation in three approaches:
A commercial logic with pricing issues, the adequa te levels of supply to demand, the quantity of goods, continuous consumption, the marketing and the optimization of costs;
A logic of financial solidarity with field management procedures, trading credits and loan repayments;
A technical logic that forecasts levels of production, the patterns of production, and the methods of preserving and processing the local products and a focus on developing a sanitation code and label for the street food vendors.
In the second phase of this project an aspect of “agro-biology” is to be introduced in the farms focusing on soil conservation, introduction and practice of organic farming (composting, hedgerows, limiting burning...) in addition to the diversification of crops grown (soybeans, beans, peanuts....)
In the city women's groups will be restructured and more indepth training will be applied for women doing restaurant work. (creation of a “good-housekeeping” label).
The entire project is to be supported by the creation of a social enterprise comprising women leaders and farmers in order to own their own means of transportation (a truck) and by creating multi-functional platforms in order to ensure quality food storage and delivery. This second phase introduces more social support mechanisms into the rural areas in order to maintain populations in these areas. Rural electrification is one alternative being studied.
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