Best Value Chain Sustainability Initiative
ORPLANA is the association of cane producers associations in Brazil. Its purpose is to represent and support independent cane producers.
It is running this project in collaboration with Fundação Solidaridad, an international civil society organisation developing solutions to make agricultural value chains more sustainable and inclusive.
In the sugarcane sector, technical assistance (TA) to producers can be carried out by several parties: associations, mills, cooperatives, public entities, autonomous professionals and, mainly, by a team of agricultural inputs companies.
The assistance offered by associations, called integral technical assistance, is more comprehensive and complex. Integral TA supports producers with needs beyond production, such as property management, legal affairs with workers, communication with producers, and more.
While integral TA is adapted to local needs, producers don’t always have access to them. When they do, it doesn’t always meet their expectations. This is due to staff limitations, financial resources, and challenges in managing the associations themselves. According to a survey conducted by ORPLANA, its associations serve on average 42% of the total associated producers, often with a lean team and not adequately qualified for their TA functions.
The source of revenue is another frequent issue. To join an association, producers pay a fee which is generally proportional to the volumes of sugarcane that they sell, regardless of whether or not they use the full TA. In 2010, a change in legislation weakened the relationships between associations and producers. For instance, the social assistance services offered by associations no longer extended to owners’ employees and families. Associations had to reinvent themselves to maintain interest and survive. Integral TA has been a key part of their survival strategy.
Purpose of the Project
The Muda Cana programme aims to strengthen associations to offer sugarcane producers an integral TA based on their needs. In addition, it aims to reinforce ORPLANA’s political representation in producers’ areas of interest.
It is built around principles such as change of attitude, union and association, development of the business vision and continuous learning, through the following macro-stategy:
- Management-level diagnosis
- Remote monitoring and mentoring
- Direct support to associations’ initiatives (acceleration notices, incentive campaigns and good practices)
- Technical training (learning days, workshops)
As the efficiency of associations relies a lot on the way they are organised, one of the key parts of this project is structural support. This starts with mapping processes and defining their main strategic objectives to create action plans. Implementation is then monitored by the Muda Cana staff, who act as mentors of the association’s teams.
The increase in associations joining the programme and the knowledge gathered allowed the development of a management index based on a benchmark of common practices. It is based on four pillars: Associative Culture, Processed, Strategic Culture and Services to Associates. For each pillar, associations can score between 0 and 5 and are reassessed periodically.
The benchmark allowed the team to identify the main needs of the associations and recurring challenges. Through discussion groups and knowledge sharing, they were able to create improvement plans with annual goals.
Muda Cana has also resulted in five initiatives to support the associations:
- Jornada de Aprendizagem: training on strategic communication, marketing and leadership
- Edical de Aceleramento: opportunities of financial support for projects on cost-effective technical assistance and sustainability.
- For Farmers: in partnership with Agtech Garage and with support from UPL, identifying opportunities for technological innovation.
- Academia de Sucessão: with support from Corteva, to train producing families on family succession.
- Alianca Project: in partnership with Pecege, to carry out a diagnosis and develop a financial management tool for producers and associations.
The project takes place in ORPLANA’s area of operation, in the South-Central region of Brazil, and looks at the associations present in the States of São Paulo, Minas Gerais, Goiás, Mato Grosso e Mato Grosso do Sul.
Why this project?
The associations of sugarcane producers are the largest representative entities and producer supporters in the field. By working on strengthening these institutions, Muda Cana is directly supporting producers, especially the small ones who would not have access to many of the services and knowledge offered by the associations.
“This initiative seems to be long lasting.”
“Very inclusive – impacting a large number of farmers and organisations.”
Comments from the Inspire Awards judges
Impacts of the Project
Through this project, 22 associations were supported through consultancy and training on management.
More than 9,000 producers have benefited from the improvement of services and more than 7,000 people were trained on topics related to sugarcane cultivation.
One of the main learnings was that understanding the needs of each association and its producers is a crucial starting point and essential to the success of the initiative. There are common challenges in different contexts, which means actions must be adapted.
The project has resulted in increased membership, improved member satisfaction and better managerial and operational control.
“Muda Cana is a very important tool to help the association improve its management and the services. It helps associations to raise their pain points to ensure the maintenance of their members and also to prospect new members.”
Flávio Teixeira – Agricultural Manager – Assocana
“Excellent program; it broadened our vision in many points, we were able to understand and see our strengths and weaknesses and have a process of continuous improvement. Our association still has a lot to improve, and we count on you on this journey!”
Daiane Bertholo – Administrative Supervisor – Assobari