The cane sugar revolution


HAND IN HAND partner Manduvirá rewrites history in Paraguay
Hand in Hand Logo
The small peasant Manduvirá cooperative shows how organic and fair trade sugar cane can become the driving force for development. Currently, the cooperative is the only cooperative in Paraguay that cultivates organic sugar cane and refines the sugar cane in its own sugar factory. At Manduvirá, the cultivation, the processing and the export are all in the hands of the peasants - a groundbreaking achievement that was made possible by fair trade.  
"Fair trade empowers the peasants", declares Ada Zárate, agricultural engineer at Manduvirá and responsible for the HAND IN HAND partnership with Rapunzel. Before, it was common practice that peasants brought their sugar cane to a sugar factory that held the local monopoly on sugar production. The sugar cane farmers were totally dependent.Then, Manduvirá managed to rent a sugar factory and the cooperative started to organize their own sugar cane processing. Finally, in 2014, the revolution succeeded: Manduvirá purchased its own sugar factory. "The factory enables us to have the entire process chain in our hands", proudly explains Ada Zárate. Thanks to HAND IN HAND this is an excellent effort of the cooperative - and an absolute novelty in Paraguay! 

Kaffee Grafik
Manduvirá at a sight
  • Organic small peasant cooperative with 900 sugar cane growers
  • Cultivation of organic sugar cane in the central lowlands of Paraguay
  • Processing of Cristallino cane sugar and Rapadura whole cane sugar in their own processing plant in Arroyos y Esteros
  • The cooperative developed originally from a savings and credit cooperative, cooperation with Rapunzel since 2011, HAND IN HAND partner since 2014 
Direct and personal contacts: Rapunzel founder and Managing Director Joseph Wilhelm (right) visits Manduvirá
Direct and personal contacts: Rapunzel founder and Managing Director Joseph Wilhelm (right) visits Manduvirá

From the field to the container

Arroyos y Esteros, headquarters of the cooperative, is located almost 70 kilometers from the capital Asunción. The small town lies in a generously green landscape with streams and forests  that are pervaded with the small sugar cane plots of the peasant farmers.  .

Sugar cane belongs to the sweet grass family. It can grow up to six meters high and is harvested every year. For the harvest, the farmers cut the sugar cane by hand instead of burning the fields as is often done in conventional sugar cane cultivation. 
The sugarless leaves of teh sugar ane plants remain on the field as mulching material: they serve as erosion protection and green manure - this is important for the preservation of soil fertility. Some time after the harvest, the sugar cane stumps sprout again and the regrown sugar cane can be harvested again in a year.  

Organic sugar cane can stay on the field for six to seven years. Then, the sugar cane ceases to grow and the field lies fallow for a year for soil recovery. New sugar cane seedling are used to cultivate the next generation of sugar cane. 
The sweet revolution: the opening of their own processing unit was a historic step for the cooperative - and for the peasant in Paraguay
The sweet revolution: the opening of their own processing unit was a historic step for the cooperative - and for the peasant in Paraguay
Professional counselling is part of fair trade: Barbara Altmann, head of Strategic Raw Material Procurement at Rapunzel in conversation with a sugar cane grower
Professional counselling is part of fair trade: Barbara Altmann, head of Strategic Raw Material Procurement at Rapunzel in conversation with a sugar cane grower
Trucks and ox carts transport the sugar cane to the processing unit. There, the sugar cane is cleaned, chopped and subsequently pressed in the sugar mill, filtered and heated. The sugar cane juice is stirred until it thickens. Depending on the end product, the sugar now undergoes different processing steps. For Rapadura whole cane sugar, the workers grind the thickened mass. In this process, the natural compounds and the sugar cane minerals are preserved for the most part and Rapadura maintains a pleasant, slightly caramel-like flavor. 
For the production of Rapunzel Cristallino cane sugar, the workers add sugar crystals to the thickened sugar cane juice and let the mass crystallize. In the next step, the sugar crystals are separated from the molasses through centrifugation. Part of the molasses, however, remains in the product giving the crystallized cane sugar its golden color. Cristallino cane sugar also contains many valuable sugar cane ingredients. 

Taking development serious

„We believe that the support by Rapunzel is important for the kind of sustainable development that we as an organization need for our work", declares agricultural engineer Ada Zárate. Manduvirá invests Rapunzel's HAND IN HAND bonus into organic agriculture. The member of the cooperative are trained in organic agriculture and have access to organic fertilizer and technical support for the cultivation of sugar cane.

Manduvirá uses alternative crops for crop rotation and optimizes composting with the organic waste from the processing steps - in order to preserve soil fertility and soil health. Nature conservation areas and reserves amount to 7 percent of the farmers' properties. 
With the HAND IN HAND bonus, Manduvirá also supports environmental education and waste separation in schools
With the HAND IN HAND bonus, Manduvirá also supports environmental education and waste separation in schools
The peasant families are not the only ones who benefit from the fair trade with Rapunzel. In the sugar factory, Manduvirá invests in regular occupational safety and hygiene trainings for the workers and the workers get meals in the factory canteen. The cooperative also cooperates with several educational institutions.  
For the families of the cooperative members, Manduvirá organizes computer, language and art classes. Children and teens from the region can attend classes and training courses on nutrition, environmental protection, reforestation, waste managemennt or wastewater management. 

With financial support from the HAND IN HAND fund, a joint initiative of Rapunzel and the German Environmental Aid, Manduvirá has been successfully implementing several projects. The fund money was used for example to set up a microbiology lab where soil analyses can be performed. In the first place, the lab benefits the members of the cooperative and their plots, but in the second place also the general public, as students can complete internships in the lab. 

Ada Zárate: "We can make history"

„The road to our own sugar factory was very rocky. The members of the cooperative, the workers and the peasant families had to fight compassionately. It required a lot of work and effort to destroy the image that peasants could not own their orn sugar factory. Because in Paraguay it is tradition that the big sugar factories that are owned either by a family or an anonymous company define the market and control the entire process. It was very difficult to overcome these obstacles and to break down people' prejudices and their disbelief that this would be possible!" 
And they succeeded: „Sí, ¡podemos! – yes, we can!“ shouted the members of Manduvirá during the festive opening of their sugar factory in 2014 - for the guests from Rapunzel this was a true "goose-pimple occasion".

Barbara Altmann, head of the Strategic Raw Material Procurement department at Rapunzel, adds: „All that would not have been possible without the long-term and continuous cooperation with the customers. Our loyalty and our annual contracts give Manduvirá the security that they need for the banks and their own motivation." This confirms once again: every purchasing decision has its effect.
Ada Zárate (4th from left), agricultural engineer and responsbile for HAND IN HAND at Manduvirá with her colleague Teresa Pereira at the Rapunzel One World Festival 2017
Ada Zárate (4th from left), agricultural engineer and responsbile for HAND IN HAND at Manduvirá with her colleague Teresa Pereira at the Rapunzel One World Festival 2017

HAND IN HAND products


Rapadura whole cane sugar, HAND IN HAND
Rapadura whole cane sugar, HAND IN HAND
Bourbon vanilla sugar with Rapadura, HAND IN HAND
Bourbon vanilla sugar with Rapadura, HAND IN HAND
Cristallino cane sugar, HAND IN HAND
Cristallino cane sugar, HAND IN HAND
Bourbon vanilla sugar with Cristallino, HAND IN HAND
Bourbon vanilla sugar with Cristallino, HAND IN HAND
Tonka sugar with Cristallino, HAND IN HAND
Tonka sugar with Cristallino, HAND IN HAND

Recipes with HAND IN HAND Cristallino & Rapadura


Rhubarb Compote
Rhubarb Compote
Coffee Crumble Cake with Hazelnuts and Chocolate
Coffee Crumble Cake with Hazelnuts and Chocolate
Tart with pear-apple spread
Tart with pear-apple spread
Nut pasty
Nut pasty
Almond Tiramisu
Almond Tiramisu
Brownies, klassisch oder vegan
Brownies, klassisch oder vegan
Buttermilk waffles with ayurvedic oats
Buttermilk waffles with ayurvedic oats
Chocolate Chip Cookies with Walnuts
Chocolate Chip Cookies with Walnuts
Popcorn with pecan nuts and semisweet chocolate
Popcorn with pecan nuts and semisweet chocolate
Homemade Almond Milk
Homemade Almond Milk
Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookie with Chocolate Chips
Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookie with Chocolate Chips
Coconut rice
Coconut rice
Carrot cake with walnuts and butter cream
Carrot cake with walnuts and butter cream
Tomato soup with chickpeas and coconut milk
Tomato soup with chickpeas and coconut milk
Mirabelle chutney with bay leaf
Mirabelle chutney with bay leaf
Roasted Pumpkin Soup with Coconut Cream
Roasted Pumpkin Soup with Coconut Cream
Up-Side Down Plum Cake
Up-Side Down Plum Cake
Pumpkin Soup with Sweet Potatoes and Coconut Cream
Pumpkin Soup with Sweet Potatoes and Coconut Cream
maize semolina mash with apricot kernel oil and blueberries
maize semolina mash with apricot kernel oil and blueberries
Easter lamb vegan
Easter lamb vegan
RAPUNZEL NATURKOST GmbH
Rapunzelstraße 1, D - 87764 Legau
Telefon: +49 (0) 8330 / 529 - 0
Telefax: +49 (0) 8330 / 529 - 1188
E-Mail: info@rapunzel.de
Seite druckenSeite schliessen
RAPUNZEL NATURKOST GmbH
Rapunzelstraße 1, D - 87764 Legau
Telefon: +49 (0) 8330 / 529 - 0
Telefax: +49 (0) 8330 / 529 - 1188
E-Mail: info@rapunzel.de