Two co-ops in Costa Rica have found a way to tackle agricultural waste by using it to develop new products.
The project has financial backing from the country’s Higher Education Council, which includes universities and other institutions. As part of the initiative, smallholder producers are shown how to develop food products and cosmetics by using waste from apples, plums and guavas to produce toppings, energy bars, sauces, soaps and body lotions.
The programme aims to strengthen producers’ capacity to make the most of agricultural products that cannot be sold due to some minor aspect faults but maintain the same nutritive value.
One of the worker co-ops involved is Frutalcoop, which is using plums and apples for energy bars and salsa sauces and guavas for food toppings, soaps and body lotions.
The project, which started in 2016, will finish at the end of 2016. The first stage of the programme has seen products engage with people in their communities to learn what sort of products they were looking for. The survey revealed that snacks and cosmetics were the most popular products.
The second stage of the project will involve a training course for producers. This will enable 12 producers to receive training and learn about the different features of each product as well as their chemical components. Once they complete the course they will have to go back to their communities and teach other members about co-ops and how to develop their own brand.
Also taking part in the scheme is Cooperoguata, a co-op with 42 members, currently looking to diversify its offer to gain access to new markets.
Patrik Matarrita, general manager of the co-op, said prices are hit, sometimes by as much as 50%, by periods of overproduction caused by longer dry seasons, and the development of the new products is one solution to this.
The two co-ops expect to be able to sell their new products in 2018.