Heart of palm: Peruvian alternative to growing coca
Apropal – short for Cooperativa Agroindustrial del Palmito – is a dynamic cooperative based in Peru. It was founded in 1997 by the government as a social project. The intention was to offer farmers in the region an alternative to the ubiquitous coca plantations. In the meantime, most of them have transitioned to the cultivation of palm.
More specifically, they grow an indigenous species of palm that has many branches. They harvest the buds that grow on these. The soft core (the ‘heart’) is then cooked to make it ready to eat. Discover the production process of heart of palm (info in Dutch).
Today Apropal is one of Peru’s largest exporters of heart of palm (in cans and jars). At this point over 350 farming families are reaping the benefits of the cooperative. In addition to this, the cooperative employs around 30 people in the processing plant.
Sustainable cultivation, sustainable trade
Apropal is undertaking sustainability initiatives in every aspect of the organisation:
- The producers utilise the principles of agroforestry: they plant different species of (edible or inedible) plants between the palm trees.
- Using the fair trade premium (info in Dutch), Apropal organises workshops on capacity development, quality, etc. It also invests in social projects in the region.
All this is delivering fantastic results. The region looks a lot different since the arrival of Apropal. Now that the farmers can sell, process and export heart of palm for a fair price, their lives have become a lot more stable. The palm producers of Apropal still face a lot of challenges (info in Dutch), however.
Apropal & Oxfam
- Apropal produces quality heart of palm, year after year. Its typical flavour and texture is somewhat reminiscent of asparagus. It can be eaten as a snack just the way it is, as part of a salad or spread, or even as a pizza topping.
- Since 2010 Oxfam has purchased two to three full shipping containers from Apropal each year.