Partner in the Spotlight: Gloria Román Peco of the Junta Agroempresarial Dominicana

In this edition of our Partner in the Spotlight series, Gloria Román Peco, Manager of the Prorural Programme at the Junta Agroempresarial Dominicana describes the organization's motivation for joining SAFIN, and their role as country anchor for the investment prospectus pilot in the Dominican Republic.

Gloria Román Peco, Manager of the Prorural Programme at the Junta Agroempresarial Dominicana

Can you tell us about JAD and its history?

Very often we are asked: what is JAD? We always reply: the Junta Agroempresarial is the leading organization in the Dominican Republic’s agricultural sector and gathers more than 160,000 producers from across the country. This answer sums up concisely the strength of JAD and its presence in the country. However, it does not capture its essence nor why it is so important. Only when you are inside it and you directly witness its daily business – and what it aims to do –can you really understand what JAD is about and grasp its importance. The truth is, JAD is not a great, dedicated or powerful organization because it has a large number of associates. It is great because it is able to gather together all the productive sectors in the Dominical Republic’s agricultural and rural space – whatever their focus area – and bring them to the same table. It is dedicated because from its origin it has been entirely focused on the wellbeing of Dominican producers, and it looks after the improvement of their living conditions day and night. It is powerful because through its institutional relationships and the work of its staff, it can achieve genuine changes in the sector, which translate into better conditions for growth – both among small producers and large entrepreneurs.

This year JAD turns 35 – marking 35 years of continuous service for the country’s rural sector. During this time, JAD has brought together more than 3,500 international and local experts to work in a direct technical assistance programme for producers. It has set up the most modern agriculture laboratory service in the country and created a commodity exchange to support the marketing of food products. Moreover, it has set up FONDAGRO, which has a microcredit portfolio of over 300 million Dominican pesos lent to small producers. And it created the first agro-business information centre, which as far back as 1989, when the Internet was still unknown, was already reporting in real time on international market prices for export products. Today this centre provides daily price information via mobile messages to hundreds of farmers across the country.

JAD also organizes Agroalimentaria, the only international food, tobacco and beverage fair in the country, which has drawn more than 1,000 international buyers and investors to the country’s rural sector. Fulfilling its environmental and social responsibility, JAD maintains the Agrobusiness Reforestation Programme, planting more than 30,000 tareas [one tarea is about 629 square meters] of forest in the country’s watershed areas.

The institution has become the Government’s focal point for policy dialogue in the interests of the agricultural sector, proposing initiatives with cross-cutting impacts across the rural space in the areas of finance, land titling, food safety and health, innovation and technology transfer, and rural infrastructure. In addition, JAD has worked with the Government on proposals for new agricultural export policies, a differentiated fiscal policy for the sector, policies to address climate change and environmental considerations, the reform of rural public-sector institutions and new mechanisms to organize small and medium-sized producers.

In these 35 years, JAD has managed more than US$100 million from international and local institutions for the development of agriculture in the Dominican Republic. It has a surveying and geo-data systems unit with sophisticated measurement equipment including drones, and a quality unit focused on capacity building and certification of producers for the export of quality products.

Working through its own staff as well as a number of institutional agreements, JAD has focused objectives and a clear role as the voice of Dominican farmers. And this is what it will continue to be, including by fostering alliances that support further development of the country’s rural sector.

Can you tell us about yourself and your role in JAD?

My name is Gloria Román. I am Spanish. I am an agricultural engineer trained in environmental issues, quality and international cooperation, and hold a post-graduate degree in project management. In my 14 years of professional experience, I have focused on rural and environmental project design, management and monitoring in the Caribbean, Latin America and Europe. For me, being able to design and implement projects is very fulfilling. It is wonderful to see how you can create things that help to change people's lives and, by doing so, also bring about cultural and social change in a country. This is worth the major effort that is often required to realize a project with concrete impact.

Within JAD, my main role is to manage rural development projects focused on support to associations of poor rural people. Any project that can make an impact on the development of the poorest rural communities and their associations is relevant to us. Therefore we work with institutions like the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the European Commission, the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID), the United States Government, the private sector and the Government of the Dominican Republic. We do this by implementing programmes for capacity building, technical assistance, supplying equipment and infrastructure, and working towards economic sustainability and improved quality of life for the most disadvantaged communities.

What are the most important recent developments in rural finance in the Dominican Republic?

The main institutions in this area include Banco Agrícola, which lends to producers at low interest rates. There is also a government programme called the Special Fund for Agricultural Development, which features surprise visits by the President to rural producer groups every Sunday, accompanied by a loan agreement to invest in agricultural projects. Credit institutions include JAD’s FONDAGRO, which lends to poor and other small producers in order to develop their agricultural activities. Investments are primarily directed to rural infrastructure, planting and renewal of plantations, and equipment. In recent years the Government has given strong support to agriculture because it is seen as key for food sovereignty and development.

Why did JAD join SAFIN?

The real question is: why not join? As I mentioned last October during SAFIN’s plenary meeting, today we are in a globalized world open to social media and other communication networks. In our society, being connected is essential in order not to be left out of a system that is constantly changing. For this reason, institutions are required to be “online” in order to develop and grow. What may be strong points for some may be weak points for others. Therefore, we need networks that allow us to connect and create alliances through which we can overcome the weaknesses that we face individually.

Networks make such alliances possible, and SAFIN allows us to connect with each other. It creates linkages and discussion spaces among institutions in different parts of the world with a similar focus on agricultural development. Through these networks, we speak, learn, plan, and implement actions that contribute to rural development from a broader perspective, with a global vision of actions undertaken in other parts of the world. As a great Dominican leader said: “In life, you should always add and multiply, never subtract or divide”. This is what we do with SAFIN and what we have to continue working on in this platform.

How is JAD contributing to SAFIN?

JAD joined SAFIN in 2017. Since then, it has been working with SAFIN on an IP for the coconut value chain in the Dominican Republic. Through JAD, SAFIN has an open door to access rural producers, information about national markets, laboratories, project management, political relationships, and more – not to mention a wide range of specialists who work in the institution and who can bring technical, logistical and institutional support to SAFIN in the Dominican Republic. Here, you have a home and can count on us for whatever partners may wish to undertake to promote the rural sector. Moreover, JAD has already worked as an agricultural advisor in other countries. We can bring our experience to initiatives outside the Dominican Republic.

Who knows where this may take us? We only know that we have started and that we have a lot to do and a long way to go!