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THE CO-OPS AND JOURNEY

Mexico:

CBC_coops2Cooperative: Maya Vinic
Members – 500 families located in 36 highland communities
Location –  municipalities of Chenalhó, Pantelhó and Chalchihuitán, in Chiapas, Mexico
Elevation – 900 and 1400 meters above sea level
Established – 1999
Coffee varieties – Arabica coffees, including varieties such as Typica, Caturra, and Mundo Novo
Diversification – honey, corn, beans, vegetables, chickens, fruit trees, nuts

The Cooperative “Producers’ Union Maya Vinic” is comprised of some 500 coffee farming families located in 38 highland communities in the municipalities of Chenalhó, Pantelhó and Chalchihuitán, in Chiapas, Mexico. Each member has an average of one hectare and produces an average of 400 kilos of coffee from each plot. Inspired by the traditions of their ancestors, Maya Vinic is organized and operates in keeping with a respect of local culture, language, reverence for the Mother Earth and traditional forms of self-government.

Maya Vinic was born out the wider civil society “Las Abejas”, an organized response to the prevalent injustice in their communities and in the hopes of promoting positive change and autonomous development by pacific means. The plight of their communities came to the public eye in the aftermath of the infamous Acteal Massacre, where 45 men, women and children were killed by paramilitary forces and thousands more displaced from their homes.

Coffee production is nothing new to the farmers of this region. “Recruited” since the arrival of the plantations in the early 1900s as poorly paid hired hands during the harvest, they learned about production and processing, and the wealth that coffee had made for a fortunate few. Soon, seeds began trickling back to the Highland communities of Chiapas.

Farmers eventually were able to organize themselves into producer cooperatives in search of more equitable markets. In order to be able to offer a consistently high-quality coffee, raised with care and dignity, the coop offers educational and capacity-building activities focused on sustainable farming techniques and the importance of a strong social economy. As a collective initiative to improve the living situations of their farmers, Maya Vinic understands that in addition to providing a greater economic benefit, the coop works for the dignity and fair treatment of its members through coffee production and marketing.

Guatemala:

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Cooperative: CCDA (Campesino Committee of the Highlands)

Location: San Antonio, Atitlán and San Lucas Toliman in Sololá, Guatemala
Number of members: 256
Established – 1998
Elevation: 1200-1800 meters above sea level
Diversification – corn, beans, fruit trees, mushrooms
Varietals: Bourbon, Caturra

CCDA is an organization that fights for access to land and labour rights for Mayan campesinos (farmers) in Guatemala. The CCDA participates at a regional, departmental, national and international level in defence of access to land and the agricultural situation, labour rights, human rights and the Mayan cultural situation. Through their work, several members receive support with land, credit, educational scholarships, and have the opportunity to participate in various trainings offered by the CCDA and other affiliates. They provide their members with knowledge of food sovereignty by teaching permaculture, composting, etc

Mayan Campesinos from the CCDA organized to protect their labour conditions and the quality of their coffee produce Café Justicia. They have worked for generations on the large plantations. They have only achieved their own land since 1998. For these families coffee is their principal income source. http://www.ccda.galeon.com/about.htm

El Salvador

CBC_coopsCooperative: Las Marias 93
Members: 63 members
Location: Canton Las Marias, Usulutan, El Salvador
Elevation: 800 meters-900 meters above sea level
Established: 1993
Coffee varities: Bourbon, Pacas
Diversity: Vegetables, honey, corn, beans, fruit, chickens

Once the Peace Accords were signed in 1992, marking the end of El Salvador’s brutal civil war, the members of Las Marias (named after the community in which they now live) each received three manzanas of land in exchange for their arms as part of the demobilization process. A year later in 1993, the coffee cooperative was legally established, carrying with them many of the aspirations they had focused on throughout the war. Before this, only a small number of wealthy families owned all of the land in El Salvador

Nearly twenty years later, the cooperative has seen much success, and just last year managed to reach their goal of “closing the coffee chain” on their own premises. Their facilities now include an organic composting factory, an extensive coffee tree nursery, an ecological wet processor, drying patios, an industrial dry processor, roaster, grinder, and now a coffee shop run by the youth in their community. With a special focus on providing positive alternatives for youth in a country plagued by gang violence, the cooperative is incredibly active in finding alternatives to involve the entire community. The youth not only organize and run their roadside cafe and bakery, but they also are involved in the 25,000 plant nursery, composting facility, and organic vegetable green house.

Nicaragua:

CBC_coops4Cooperative: Las Diosas
(the coffee cooperative part of La FEM)

Members – 260 producers (all women), divided into 5 cooperatives
Location – Esteli, Nicaragua
Elevation – 950-1200 meters above sea level
Established – 1996
Diversification – corn, beans, vegetables, hibiscus rose, fruit trees

La Fundacion Entre Mujeres (La FEM) is a well organized all-women’s NGO in northern Nicaragua that is committed to selling quality, Fair Trade coffee while simultaneously supporting the ideological, economic, and political empowerment of rural women.  La FEM supports female empowerment through a variety of projects that include an education program that promotes literacy;  a gender equality-focus in primary and secondary schools; education in alternative careers (such as sustainable development); the promotion of sexual and reproductive rights; access to health services for women; a community network of rural defenders that help stop violence;  diversified and organic food production and a strategy for the economic empowerment of women.  All projects are carried out under a focus of sustainable economic development for the adults and youth that these programs reach. Through such programs, women from the rural communities are able to participate and be real actors in transforming their own realities, making decisions in the development politics carried out by La FEM.

FEM began in 1995 when director Diana Martinez began to organize women from rural communities in the north of Nicaragua. The initial focus of the organization was to create an autonomous space for rural women that would challenge the traditional, male-dominated model of rural development and to promote women’s rights. Access to land has always been a key aspect of FEM’s proposal, allowing women to be autonomous and individual subjects of their own development. With that, comes the need to provide adequate access to reproductive resources such as credit, seeds, alternative technologies, infrastructure, and markets. With an overarching feminist vision, FEM participates actively in the larger Feminist Movement of Nicaragua and promotes raising consciousness on the rights of women.

Under the larger umbrella organization of La FEM are six smaller cooperatives of Las Diosas scattered throughout the northern region of Nicaragua and groups together nearly 200 women farmers. These women are cultivating a total of 164 manzanas of land, focusing on organic production. Through their connection with La FEM, women farmers have access to trainings on different topics relating to organic coffee production in order to improve their production. At a centralized location, women also have access to a large nursery full of 80,000 healthy, new, organic plants as well as organic fertilizers made with recycled materials from the nearby farms, as well as a coffee roaster. Each of the cooperatives contains a wet mill, where coffee is depulped before it is sent to a nearby processing facility to be dried on patios, milled, and exported. Focusing on alternative markets and being educated on the entire production chain, FEM sells their products both locally in Esteli as well as internationally. All local products are marketed under the label “Las Diosas” (goddess in English), with a symbol that represents the moon and the rain together with the women’s symbol. http://www.fundacionentremujeres.org/

 

 

 

 

Chelsea Bay DennisTHE CO-OPS AND JOURNEY

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