Spotlight on Brazil: COORPOL
Meet This Week's Featured Brazilian Coffee Producer, COORPOL, a Cooperative That is Truly Revolutionizing the Nation's Coffee Industry
Coffee cooperatives in Brazil are making monumental strides in their transition from conventional coffee production to more sustainable and organic methods. These coffee trailblazers are, quite literally, rocking the foundation of the Brazilian coffee industry with their eco-friendly, socially-responsible farming techniques.
This new Producer Profile series, as mentioned previously in the blog "Brazilian Coffee Benefits from Sustainable Farming Methods," will share the stories and successes of the coffee cooperatives working within the Sustainable Sourcing Partnership Project. It's a unique chance to get to know the producers revolutionizing Brazil's coffee industry. This week, meet COORPOL.
Name: COORPOL, Cooperative Regional Industrial e Comercial de Produtos Agricola do Povo Que Luta
Location: Manhuaçu, Southern Minas Gerais
Elevation: between 620 – 1,280 meters
Climate: Tropical with rain in the summer, average of 21 degrees Celsius
Percent Certified: Fair Trade Conventional: 31%, Fair Trade Organic: 38%, In Transition: 22.4%
COORPOL was established in 1998 and is headquartered in Southern Minas Gerais. This region's high elevation is ideal for coffee growing, but it was actually the mineral-rich mountains made mining the initial reason for development in the area (coffee was soon to follow). Though its location is perfect for coffee production, the isolated area proved difficult when coffee producers first tried to access the market. Originally the workers utilized miners’ railways to transport their coffee, but today Fair Trade certification and Fair Trade Premiums for community development provide much easier access to coffee markets all around the world. With the support of Fair Trade USA, COORPOL entered into the Brazil Coffee Cupping Competition last year and won 4th place in the organic natural coffee category. COORPOL is now widely acclaimed for its work in sustainability and organic farming methods.
Sustainable and Organic Methods
COORPOL members explain that the greatest benefit of Fair Trade Certification was the immediate availability of funds for building infrastructure. Producing sustainable and organic coffee is a method of farming that many producers were interested in, but because it is such a big investment, many producers lacked the funds to convert their farming methods. But the additional income COORPOL earns through Fair Trade has helped the group invest in sustainability.
Funds have gone towards technical assistance to help producers learn how to produce larger yields in ways that are environmentally sustainable. COORPOL was also able to purchase new tools and machinery to promote their sustainable and organic crops. Often the conversion to organic production requires the purchase of small items such as bags and bins to collect a harvest. These costs can add up quickly, but they are essential to the process of keeping organic production separate from conventional. Helping to buffer costs is COORPOL's investment in cement drying patios. These drying patios provide economic sustainability to the producers by turning out a higher quality coffee bean that sells for a higher price. This is achieved because dirt drying patios do not produce a high quality coffee, but cement drying patios allow the coffee bean to reach a high quality.
Investing in Community Development
COORPOL’s Fair Trade premiums support community development projects like the improvement of health care facilities and education investment. COORPOL utilizes its funds to cover the costs of medications and build new Health Centers that are more accessible to members and better equipped for treatment.
The support that cooperatives receive from projects like the Sustainable Sourcing Partnership Project and the Responsible Sourcing Project (along with Fair Trade premiums) also enables COORPOL to build schools and provide scholarships for students to pursue higher education. They also engage in worker trainings on things like recycling, workplace safety, first aid, chemical fertilizer use and sustainable farming techniques. At the end of the day, Fair Trade gives communities the tools they need to invest in their own futures, and to become the best stewards of the land they can be.
You can help support these hard working farmers and farm workers by purchasing Fair Trade certified coffee.
Stay tuned for more on Brazilian coffee in the weeks to come.