Empresa Cooperativa del Sur del Cauca (COSURCA) is composed of 14 farmer associations and coffee cooperatives from four municipalities in Cauca, a mountainous province of southwestern Colombia. Founded in 1993, this organization has been seriously affected by armed extremist groups who value the area for its proximity to the jungle and abundant natural resources. Many farmers in the area have converted their coffee crops to more profitable, illegal ones while others have been threatened and displaced by armed groups. In contrast, Fair Trade Certified since 2001, COSURCA’s members have a strong organization and financial stability. Subsequently, COSURCA provides an important model for sustainable development in the region. In spring 2005, 57 COSURCA members' farms were accidentally fumigated as part of a U.S.-funded cocaine eradication project called "Plan Colombia." Much of the farmers' corn and bean crops were devastated. Pineapple, banana, avocado and coffee plants were seriously affected. In addition, the spraying contaminated local waterways, degraded the soil and continues to threaten the biodiversity of the area. Perhaps most importantly for the farmers, the affected coffee farms lost their organic certification and must now wait years to reestablish it.
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