Producer Profiles

COOCAFE - Cooperativas Cafetaleras Guanacaste y Montes Oro

The Consortium of Coffee Growers Cooperatives of Guanacaste and Montes de Oro R.L. (COOCAFE R.L.) was the first coffee cooperative in Costa Rica to be Fair Trade TM. It was founded in 1988 and began exporting in 1989 under its own brand name. Production diversification efforts have enabled the cooperative to export other crops as well, such as yucca plants, as an alternative source of revenue.

The member cooperatives are located all over Costa Rica, primarily in the provinces of Alajuela, Guanacaste and Puntarenas, the central and northern area of the country. Coffee is usually grown in the mountainous areas where temperatures are cooler than in the lowlands. Much of this region has volcanic soils with fertility excellent for coffee plants. Over 85 percent of this area is cultivated by small producers using shade grown techniques and other sustainable methods. COOCAFE uses solar panels and drying patios and other eco-friendly methods throughout the milling process.

Fair Trade certification has allowed COOCAFE's 2,634 coffee producers from nine member organizations to generate positive social and economic changes for themselves and their families. Producers now offer high-quality goods at a price that covers production costs and generates profits which are reinvested into the community. Cooperative representatives are occasionally also invited to participate in national meetings where farm affiliates unite to make important decisions.
 

Quotable

About 15 years ago when the coffee crisis hit producers all over the world, Costa Rica did not escape this reality. We at COOPELLANOBONITO, a member of COOCAFE, were one of many groups affected by low prices. Thanks to God, COOCAFE and Fair Trade, we found support and were able to place about 40 percent of our coffee production in the market, which greatly helped cover our production, operation and maintenance costs. We were able to sustain ourselves with our land and not refer to migrating to big cities or other countries, which was typical of many small farmers during this difficult and desperate time. We were able to bring food to our homes, maintain our dignity, keep our children in school and buy clothes for our families.

Being a part of Fair Trade has educated us on how to produce coffee in a responsible way, in terms of our environment and society. Fair Trade policies guarantee consumers’ products follow strict standards of social and environmental responsibility. It has made us change our growing practices to help take care of our planet and peers. Fair Trade guarantees us a minimum price which is very important for small farmers because it gives us security.

How great would it be if the Fair Trade model could be applied to the world and all trade could be developed under Fair terms? I think this would end much of the injustices we see today. I know this world has enough to cover the needs of everyone. We are thankful for being a part of this new, democratic and fair system of trade.
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Gerardo Arias, Producer COOPELLANOBONITO, COOCAFE

Programs

Children of the Field Foundation

The Children of the Field Foundation (Fundación Hijos del Campo) was created in 1996 to promote educational development through leadership and social commitment. The foundation manages a scholarship fund for students in order to support their education in rural areas. So far, this program has benefited over 5,800 students and the numbers continue to grow. Since it began, 2,598 scholarships were awarded to high school and university level students. They also provide financial support to 240 schools in the area by helping purchase school materials, equipment or fund projects that improve their infrastructures.

Organization Fund

As a second-tier organization, COOCAFE and its member organizations collectively decided to payout premiums to each first -tier organization so all belonging members can decide what to do with their fair trade funds. Due to the high coffee competition in Costa Rica, most organizations have opted to give each member their related premium funds (pertaining to the total production they brought in) at the end of each season to help motivate them for the next season. Since Costa Rica has relatively good infrastructure which is provided by its government, many first-tier organizations opt for paying out the premiums directly to the producer instead of creating community programs. This direct payment to producers has reduced individual poverty levels, as well as those of the overall communities belonging to COOCAFE.