COOP ARROYO - Cooperativa El Arroyense
In 2010, the cooperative reported 224 members and an annual production of 20,000 metric tons of sugar cane (2,000 metric tons of organic sugar), with a maximum potential of 28,000 metric tons. About 40 percent of sales are brokered through OTISA with the rest sold through the cooperative itself. Harvests for organic sugar, the home light variety, last from May to January. Exports are shipped from September through January. All organic production is certified by IMO Control.
Fair Trade gives Cooperative El Arrollense development potential, as it is not easy to raise funds for investment and projects with existing systems. The Fair Trade premium is the only source of capital the cooperative can build on. An estimated 50 percent of Fair Trade premiums serve as additional and direct income for small farmers. These resources enable improvements in housing, access to education, health services and productive training. The other 50 percent is used, according to General Assembly approval, for investment in equipment (about 60 percent), administrative expenses (about 30 percent) and social event funding (about 10 percent).
Two years ago, we were just small producers who gave our cane to the mills and took whatever price they gave us. Now we are exporters. We negotiate, make contracts and sell our product with pride. We have earned our own organic certificates, we are improving the treatment of our seasonal labor and we are uniting with other producer groups to become even more powerful. This is about so much more than just the price. ”
Yeni Paola Recalde Barrios
Improvements to Main Office
Fair Trade premiums were used to improve the cooperative’s headquarters. A new room was built to provide additional space for meetings, programs and other activities organized by the cooperative or community. Other additions included two bathrooms and a small house for the security guard.
Learning Program for Disabled Students
The cooperative invested in a three-month project that would provide support for children with learning disabilities. Eleven schools in the region counted with one professional to provide special attention, twice a week, to four or five children per class to address learning issues. This project was coordinated with the country’s Ministry of Education.
Subsidized Medical Services
Portions of the Fair Trade premium are used to help cover members’ medical expenses –consultations, major surgeries and operations, and ambulance use for example. These services are also extended to members’ spouses and children.
Computer Center and School Supplies
The cooperative purchased a computer for members’ children to use for their school assignments. Children were taught how to type and the basics of Microsoft, primarily word and excel. Funds were also used to purchase books and uniforms.