In 1978, a group of farmers came together to combine their resources and efforts to sell coffee, gain finances and share infrastructural and training costs. Later in 1992, Luisa Gonzalez was living in Esteli Nicaragua working in financial services for a local bank. One day she met a coffee farmer from the small town of San Juan del Rio Coco. He told Luisa that the farmers in his community needed someone to help run their group: everything from technical assistance to product commercialization, member management and coordinating member services. Luisa soon became the first employee of CORCASAN, a cooperative that was officially organized in 1994. Luisa and the farmers realized that the best way to grow their business and access better prices was to seek international buyers. Third party certification was a key piece to this puzzle. For small farmers, financing is one of the most difficult barriers entering larger, more lucrative markets. Some groups are able to start small with government financing, in the hopes of scaling their business, increasing sales and eventually securing private financing in order to sell internationally. This was CORCASAN’s strategy for years, yet unfortunately the group was not able to access financing; that is until they achieved Fair Trade Certification in 2005. Fair Trade quickly helped CORCASAN gain international reputability as a seller. They started to win external financing deals to finance pre-harvest costs and they began to export internationally and independently – a huge step for a small cooperative of 160 farmers. This far flung community in the hills of San Juan del Rio Coco was now selling directly to multi-million dollar import agencies in the United States and Europe. Some of the benefits CORCASAN began to see included increased access to badly needed financing, international buyers, community development projects, funds to provide scholarships for members and their children, training programs to improve the quality of their coffee and more opportunities for women. Today, women make up over half of CORSACAN's staff.
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