OUR COOPERATIVE COFFEE MARKETPLACE
COMSA (Café Organico Marcala) was founded in 2001 in Marcala, Honduras, where farmers had been using conventional coffee production practices and selling to local coyotes, often for less than their production cost. Promoting new ways of thinking, COMSA began its transition from conventional to organic coffee production, selling to specialty buyers. This transition proved to be huge challenge. Yields dropped drastically that first year and COMSA realized they needed to look for new methods. COMSA partnered with the Corporacion Educativa para el Desarrollo Costarricense (CEDECO) to transform their land into integrated organic farms. By promoting soil and water conservation and preserving local plants and wildlife, coffee yields grew.
The cooperative is now recognized for its creative, innovative energy at every level. COMSA farmers now manage their own organic certified wet and dry processing plants, allowing for the best quality control. Experimental and imaginative farmers here have developed organic growing techniques that provide their coffee trees with exceptional resistance to the Roya fungus that has devastated so much of the region.
Honey-Process from COMSA: The farmers of COMSA maintain their own processing plants and have added an environmentally friendly method known as "honey process". In the typical "wet" method of processing coffee, the coffee cherries are milled to remove the pulp and then washed extensively to remove the mucilage from the parchment that encases the seed. "Honey processing" is a water-conserving technique in which the mucilage is allowed to remain on the parchment. This sticky coating (referred to as "honey") remains on the seeds as they dry; and the resulting coffee has a distinctive fruity, almost floral, aroma and flavor.
PROCOCER has its origins in 1998, when the Small Farmers and Ranchers Union of Nicaragua trained 1,200 coffee producers in the organic certification process. Several dozen of those producers then split off to form PROCOCER Cooperative (Productores de Cafe Organico Certificado Las Segovia), a highly democratic body with an eco-friendly and DIY approach to growing and processing coffee beans. From its beginnings in 1999, it has encouraged inclusion and representation in its operations, with each district electing a representative to the cooperative’s board. The coop is dedicated to gender equality and each committee is required to incorporate female members.
The producers process their own coffee, striving to limit the use of water as much as possible through a process they call "en seco,” where the cooperative uses and reuses only the minimum amount of water during wet-processing (repeated washings to remove the pulp and mucilage from the coffee seed or "bean.")
One of PROCOCER’s most remarkable achievements has been to develop a domestic market for high-quality coffee, as opposed to the low-quality, mostly instant coffees marketed to developing countries. Third Coast Coffee master roaster, Joe Lozano, has been deeply involved in teaching coop members how to roast and market their coffee for domestic consumption. Sold under the brand name "El Doradito," theirs is one of the few truly premium coffees sold within coffee producing latitudes, where most high quality coffees are immediately exported upon processing.
In recent years, PROCOCER has also been at the forefront in developing coffee-related ecotourism, offering homestays with member families and directing money from coffee sales to further develop tourist infrastructure. PROCOCER currently faces many challenges, including widespread exposure at lower elevations to coffee rust (Roya fungus), but we have faith that this resilient cooperative will continue to meet each and every challenge with the knowledge that both their beans and cooperative structure are widely admired.
CECOCAFEN (La Central de Cooperativas Cafetaleras del Norte) was founded in Matagalpa in 1997, with the objective of selling its members’ coffee through direct and fair trade avenues on the international markets. Expert quality control staff from SOL CAFÉ’s processing plant and cupping lab have supported continual improvement in quality, production and processing practices. The cooperative has grown from 500 to about 2,600 members who export more than 100 containers of coffee a year.
With these successes, CECOCAFEN has been able to implement many local development projects, through eco-tourism initiatives, micro-lending programs for women entrepreneurs and youth education scholarships from primary school up to the university level.
Asociacion Chajulense – Asociacion Chajulense of the Chajul Triangulo lxil region of Quiche in Guatemala was founded in 1988. Gaining legal status in 1990, the organization grew to over 1500 members in 56 different communities in Chajul, Nebaj, Cotzal, and Chiantla areas. Through FLO (FairTrade Labelling Organization) registration and organic certification, Ascociacion Chajulense has 90% of their members producing certified organic coffees while the remaining 10% of members are internally certified in producing transitional organic coffees.
In 2006, Coop Coffee purchased the first containers of fair trade and organic coffee Asociacion Chajulense shipped into the US market. Since then Coop Coffee has continued to support Asociacion Chajulense’s primary objective to promote a sustainable development model that encourages an environmentally sound, economically feasible, and a socially and culturally fair business plan. To continue this development model the organization has diversified the income of member families’ incomes by producing other products such as cardamom, cheese, honey, textiles and handcrafts. The organization is also developing an eco-lodge called “La Posada” run by members and local youth. This eco-lodge will help support tourism within the area.
Rio Azul - The Rio Azul Coop is located in the remote town of Jacaltenango in western Guatemala. All 210 members, 43 of whom are women, are part of the Mayan Group of Jacaltec or commonly known as Pobp’ al Ti’ or Popti people. Since Rio Azul’s founding in 1967 the farmers have strived for furthering their own financial sustainability and self-sufficiency by providing their members with technical assistance to improve yields, coffee, and shade tree management. Rio Azul members are dedicated to maintaining high quality standards throughout the farming to final processing.
In 2005 Rio Azul was undergoing organizational reconstruction looking for commercial clients that were interested in trading fair and direct. Coop Coffee and Rio Azul met at a roaster/ producer exchange in Quetzaltenango in 2005. In 2006 Coop Coffee imported its first container of Rio Azul coffee and have been savoring our allocated, annual container loads of their fine coffee ever since.
CCDA – In 1982 the originally named Campesino Committee in Defense of the Highlands was founded during some of the most violent years of the Guatemalan Civil War. While struggling for recognition of land rights for their indigenous communities the military government saw them as an armed opposition group and many of their directors were arrested, disappeared, assassinated, or exiled. In hopes for a more peaceful relationship they changed their name to Campesino Committee of the Highlands. Sadly, conflict did not subside until 1988.
In 2000, CCDA succeeded in becoming a legal organization and were able to participate more freely at the regional, departmental, national, and international levels in defense of indigenous rights. The CCDA acts as a political organization with a branch called Café Justicia that solely operates in the production and marketing of member’s coffee in the Lake Atitlan region.
CCDA members pride themselves on using organic Mayan cultivation techniques. They have three part time organic tecnicos, and an agronomist that help advise members on the best practices. CCDA also has four organic fertilizer production centers. These centers produce bokashi, effective micro-organism composting, and vermicompost. Their vermicomposting project has grown since 2008, producing over 1000 tons of compost in a month. The worm produced compost is then sold back to members of the compost at a subsidized price.
The cooperative is dedicated to giving back to the members communities. Café Justicia has been able to improve access to education. Their coffee sales also have established a scholarship fund, subsidizing university level education for dozens of students each year. The profit from coffee sales also goes to fund the rotating credit fund that allows members to invest in renovations, pruning and shade management, as well as micro loans that are not coffee related. The CCDA also operates a local clinic and pharmacy which offers discounted health services to its members.
Manos Campesinas – With aid from a Catholic diocese APECAFORM (Asociacion de Pequenos Caficultores Organicos Maya-Mames) was founded in 1992 with the intention of developing local small-scale farmers. In 1996, the umbrella organization Manos Campesinas was formed to handle exporting contracts; and the following year APECAFORM achieved International Fairtrade Organization certification and became the first organization under Manos Campesinas to export Fair Trade Organic coffee. Today, it is more than 400 farmers spread over 17 different communities.
These small scale farmers are dedicated to their Mayan roots. The members aim to preserve traditional language and culture by upholding deep respect for the land using holistic organic farming practices. Education and training courses are offered to members to help farmers with best organic agricultural practices and quality control measures.
Yachil – Founded in 2001 Yachil Xojobal Chu’lchan consisted of 383 members of the Tzotzil and Tzeltal Mayan indigenous communities. Yachil Xojabal Chu’lchan means “new light in the sky” in the Tzeltal language. Members of Yachil are known for their progressive political position with the Zapatista movement which attempts to obtain autonomy and respect for indigenous rights.
In 2003 Yachil exported its first lot of coffee to solitary buyers in Germany. Coop Coffee imported their first organic certified lots of coffee in 2005. Over the past years Yachil has been working on expanding export volumes and sales in both solitary and gourmet markets internationally. Today, Yachil is comprised of 800 members over eight different municipalities that can export over 130 tons of coffee each year. Receiving no government funding, profits from their sales are vital.
Yachil members have invested these profits in steps to assure quality control, improved wet-processing equipment, construction of a warehouse for safer storage before exportation, and workshops on organic practices and organizational leadership.
MICHIZA – Created with the spirit of empowering local farmers while supporting ethnic traditions, MICHIZA was founded in 1985. MICHIZA is an abbreviation of the five indigenous groups that the cooperative comprises: the Mixtecos, Chinantecos, Chatinos, Cuicatecos, and Zapotecos. Today, their coop brings together over 1000 members from six separate regions and 43 local communities connecting their members directly to better, organic and fair trade coffee markets.
MICHIZA initially sold their coffee to the local markets where intermediaries, called coyotes, purchased the coffee for far less than its worth. In 1989, under the name Yeni Navan, or New Dawn in Zapoteco language, the coop was able to obtain legal status to sell their coffee in the international markets. In 2007, Coop Coffee imported its first container of MICHIZA coffee.
Maya Vinic – Maya Vinic is an offshoot of “Las Abejas” (meaning "The Bees"), a pacifist group organized through the Liberation Theology network. In the 1997 a paramilitary group slaughtered 45 members of “Las Abejas”, including women and children, an event known as the Acteal Massacre. Seeking to create the foundations for a new life in this devastated community, Maya Vinic was formed in 1999.
Today Maya Vinic consists of 500 coffee farming families located in 38 highland communities in the municipalities of Chenalhó, Pantelhó and Chalchihuitán in Chiapas, Mexico. Each member on average has one hectare that can produce up to 400 kilos per year. The cooperative takes great care to uphold local language and culture, sustainable environmental practices, and traditional forms of self-governance. Many of the farmers of Maya Vinic keep bees, harvesting certified Organic honey from the bees that fertilize the coffee flowers.
To ensure consistent high quality coffee, Coop Coffees provides regular educational workshops on sustainable farming techniques. Maya Vinic also stresses the importance of a strong local economy, marketing its coffee to roasters across Mexico and managing a local coffee-shop in San Cristobal De Las Casas. This has provided its members with a dignified livelihood and improved living conditions.
Maya Vinic has been exporting fair trade coffee to Coop Coffee since 2002, one of the longest standing relationships in the coop's existence.