Dedicated to more than just growing and exporting coffee, Las Diosas - La FEM (The Goddesses - Foundation between Women) is a dynamic female-led cooperative committed to selling quality Fair Trade coffee while simultaneously supporting and promoting women`s rights. The cooperative is located east of Managua in the department of Estelí where much of the land is devoted to tobacco production and largely controlled by male producers. Las Diosas - La FEM consists of four smaller cooperatives, each managed by its own Directiva (female director). Fiercely independent and determined to succeed in the coffee industry, the 132-member cooperative has made much progress since their founding in 1996, both in terms of coffee sales as well as the promotion of issues such as women's education and health.
Under the direction of the Development Committee, La FEM is engaged in community development projects primarily focused on issues concerning women. Many of the women living in the department of Estelí are lacking in basic education and health care. In Condega, one of the six women and municipalities of Estelí, La FEM has established an alternative school where young women are encouraged to take up traditionally male-dominated trades such as carpentry, welding, construction, etc. Not only does this form of education teach them useful skills, it enables the women to gain independence from the men and create employment opportunities for themselves. In addition to their special projects, the Development Committee explores political topics and writings, often analyzing the legitimacy of Fair Trade and where it stands in a market dominated by neoliberal principles.
Coffee production is a traditional form of agriculture in Estelí but the use of chemical fertilizers for easing mass production has taken over older methods of production. La FEM, however, has maintained their efforts in organic methods. One collective of women in the Cope Mujeres owns a common piece of land, dividing the work and income equally. Since their inception, many of these collectives have received prices comparable to Fair Trade prices. Before becoming a producer partner with Cooperative Coffees, La FEM was already exporting coffee to a German group under fair trade terms. However, they were disappointed at the lack of enthusiasm on the buyers` part to co-partner with them in an initiative to go beyond selling coffee. Clearly, these women are invested in more than just the beans.
Geographic Location: Located in Estelí, east of Managua -- Varietals: Arabica – Bourbon; Caturra -- Altitude: 950 - 1200 meters _______________________________________________________________________________
CECOCAFEN, the Coffee Cooperatives Central in the Northern Regions, is an umbrella organization promoting and selling quality coffees from nine cooperatives. The basis of their operation rests upon: producing a quality coffee, establishing programs for ecological practices, and offering equitable opportunities for integrated development of their members’ communities. During visits to the region, we consistently witness these three elements at work.
Their Fair Trade coffee sales have grown steadily, and so have the numbers of children able to participate in CECOCAFEN’s high school, technical training and university scholarship program. Some 428 children of partners have taken advantage from these program. These young students are studying careers related to the life in the cooperatives. In exchange they provide a 100 hours of work to the organization. They help provide a service of adult education in the cooperative. In one year, 32 young people helped 375 adults to learn how to read and write.
At Cooperative Coffees we are proud to partner with CECOCAFEN, and to be able to play a part in creating dignified solutions to the problems these farmers confront on a daily basis. With fair trade premiums and development credits, CECOCAFEN was able to purchase the SolCafé processing plant, equipped with ample drying beds, a complete line of sorting machines and a fully equipped cupping laboratory. Internalizing these steps for processing and testing allows CECOCAFEN to improve quality control and to negotiate significantly better prices for the farmers.
In the future, CECOCAFEN will try to be more competitive, since the growth in both the fair trade and the organic market has attracted bigger producers. They will try to increase the productive yield of their plantation to lower costs of production, maintain coffee quality, and improve the standard of living of their members. Also, they would like to increase their sale of coffee and reach better prices for it. They will also try to diversify their production.
Geographic Location: Located in Matagalpa, Jinotega and surrounding regions -- Varietals: SHB Arabica, Bourbon, Lempira, Caturra and some Catimor -- Altitude: 750 -1250 meters