The wooden sign outside the SOPPEXCCA cafe in Jinotega

The wooden sign outside the SOPPEXCCA cafe in Jinotega

Wednesday afternoon we set off for Jinotega, to a union of coffee cooperatives called SOPPEXCCA.  There are 15 cooperatives in the union, made up of 650 individual producers.  The reason for the trip was so that Mickey from Salt Spring Coffee could sign contracts to purchase a container of their organic coffee, and also so that Nestor, a Nicaraguan from León who has been working for nine years in renewable energy, could meet with their technical coordinator and get all the information needed to calculate the net carbon produced from farm to port.

SOPPEXCCA is a relatively new union, founded in 1999, and has clear social and environmental commitments.  They have a program called “Muchachitos de Cafe” which funds environmental education, sports, and cultural events in the schools where members children attend, and have worked

Nestor and Rigorberto talking at the Cafe

Nestor and Rigorberto talking at the Cafe

collaboratively with the National Institution for Agriculture and Forestry to mark out conservation lands on individual farms.  They are currently planning an organic insecticide and fertilizer plant at one of the beneficios with BIOLATINA, the region’s organic certification board, to supply members with better quality organic amendments. Part of Mickeys intention by buying directly from the cooperatives is to establish his own “fair trade” standards, by buying coffee that isn’t certified and investing the money he saves directly into the community that is growing the coffee.  In this case, the money will be used to create a carbon neutral chain by investing in renewable energy projects (Nestor’s job is figuring out how much CO2 we need to sink or save to counter what is produced, as well as proposing the type and quantity of an appropriate renewable energy technology), and investing in a women’s fund.  The goal with the fund is to recognize the unpaid work of women.  Cooking and serving meals to workers, pitching in extra hours during harvest or when there is a family emergency, washing clothes, and managing the campesino households are examples of how women ‘subsidize’ the price of coffee.  An organized group of women within SOPPEXCCA will make all the decisions for what kinds of activities the funds will be used for.

Our coffees on the beautiful wooden tables that are decorated with cleaned, dried, and roasted beans

Our coffees on the beautiful wooden tables that are decorated with cleaned, dried, and roasted beans

The SOPPEXCCA offices have a beautiful coffee shop on one side, with a cupping laboratory that was part of a project about five years ago to empower the voices of the cooperatives in international trade dialogue by teaching them to evaluate their own coffee in the same way the traders do.  The buildings are beautifully designed, with wooden panels and bright tiles.  Fatima Ismael Espinosa, the general manager of the coop, invited us to cappucinos and lattes.

It was exciting listening to Rigoberto, the Coordinator of the 8 technical assistants,  list how much relevant information they already have from the 15 cooperatives.  They have maps of forested areas, recorded numbers of trees they have planted every year, and a project to install more efficient wood burning stoves to cut down on firewood use.

Two reflections from this visit:  that cooperatives can be a very effective and empowering way to bring both financial and technical resources to farmers, and that those resources are more easily available for high value export crops like coffee, which recieve a fair amount of international attention.

With Fatima, SOPPEXCCAs General Manager

With Fatima, SOPPEXCCAs General Manager

Advertisements