Fairtrade coffee co-ops empower farmers in Guatemala

UK co-operators found out how Fedecocagua, an organisation of fairtrade co-ops, makes a difference to local communities across Guatemala.

UK co-operators found out how Fedecocagua, an organisation of fairtrade co-ops, makes a difference to local communities across Guatemala.

Douglas Recinos López, the General Director of Fedecocagua, joined The Co-operative in the Fairtrade Producer Tour.

Mr Recinos López taked to Co-operative News about the Tour and the benefits of co-operation in Guatemala. He said that his visit was a great opportunity to engage with UK customers. Fedecocagua is the fourth largest coffee exporter in Guatemala and its coffee can be bought from The Co-operative Group stores.

Douglas Recinos López said the Fairtrade Producer Tour was very important because: “This is how developing countries can present new products or showcase the ones that can already be found in The Co-operative’s shops.”

Mr Recinos López explained that co-ops have changed the coffee market of Guatemala, enabling small producers to gain access to the global market.

“This was a business that belonged to powerful people with money, but things have changed now , with co-ops experiencing growth;" he said.

According to Mr López, Fedecocagua has also helped to promote gender equality.

“Fedecocagua has always sought to improve gender equality. Each co-op has a certain percentage of women and 35 percent of the members are women. This is a high percentage for Guatemala,” explained Mr Douglas López.

The General Director of Fedecocagua said he would welcome more support from the government of Guatemala, particularly in terms of co-op legislation.

He explained how sometimes co-ops need to make extra investments even though this job would correspond to the government. For example, Fedecocagua is developing infrastructure projects, particularly in places where there is a need for electricity or drinking water.

“The Co-op Movement should be supported by the government in some way,” he said.

Fedecocagua is running various training and educational projects that aim to promote co-operation. It has also organised cleaning days in the local communities.

By giving small farmers the chance to earn a decent income, Fedecocagua is also helping their children to go to school. Mr López explained how in some cases fathers might want children to work the land rather than go to school. Others are hoping their children would emigrate to the United States, securing better jobs.

“Through the projects we run with Fairtrade premiums; we secure an income for the family so that children can go to school.” Children are therefore encouraged to stay home, rather than emigrate abroad.

Fedecocagua is also developing a pilot scheme to certificate schools.“It is extremely important for all children to be able to go to school,” added Mr López.

He also said he would welcome a more up to date co-op legislation in Guatemala. The Confederation of Co-operatives of Guatemala, over which Mr López is presiding, is currently working on a legislative proposal to update the current law and increase the influence of co-ops in the decision making process.

He said the International Year of Co-operatives has helped to gain the attention of the political class and has helped to address some of the misconceptions existing in developing states, where co-operatives are regarded as a “type of communism”.

“With more co-op organisations like Fedecocagua, Guatemala could look completely different and our lives could improve.“

Mr López concluded by saying he hopes his visit will help to promote Fairtrade products. He also said he was impressed with the commitment and dedication of UK co-operators.

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