Sara Montoya – COOPCAFER Colombia
Cooperativa Departamental de Caficultores de Risaralda (COOPCAFER), Colombia
Who I am? What is my name? Answering these questions would be the right way to start, the fact is that I am not a single person, nor do I have a single name … but I will not leave you without an answer: I am Mrs. Lucia, Mrs. Rosa, and Carmen, I am also Mr. Manuel, Gonzalo, the young David, little Juanita and Esteban, I am the daughter not only of a guild, nor a community, but a family, a family that not only moves for its plantation but also for what it brings with it: values, traditions, experiences and memories. As Sara Montoya, I am an International Business student, this is a career that I have been able to pursue thanks to the economic opportunities that coffee has provided me and my family with. My relationship with coffee comes not only from living in an area where this is the economic backbone but also because my family are coffee producers, together we learn, harvest and live from it; I grew up in a town called Santuario, in the department of Risaralda, where I had the chance to live unforgettable moments as a kid with family and friends; playing at the park each Sunday, enjoying Christmas at the Farm. But over time our priorities change, I started a career thanks to my family’s hard work at the farm and the opportunities coffee has given to us. Not all times have been easy, in 2015 my father became ill, and as the eldest of the house it was my responsibility to take over the administration of the farm. Since then, I have lived and breathed coffee, understanding the meaning of coffee, not just for my family but for my whole community. It’s clear to me that I’ll never stop learning from this commodity, it’s essence never changes, the people, the experiences, our culture and our tradition… we go beyond the cup of coffee that’s before you, and that’s what we want to transmit, give and create awareness about!
I work for the first Cooperative founded in Colombia (Cooperativa Departamental de Caficultores del Risaralda), which this year is celebrating its 60th anniversary. In 1959, 38 coffee producers led by Mr. Federico Drews Castro and Mr. Eduardo David Morales founded our Co-op, with the main objective of generating social and economic welfare for its members and the community of Risaralda. Out of 19,000 coffee growers in the region, 3,574 are currently members of this thriving company with a coffee tradition whose principles are based on transparency, ethics and service to the community.
COOPCAFER mainly has three investment lines for the Fairtrade Premium, which are:
- Environmental Program: This program seeks to support coffee farmers in methods of handling by-products and wastewater, thus generating awareness of the impacts of coffee production and the importance of sustainability.
- Social Program: Accompaniment is provided to associates with health days and training in different topics of interest to them. Life insurance and scholar kits are also part of the benefits received by producers and their families.
- Productive Program: This investment line is focused on the improvement of the conditions of the production systems of our associates and the renewal of coffee plantations and their proper fertilization is encouraged. In addition, training is given for the management of the productive system in order to improve the productivity and quality of coffee.
I am currently doing my internship and I am part of the Human Resources department, but taking advantage of my knowledge in English and Portuguese, i as well support the department of social management and sustainability and Mr Oscar Eduardo Trujillo (our executive manager), by receiving the international visits, explaining to them who we are, what we do and showing them our investments by taking them to our associates farms.
Both Fairtrade and COOPCAFER’s social and environmental approach demonstrates that farmers build a better quality of life for their families and communities, while also creating awareness among consumers about the processes of production and commercialization of this product.
The Fairtrade Premium has helped the cooperative to become financially sustainable and develop long-term projects in coffee-producing communities, such as:
In agriculture, women don’t often get a chance to innovate and develop technology; it is seen as men’s work. COOPCAFER, located in the Risaralda department, western Colombia, have been doing things differently. They run a leadership and technical training programme solely for women. The outcome was a huge success: the group created community germinators. This technology creates the ideal conditions to cultivate coffee seeds into seedlings. Around 230 members received 462,500 new seedlings from the cooperative’s plant nursery. COOPCAFER has also renovated more than 300 de-pulping machines, used mainly by the women farmers.
Quality and productivity
COOPCAFER sponsor coffee tours. Coffee specialist advise members on how to improve the quality of their product. They organize training on the safe and efficient use of pesticides including the correct use of protective equipment and clothing. The cooperative runs a program to support farmers who are suffering from plagues and diseases.
The cooperative organizes regular ‘health days’ in coffee-producing communities. Doctors, dentists and eye care specialists visit communities and set up clinics for patients from remote rural areas who would otherwise have to make long journeys to receive treatment. This service is open to all members of the community. In 2012, COOPCAFER funded 772 general consultations, 569 dentist appointments, 695 optometry visits, 694 laboratory tests and 604 cancer examinations. COOPCAFER organizes health conferences to provide training to members on health-related issues.
Coffee infrastructure and water
COOPCAFER has built up washing and processing facilities in the local branches of the cooperative. They have built treatment tanks for aguas mieles which is the waste water from the washing process. This water can be toxic to the environment and leak into drinking water sources.
Sara Montoya Osorio