A couple of months ago, Sustainable Harvest at Origin, one of our coffee importers, sent us a dispatch about Juan and the impact that Fair Trade had made in his life. The story detailed how he had worked in coffee for over 50 years and that it was only six years ago he was able to finally buy his own land – 3 hectares – a little more than 7 acres. For about three years after buying his land, he wasn’t part of a coop and sold his coffee to middlemen at whatever price they were offering.
Then he joined UCPCO – The Union of Organic Coffee Farm Cooperatives (UCPCO) in San Juan del Rio Coco in Madriz, in northern Nicaragua. He started getting better prices for his coffee and agronomists – coffee growing experts – helped him improve his crop yield through compost fertilizer, soil analysis, and organic pest control techniques. These changes allowed him to grow more coffee and earn more money so that he could finally buy a house for himself and his family.
So that you don’t think of his house as some sort of palatial estate, here’s a picture of it:
His family used to live in town and he lived in what sounds very much like the woods near his coffee trees. This is a huge improvement in Juan’s quality of life, and yet when I first read the dispatch from Sustainable Harvest about Juan and saw the picture of the house, I missed the part about that being his home and assumed it was a shed or an unattached kitchen. It was a total double-take for me. I even asked the staff writer at Sustainable Harvest to make sure that it was indeed his new home. “Yep”, she said, “amazing, isn’t it”?
When I was at the SCAA Annual Convention this past spring, I met the General Manager of the Coop, Heberto Rivas. I asked him about Juan and he corroborated the story about him and his success and happiness about being a member of the coop. Heberto even added that every time Juan comes to coop meetings or events, he gets misty and emotional and then cries about his success.
Some or all of this copy comes to us courtesy of our good friends at Sustainable Harvest whose mission is to improve farmers’ lives by creating a transparent and sustainable coffee supply chain, ensuring that quality coffees are sourced from the finest producers and that coffee arrives reliably in its highest quality state to preeminent coffee roasters.