Grace Presbyterian Church of Midland, Texas, were part of a mission team in Nicaragua, partnering with the the Presbyterian Hunger Program and Equal Exchange, getting a first-hand look at the coffee farming business in Nicaragua. The trip will provide Presbyterians who are involved or interested in fair trade to see how it works and meet face-to-face with those who grow the coffee.
Grace in Nicaragua ... "Village Life"
Regardless of the home in which we were staying, we found we were all awakened, routinely, around 4:00 a.m. by the sound of the women making tortillas, a very rhythmic pounding. Maybe this is what the roosters were crowing about?
Aside from coffee cultivation, it was noted that many families also grow fruits and vegetables, some for their families and some to sell. There was no refrigeration, that we saw---and nothing resembling a grocery store.
This community proudly showed us their high school, its first. The students attend for one week, then stay home the following week. During the week at home, the teachers visit and check on their homework.
In the mornings, we would watch as the farmers gathered their horses, baskets and machetes and walked up the road toward their coffee crops—or sugar cane field—or whatever crops needed tending. It was a quiet, yet vibrant part of the day—and we knew that we would miss this scene, upon leaving.
From San Jeronimo/Canta Gallo, we drove to the regional coffee cooperative, Prodecoop. Prodecoop is one of ten secondary coffee cooperatives in Nicaragua and brings together 38 grassroots cooperatives. The coffee purchased through the PCUSA Coffee Project, from Equal Exchange, is processed by one of these cooperatives. There we learned that the coffee farmers can count on a minimum price per 100 lb. bag, which is $140. Being Fair Trade coffee adds $20/100 lb. bag, and being grown organically adds yet another premium to its value. The Fair Trade premium is given to the producers for the betterment of their communities. This explained the nice community center in Canta Gallo---and the high school---and the beautiful composting shelter.
It was reinforced to us, once more, that 1/3 of the coffee producers in the village we had visited were women. In fact, the president of that local cooperative was a woman. At Prodecoop, 1/3 of the staff are women. Several more times, during the week, we would find that the country is continually advocating for the empowerment of women.