Coopervitae’s Pledge to Sustainability
At Coopervitae, the farmers may lead simple lives but their horizons are wide. They draw on the century-long Brazilian tradition in coffee growing to develop a product that will satisfy the taste of today’s consumer.
The joint effort toward this goal began in 2001 when the cooperative became Fairtrade-certified. Farmers were soon to experience the benefits of this major step: their market access went up and incomes were stable. Fairtrade Premium funds were used to improve transportation and provide coffee sacks throughout the harvesting season. Thus they helped make everyday life on the coffee estate more comfortable. Members discovered the advantages of talking about their needs and finding ways to address them together.
Yet that was just the beginning.
The cooperative wanted to move even further ahead. It obtained its organic certification in 2006. Initially, the management had to work hard to acquaint its members with the intricacies of environmentally-friendly production. It guided them through the process of improving their farming practices to meet all relevant standards.
"Every year we have improved the way we work, building the strategy for the producer to receive the fair price for coffee, and greatly improving quality.” Danilo Silva Fernandes, Executive Director, Coopervitae, Brazil
Today, the strong determination to further raise the quality of their produce motivates more than 370 cooperative members to overcome the typical difficulties that pesticide-free farming entails, such as vulnerability of the crops. Regular meetings, training seminars and professional advice are crucial in this process. The cooperative’s goal is a complete switch to organic production.
“We have to encourage farmers to do things right, to use less pesticides, and produce good quality coffee, which will then be valued. And to do no harm to our health,” comments Ordálio Marcelino Felix, an active cooperative member whose share of coffee sold on Fairtrade terms is as high as 80%.
Caring for Nature and the Community
Coopervitae has already proven its commitment to reducing pollution on the local level. Its members eagerly took part in a waste management campaign initiated by the Nova Resende Municipality. As a result, 15 tons were collected for recycling instead of being randomly disposed of throughout the coffee estates.
As in many other places around the world, young people in the region are increasingly moving out to the cities in search for better jobs, while parents struggle to manage their land with limited resources. “If this keeps happening, how will the cities survive? Cities don’t produce food,” muses Danilo Silva Fernandes.
This is why caring for the environment and people’s welfare is of key importance for the cooperative. Its ambitious vision is to build a solid foundation for sustainable agriculture in the region and thus inspire more local residents to stay in coffee farming. A big advantage in this process is the vast experience of the elderly coffee growers who voluntarily continue to give feedback and useful advice on what good quality means and how to achieve it. This way, a traditional livelihood can be preserved while creating better opportunities for the future generations.
If you are interested in sourcing coffee from Coopervitae, contact Catalina Jaramillo, Fairtrade International's Regional Coordinator for Brazil: firstname.lastname@example.org
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