Friday, September 22, 2017

The benefits of a coffee association

Wednesday I had visitors and decided to have them hear about the work of the coffee association in El Zapote Santa Rosa.

This group of thirteen men and one woman are small coffee farmers who have joined together, learned best practice to produce, harvest, and process coffee. As a result, they are exporting coffee to the parish of Saint Thomas Aquinas in Ames, Iowa. This year they exported 4,500 pounds.

José, the president of the association, talked with us, showed us his solar dryer, shared some of his coffee with us at his home, and then showed us parts of his coffee fields, his finca, as well as where he washed much of his coffee.

As we drank a cup of coffee in his home, he proudly told us how he now drinks good quality coffee and not the dregs, which his family used to drink. He noted that the good quality coffee doesn’t upset his stomach as the other coffee did.

One of the visitors, a Canadian, had previously asked me why the Honduran coffee he drank in Toronto coffee shops was good but most of what he had tasted here was awful. I told him exactly what José later told us. I also noted that when we visited Aldea Development’s project in La Unión, Lempira, the director Patrick Hughes had advised the producers to begin to drink good coffee.

José has taken that advice to heart.

I pressed him on other benefits. He did not talk much about his own family, though it appears that they are doing better. But he did mention that they paid the coffee harvesters more for the selective picking they did for export coffee. He also noted how the family or some persons are hired to go through the coffee to take out defective beans before the coffee is sent to the processing company here in Honduras.

The project is not only helping the producers but seasonal coffee workers, many of whom do not have their own coffee land – or have very little land.

But as we came back from his fields, he shared what in many ways is one of the most significant benefits of this association and their ability to export coffee and get a higher price for quality coffee.

José showing off his coffee fields
As we drove into El Zapote he mentioned, “I no longer have the desire to go to the United States.”

He had tried a few years ago, was captured by the Border Patrol soon after crossing the border, and held in a detention center for several months. But I guess that the dream of the golden north remained.

Yet now, he has purpose in his life here in Honduras; he has experienced the success of helping to organize others for the good of the community; he has helped improve the quality of life for him and his family. He is at home in his home country, in his aldea.

But José is but one of many who have the dream of a good and meaningful life for his family and his village. (He is very active in promoting education in El Zapote even though he has had limited education).

But he is a minority since real development is beyond the reach of many – even the educated. I recall a very sharp young man whom I tried to dissuade from going to the United States. At one point he told me, “What does Honduras offer me?”

He had much to offer Honduras but his hopes and dreams were stilted, his gifts not recognized, his capacities not given a place to grow.

So what about the future of Honduras?

Politicians offer dreams of success, but often at a price – selling your soul to the party. Jobs are offered, but with poor salaries. Individual efforts are lauded, but not always rewarded. The efforts of people working together are not often encouraged.

Small efforts – and larger ones – need to be made. I feel very glad that this one small effort has made a difference in the lives of some people I know. I hope there are more.

And if you want to help people like José, buy more coffee from direct market sources. El Zapote Coffee, the fruit of this small association, is available at St. Thomas Aquinas Church and Catholic Student Center, Ames, Iowa. Buy some – and then, if you like it, get some friends to buy some more. That might make it easier for people to stay here in Honduras.

1 comment:

Grandma's Garden said...

Thank you, John!