CECOCAFENFounded in April 1997 Regions: Matagalpa, Jinotega, and surrounding region Members: 2600 producers of which more than 700 are women Coffee types: SHB Arabica, Bourbon, and Caturra Characteristics of their coffee: Medium acidity; smooth, light body with a sweet, mellow flavor and nutty notes.
CECOCAFEN, the Coffee Cooperatives Central Association in the Northern Regions, is an umbrella organization that promotes and sells quality coffees from twelve member cooperatives. The basis of their operation rests upon: producing a quality coffee, establishing programs for ecological practices, and offering equitable opportunities for integrated development of their members' communities. During visits to the region, we consistently witness these three elements at work.
CECOCAFEN started with 500 producers, exporting 7000 quintals of coffee. Today, more than 2,600 families are members, exporting around 100 containers annually.
In the early stages of this umbrella organization, obtaining credit for their members was particularly challenging. However, in the past couple years, they've made huge strides in better systematizing their credit structure, making it possible for members of CECOCAFEN to cover the expenses of the harvest until they are paid by buyers. When local banks are unwilling to provide credit lines to small producers, this provides an excellent alternative source of funds. The increased income gained from selling Fair Trade has also allowed community women's groups to participate in a micro-savings and loan programs, facilitating a variety of production projects and simply putting more food on the table. There are 26 groups, representing 652 women, saving about 100 thousand dollars.
Their Fair Trade coffee sales have grown steadily, and so have the numbers of children able to participate in CECOCAFEN's high school, technical training and university scholarship program. Some 428 children of partners have taken advantage of these programs. These young students are studying careers that relate to life in the cooperatives. In exchange they provide 100 hours of work to the organization. They help provide a service of adult education in the cooperative. In one year, 32 young people helped 375 adults to learn how to read and write.
Cafe Campesino and Cooperative Coffees are proud to partner with CECOCAFEN, and to be able to play a part in creating dignified solutions to the problems these farmers confront on a daily basis. With Fair Trade premiums and development credits, CECOCAFEN was able to purchase the SolCafe processing plant in 1999, equipped with ample drying beds, a complete line of sorting machines and a fully equipped cupping laboratory. Internalizing these steps for processing and testing allows CECOCAFEN to improve quality control and to negotiate significantly better prices for the farmers.
It is an impressive sight - from tiny piles to great pyramids - to see their members' coffee spread across the drying patios. CECOCAFEN receives each producer's coffee separately and tests for quality and humidity content. The cooperative is promoting each producer region for its specific characteristics and is in the process of establishing brand recognition for their corresponding coffees. The results of their collective efforts speak for themselves.
In the future, CECOCAFEN will try to be more competitive, since the growth in both the fair trade and the organic market has attracted bigger producers. They will try to increase the productive yield of their plantation to lower costs of production, maintain coffee quality, and improve the standard of living of their members. Also, they would like to increase their sale of coffee and reach better prices for it. They will also try to diversify their production.