Fair Trade in Nicaragua
Over the past several decades, Nicaragua's economy has suffered a devastating fate, similar to that of many of its Central and South American neighbors. For a country that relies heavily on export production for its national income, the global coffee crisis has been especially detrimental and has left thousands of workers unemployed.
Nicaragua currently supports eight Free Trade Zones (FTZ) throughout the country and the majority of the factories within these zones are American- or Taiwanese-owned. Although these factories do employ thousands of workers who would otherwise be unemployed with no means to support their families, the wages are so low that this system simply perpetuates the cycle of poverty.
In response to this downward spiral of economic stability, the Fair Trade movement has blossomed and been hugely successful in Nicaragua.
Fair Harvest Communities in Nicaragua
El Roblar and La Corona are in the Yasika Sur region, in the department of Matagalpa, about an hour to two hours by bus from the city of Matagalpautes to an hour and a half by truck). Wthin these two communities are three base cooperatives of small coffee producers--one cooperative of only women, one of only organic and in-transition producers, and one mixed gender and mixed production (conventional and organic), all of which are member cooperatives of the Organization of Northern Coffee Cooperatives (CECOCAFEN, which itself is a second-level cooperative organization). These producers produce not only coffee, but also fruits, vegetables, a bit of cacao, and of course corn and beans.
In Yasika Sur, CECOCAFEN has promulgated an integrated development initiative, which includes promotion of organic production, diversification of production, enhanced quality control of production, the creation of more marketableorigin brands of coffee, agroecological and social research, and a program to diversify away from export producs and low-price agricultural products, namely the creation of a small ecotourism program in the area.
As part of the development initiative, the cooperatives decided that 20% of every tourism fee (lodging, food, guides, etc.) will automatically go to a Community Development Fund, to fund community projects as the community sees fit. This could mean investing in the local schools, in reinvestment in infrastructure to improve conditions in the community and more!