Coffee Action! research…
This is the introductory post to my new place for the Summer. I am now in Coopabuena, Costa Rica… about 30 miles from the Costa Rica-Panama border. One thing I am trying to do recently is keep my writing as grounded as possible. It’s too easy to use dogmatisms and concepts and miss real life in writing. See if you notice in this history/diretions post.
The pueblo of Coopabuena, CR is like many others in this mountainous (South Costa Rica) region: surrounded by café, cattle, and corn. Unlike others, it houses just north of it the rusting ruins of a once-giant superpower. The former CoopeBuena cooperative was managed by over 300 associated coffee producers, in a way that served the farmer’s interest above all others. (Cooperatives are a good thing for farmers: they can buy farm materials from them at the beginning of the year, bring in presenters to give talks or — charlas, and sell at a better price than usual.) CoopeBuena collapsed with the world coffee price in 1980s and is now defunct bank-owned machinery. In fact, much of the farmers entire livelihoods depend on that shaky price. What they get for their harvest means –”will it be enough”– for their families that year.
Now, CoopePueblos has emerged from the ruins. They carry a new flag: sustainable coffee farming to market their coffee directly. Fortunately, the coffee market is really changing even past certification labels: people who buy good coffee want to buy a story with their coffee. These farmers are struggling to grow coffee more sustainably so that they can maintain hope that their kids may have a livelihood. Many have already left. That consumers will want it this year is their struggle.
The Community Agroecology Network (CAN) works with the coop in participatory research: mainly research that ties in with their goals. It’s amazing: a good coffee farm is almost as good as a rainforest for conserving nature’s “services”. But what good is a tree? A tree serves for the farmer by prolonging the life between replants, protecting the soil so that he doesn’t have to use as much fertilizers every year, and giving him a nicer environment to work in and/or watch birds… The cost-benefit analysis would probably come out positive for him, but it’s often more a problem just dealing with the practical issues: He doesn’t know about the program, he doesn’t have money, it costs money for a cab to the coop… you see the problem.
Organic (read: certification) for these producers is the ultimate goal. It costs them… the whole 40+ farmer cooperative would have to transition, for one. For each farmer, there’s a fungus that they have to deal with if they don’t fungicide-burn it. “It’s tough,” they say -es. “cuesta hacer orgánica aqui,” and farmer’s minds are tougher. However, the sales (direct) are off the charts 150% increase for them. Enough to bring their kids back into farming…
My project, a cost-benefit of the organic transition, will hopefully make things a little clearer on their part. It is an intriguing research challenge to best involve your stakeholders and maintain scientific impartiality in what is for me such an emotionally charged issue. I revel at the opportunity. More on this soon!
PS. I updated the link to the Carbon Emissions from Coffee farming research, here: SFS Final Research Results
More soon! (like, today or this week):
-live for the moment: el Ser TicoC
-Coop C-B project layout