Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Las Hermanas

Founded in 2001, Las Hermanas is a 200-member coffee farmer cooperative based in Nicaragua.
For those who work hard for little money, achieving professional and financial independence often seems like an impossible dream. For Las Hermanas Coffee Cooperative, a group of women farmers in Nicaragua, this gradually became a reality from the late 90s to 2001, when the cooperative was officially established. Today, Las Hermanas, Spanish for “the sisters,” is not only close to being debt free, and one source of beans for Peet’s Coffee, but is also extending its success to its community and future generations.


Coffee Has Been An Important Part Of Nicaragua's History

Coffee began its history in Nicaragua in 1796, when it was introduced as a decorative plant, Luis Villanueva said in his 2006 paper “The Nicaraguan Coffee Cluster: History, Challenges and Recommendations For Improving Competitiveness.” Farmers enjoyed modest success until the 1930s, when Nicaragua’s government assumed control of coffee farms. First the Somoza regime and then the Sandinistas attempted to produce and market inferior-quality beans, driving the cost of the beans down. In 1990, a new government led by Violeta Chamorro returned coffee properties to their original owners.

In this environment, which has remained consistent with Chamorro’s successors, Las Hermanas was founded when Fatima Ismael, an agronomist, was asked to “manage a struggling cooperative,” according to her page at Peet’s website. She noticed that the women farmers’ coffee was consistently rated superior when cupped (tasted) and decided to “separate out” this coffee and label it “Las Hermanas” in 2001.


Accomplishments Of Las Hermanas Members And Management

On Peet’s website are the stories of several members of Las Hermanas. Flora, one farmer, has received awards for her beans, and has formed a nature preserve. Another member, Maria, after a series of setbacks, and with help from her husband and a bank loan, was able to purchase coffee plants which she now harvests, processes and mills, as do the other members of Las Hermanas with their own plots of land.
Fatima Israel, the leader of Las Hermanas and manager of its umbrella company Soppexcca, has watched with pride and speaks highly of the cooperative’s members as they become successful. The cooperative has almost 200 members, all women farmers.


Las Hermanas Gives Back To Its Community

The cooperative is not just for business. Grounds For Health, a medical nonprofit organization, partners with Las Hermanas and provides early cancer screening for its members; while Coffee Kids, which “improves the lives of children in coffee-growing communities,” also partners with Las Hermanas and its members in order to fund and support education for the farmers’ children.
All of Las Hermanas’ developments, both financial and nonprofit, support the opinion of cooperative member Flora who said, “the negativity of Nicaragua’s past is gone.”

 Besides Peet's Coffee and Tea, you can find "Las Hermanas" coffee in Cafe Moto  San Diego and Almibar, desserts in Tijuana. Support and drink this coffee!

image & text via: christina guerrero suite 101

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