Learning As They Go

As the president of La Voz Que Clama en el Desierto, I direct the cooperative’s business, meetings, work plans, and employees, advise the small coffee growers, and watch to see that everything ends to the benefit of the community. I have been involved with this group of farmers for 26 years, and we have been a fair trade cooperative for 14 years.

La Voz became involved in fair trade because we had problems relating to the world commodities price of coffee. We have an exclusive sale with Élan Organic in San Diego, California.

Because of the cooperative, I have been able to send my children to school. My children work in the fields with me and at the same time they study. My family is a team and we rely on each other and share the benefits among everyone in the family. I enjoy being a small coffee grower and dedicating myself entirely to organic coffee.

When the coop looks over the harvest in September, we make a prediction of how much coffee we are going to produce. Our members are satisfied even though there are always obstacles in the way. For example, in our contracts with Élan the price is fixed. When the coffee price rises we can’t demand an increase of the price, because we made the fixed contracts. We can’t get the prices we want. Even so, Karen Cebrero, our representative at Élan, made the effort this year to increase the price a little for two or three containers of coffee.

The coffee buyers always take us into account. We participate in the discussions, price planning, and delivery. The first person who has to know everything is me. After me, the manager and the board of directors are informed, and together we make the decisions.

After our experiences in the past year, we want to have liberty and not have the price for our coffee set. Still, we need the fair trade market, because we know that if the commodities price for coffee goes down again, our coffee will at least be fixed at the value of the fair market. We want the guarantee that we will sell our product, so there is nothing more we can do than talk with our buyer and ask to leave the contracts open because if the world market price goes up again, we have rights.

I want to thank the companies who buy our coffee and assure the buyers that if they drink a cup of coffee from La Voz, that it is organic.

This interview was translated from Spanish by Sofia Flynn.

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