Today’s blog comes from Nicaraguan Fairtrade coffee farmer Gloria Gonzalez on the importance of Fairtrade to communities like hers.
Through the partnership between the Bristol Link with Nicaragua, which manages our official twinning with Puerto Morazan in the North West of Nicaragua, and SOPPEXCCA the union of Fairtrade Co-operatives based in the country’s highlands, we are able to host Gloria for two weeks of schools presentations, public talks and business meetings. Working closely with Bath Spa University Alumnae Fund and the Bristol and South Glos Fairtrade Networks, Gloria will speak about the benefits of Fairtrade to over 2,000 local children and adults by the end of her visit.
Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the hemisphere after Haiti and our economy is based strongly on our coffee production as well as our beef and gold exports. Coffee prices fluctuate dramatically and currently they are at an all-time low. This impacts directly on co-operatives like mine and we are forced to diversify into cocoa, citrus and vegetable production. Being part of a Fairtrade certified co-operative means not only do we benefit from a stable price but also from the Fairtrade premium which means we as a co-op can decide together how we spend this.
I started working in coffee production when I was a 12 year old child because during those times of the US funded Contra war, there were no opportunities to study. Also, we were seven brothers and sisters and my father’s salary was not sufficient for him to support the family. Now my co-operative can use the Fairtrade Premium to build a new school for our community, offer every child a school pack or fund our children to go on to further education which was unthinkable before.
Now like many of the co-operatives in our region, we are having to use the Fairtrade Premium to mitigate the devastating effects of Climate Change. Any rise in temperature means we lose our coffee bushes at lower levels on the hillside. The fungus La Roya has killed off thousands of our coffee bushes and although we burn and replant it takes at least three years of growth before we can harvest the coffee beans. The rainfall patterns have changed markedly and although we still have the same total rainfall, it now arrives in huge downpours and washes away the nutrients in the topsoil. This means we have to keep spending on organic fertilizers and also introduce more plants to shore up the hillsides.
In Nicaragua, unlike other neighbouring countries, women are allowed to own land and my co-operative has helped me through the paperwork to obtain my titles. I am now responsible for Women’s Empowerment within my co-op and this issue is also a big part of the Fairtrade criteria which people don’t always know about. Gender equality is a priority in my country where now over 50% of our MPs are women and we are fifth in the world after the Scandinavian countries in terms of the World Gender Gap.
Of course I am a keen supporter of Fairtrade and I would encourage everyone reading this to continue to buy Fairtrade goods where you see the FT Logo because this logo is the only guarantee that people like me are getting a fair price and that we are looking after the planet at the same time.
Gloria Gonzalez, Member of the “Julio Hernández” co-operative, one of the UCA Soppexcca 16 grassroots co-operatives, responsible for Gender Equality and Health and Safety
Translated informally from the Spanish by BLINC Executive Committee member Nick Regan
Come and meet Gloria at this free public event, with Q&A
- Date: Tuesday 25 February, 6:00-7:15pm,
- Venue: Better Food Café, Wapping Wharf, Bristol BS1 6WE
- Entry: Free – just turn up!