Working together in chiapas
Safety in Numbers
CI Connection Through a loan by CI's Verde Ventures program, the cooperative Comon Yaj Noptic was able to cover its annual production costs for three seasons. More than 5,000 famers benefit from these loans in Chaipas alone. Producers in the cooperative follow ethical sourcing guidelines created by Starbucks and CI.
September 30, 2011
Every morning before dawn in the mountaintop village of San Francisco, women congregate on a neighbor's veranda. There, they take turns using a mechanical corn grinder — one of only two in the village — to make flour for the day's tortillas.
Living at about 1,600 meters (5,250 feet) above sea level, many of the families who make their homes on the slopes of the Sierra Madre are separated from the world below by more than an hour's drive down a bumpy dirt road of hairpin turns.
Yet despite the isolation, these communities are getting improved access to the benefits of the modern world.
Comon Yaj Noptic is a cooperative that unites 141 coffee producers from 11 scattered communities near La Concordia, Chiapas. Begun in 1995, the co-op allows farmers to combine their coffee yields and obtain a higher price on the market. Members are verified under C.A.F.E. Practices, developed by CI and Starbucks, and hold fair trade and organic certifications.
This increase in revenue helped the co-op to support the construction of a basketball court, bread-making training for local women (who sell their wares at a monthly market) and one of Comon's proudest achievements — a computer school — which allowed Rosa Guzmán to be the first in her family to go to high school.
Life in Chiapas
With start-up funding from Starbucks and CI — and computers donated by the state government — the school is open to the children of co-op members and non-members alike. Through online courses in a range of subjects, students can complete their secondary school education in three years without having to leave the area. Students are paired with tutors from all over Mexico.
As Rosa states in our video, "If my father hadn't given me this opportunity, I'd be at home working … grinding coffee, washing clothes."
Typically more than 20 students are enrolled at the school. The program's first two graduates — both girls — have been offered full scholarships to Tecnológico de Monterrey, widely known as the best private university in Mexico.
Another benefit of the co-op is that it helps members in times of emergency, which are becoming more and more frequent as the climate changes. In October 2005, Hurricane Stan hit the region and, across Chiapas, many farmers like Amparo Reyes lost their homes — along with their yearly crop — in the storm. Their houses were rebuilt with support from Comon Yaj Noptic. Says Reyes in our video interview: "If we had not belonged to the cooperative, we would have probably been left without a place to stay, or worse."
From its beginnings as a small farmers' association, the co-op has expanded to benefit around 700 people in the area. Its impact speaks to the power of collective action to strengthen communities and change the way business is conducted from the ground up.