As Director of Social Advocacy and Supply Chain Community Outreach in our CSR Department I frequently travel to source to check on our coffee growing communities and the programs that assist them. I find that being there firsthand gives me a much clearer insight on how we can best help our supply chain, and I have watched our supply chain and initiatives make huge development strides over the last 24 years.
The following notes are a part of an eye-opening part of my latest trip. It feels amazing to see what changes we can actually make in our world to improve normal people's lives.
Wednesday, July 18:
Bill, Jonathan, Paula, and I left our hotel in Guatemala City, Guatemala at 6 a.m. for an 5 hour drive to the village of Copan Ruinas in Honduras, where we met an employee of the nearby Santa Rosa de Copan dry mill, and traveled to the mill. After, we met Omar Rodriguez, General Manager of COCAFCAL (a coffee coop we work with) located in Capucas, Honduras. Omar then led us on our journey to Capucas in 4-wheel drive pickup trucks. I had previously spent 3 weeks as a volunteer in this small mountainous community in 2005 and 2006 to help this young co-op develop a marketing plan and make market linkages. GMCR is now purchasing coffee from COCAFCAL, and the community is one of those being served by a GMCR-sponsored Heifer International project in the region.
When we finally arrived in Capucas, I was amazed by the changes that have taken place since my last visit. In 2005 the co-op had 75 members; it now has over 800 members! In 2005, it sold 1 container of coffee; in 2011 it sold over 100 containers. In 2005 it had no certified coffee. Today, it has organic, Fair Trade, Bird Friendly, and Rainforest Alliance certifications.
During my first year as a volunteer I lived in a long cinder block building, just off the beneficio's drying patio that had 3 rooms: a room with 2 chest freezers (used to freeze chickens from a Plan International project), a storage room, and finally my 15' x 15' room with a cinder block bathroom and cold shower. My "home" was now engulfed in a large 2-story co-op office building that houses a cupping lab, an espresso cafe, QC rooms, offices, and more.
|My "Home", 2005||New Office Building, 2012|
In addition significant improvements have been made in the wet mill and dry mill that have improved the capacity of the co-op and the quality of the coffee processed.
After visiting the co-op buildings, we drove to the buildings where we would stay. We arrived at a small compound of 3 cottages (all brand new) that had two bedrooms, an open area with a flat screen TV, and a full kitchen. Most amazing was the presence of two swimming pools! This compound was built by Omar's family to support the co-op and with the hope of developing an eco-tourism business. Celaque, a pristine national park, is within hiking distance of the community.
While we were in Capucas, we had all of our meals with Omar's family. It was great spending time with them again. They were a wonderful host family during my prior visits, and it was great to see how their coop had improved with the help of some of our CSR programs!