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What difference does Fairtrade make? A coffee grower’s story

News from Nicaragua | Friday, 8 February 2019 |

Junieth Leiva picking coffee

Junieth Leiva picking coffee

Junieth Leiva will be speaking and participating in events in London and Bristol during Fairtrade Fortnight: 21 – 23 February in London and 23 February – 8 March in Bristol. Junieth is a Fairtrade coffee grower and a member of the agricultural co-operative union (UCA) SOPPEXCCA.

Junieth Leiva will be speaking and participating in events in London and Bristol during Fairtrade Fortnight: 21 – 23 February in London and 23 February – 8 March in Bristol. Junieth is a Fairtrade coffee grower and a member of the agricultural co-operative union (UCA) SOPPEXCCA.

SOPPEXCCA is made up of 650 coffee and cocoa small scale farmers organised into 15 co-operatives. Junieth and her family own 3.5 hectares of land where they grow coffee, cocoa and organic vegetables for their own consumption and to sell locally.

Through SOPPEXCCA and the co-operatives, all members have opportunities to sell their Fairtrade certified coffee at a higher price than the market price. In assemblies, members take decisions as to how the Fairtrade premium is to be used for the benefit of growers and their communities. These have included funding for environmental protection, gender training for young people, improving quality control, and a cervical cancer screening programme.

Junieth says: “Thanks to the support that Fairtrade has given to SOPPEXCCA, I have had the opportunity to take part in training on tasting of speciality coffee and gender. We are working on diversifying our crops through growing organic vegetables; our dream is to set up market stalls for organic produce. SOPPEXCCA has supported us by providing an irrigation system.

Being a member of SOPPEXCCA has opened up other opportunities for Junieth who now has a degree in business administration. This is in sharp contrast to the situation of her mother who was abandoned by her husband and had to work as a farm labourer to support her four children.

Other improvements brought about by government programmes have also made a significant different to the lives of the whole community: electricity and drinking water, decent roads, free education and health care, and support in improving their homes. When Junieth was a child (she is now 29) there was no electricity, schools, or health centres and many of the roads were dirt tracks.

The major challenges that the community faces is the instability and insecurity caused by last year’s attempted coup, and climate change.

Junieth is very critical of those who instigated and participated in last year’s protests which she sees as an urban movement that failed to consider the economic consequences of their actions, particularly for those already living in vulnerable circumstances: ‘I don't think they ever thought that by wanting to bring down the president or the government, they would be taking the bread out of the mouths of a lot of families, and the methods that they used damaged the economy - and that affects us all.’

As Junieth explains the impact of climate change on her community has been huge: “Coffee yields have decreased dramatically; rising temperatures cause a coffee rust fungus that has affected us badly. But we work continually to conserve natural resources and improve our environment. We do this by looking after the bushes and water sources, planting trees, and organising [local] campaigns for the correct use of water, management of rubbish and many other measures. In my home we have installed a bio-digester, again with support from SOPPEXCCA."

As temperatures rise it is becoming increasingly difficult to grow coffee on lower slopes. Junieth is one of the SOPPEXCCA farmers involved in a cacao conversion programme.

Junieth remains optimistic about the future: ‘The best things to have happened to me in my life are to have a wonderful, close family with aspirations to work together, to have completed my studies, and to continue working for a better future for my family and community.’

SOPPEXCCA coffee is sold in the UK by Bartlett Mitchell coffee company under the brand Perkee coffee. Further information http://www.perkeecoffee.com/soppexcca-coop/

SOPPEXCCA coffee is also sold as part of a blend marketed by Equal Exchange as ‘Coffee grown by women. ‘ This also includes coffee grown by women in Peru and Uganda.

https://www.healthysupplies.co.uk/equal-exchange-women-farmers-ground-coffee.html

Further information about Fairtrade Fortnight: http://www.fairtrade.org.uk/en/get-involved/current-campaigns/Fairtrade-Fortnight

Further information about Junieth’s visit: LONDON, Helen Yuill, Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign, campaigns@nicaraguasc.org.uk; tel 020 7561 4836 www.nicaraguasc.org.uk

BRISTOL: Alix Hughes, Bristol Link with Nicaragua (BLINC), alix.hughes@bristol.gov.uk