Each cup of Honduras coffee comes with a complex story and challenged history.
Founded in 1995 and certified Fairtrade since 1998, Cooperativa Agrícola Cafetalera San Antonio (COAGRICSAL) is the largest 1st-grade Fairtrade organisation in Honduras. With a vision to improve the quality of life of farmers and reduce environmental impact, sustainable practices are at the forefront of their farming and harvesting methods. Whilst COAGRICSAL mainly grows coffee, farmers have recently diversified to grow cocoa. Operating from their own offices, they manage eight certification labels and have relationships with specialty traders globally. Demand for their specialty coffee is steadily increasing each year.
In 2007 a small group of female entrepreneurs created AMPROCAL based in the San Marcos region of Western Honduras. In ten years, it grew fourfold to 36 women, all dedicated to coffee production. The cooperative roasting for the domestic market and microcredit services, alongside its coffee farming practices. The association has an ongoing goal to support families and promote the social-economic development of locals. Being Fairtrade and certified organic, AMPROCAL has a corporate social responsibility to protect the environment, provide community support and offer employee programs.
History of Coffee in Honduras
Traders first introduced coffee to Honduras in the 18th century. Throughout the 1800s, small-scale farmers started to experiment with growing coffee. During the 20th century, large-scale coffee cultivation began and as the country faced adversity, it became a vital source of income for the people of Honduras.
Following the political coup in the late 2000s which devastated the country's economy, coffee farming generated employment and provided a source of income for the people. In the late 1900s, a hurricane devastated the country, decimating 80% of the country's crops. In 1999 coffee prices collapsed and many producers were forced to diversify their crop or abandon it altogether. Despite facing major setbacks, the Honduran coffee industry is thriving as its specialty coffee industry has dramatically increased in output.
Having a technical support project has helped COAGRICSAL to increase production per hectare and meet growing demands, whilst maintaining superior quality and upholding sustainability practices. Over many years, COAGRICSAL has invested in washing and drying facilities. Their ecological wet-processing plant can process 400 bags of coffee fruit in one hour and they ensure water is recycled to reduce their environmental impact. After the drying process is complete, coffee is transported to the Beneficio de Exportación de Occidente (BEO) in preparation for export.
COAGRICSAL benefits families in western Honduras through a range of programs and initiatives.
By increasing their income, the COAGRICSAL focuses on improving the quality of life of producers and their families. Small loans, made possible through Fairtrade Premium funds, are offered to producers for farm maintenance at extremely low-interest rates. In 2011 this supported around 475 producers.
With the aim to encourage young people to continue their education, funds are invested in providing educational opportunities to the children of COAGRICSAL members. High achieving students who are economically disadvantaged are eligible for one of 50 scholarships provided by the cooperative.
Quality and productivity
COAGRICSAL are working to improve quality and productivity by providing producers with low-cost organic fertilisers and other inputs. Additional training is provided for workers to manage the plant nursery, workers' rights, food security, sanitation and health. AMPROCAL provides agronomic assistance to farmers to assist farmers to improve their productivity and sustainability whilst ensuring their credits are paid. Farmers are taught production techniques including how to prepare and apply foliar and organic fertilisers to ensure the production of coffee that is environmentally sustainable.
Initiatives run by COAGRICSAL with local institutions benefit more than 1,500 families by protecting water sources from pollution and reforest the area.
COAGRICSAL uses Fairtrade premium funds to implement projects specifically for female members and wives of members. The project developed a business centre for women to create and sell crafts among other products to earn additional income.
COAGRICSAL continue to support community health by allocating funds to improve health services, first aid kits, basic medical equipment and medication.