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Showing posts tagged “Nicaragua”

Photographer Sean Hawkey has worked in international development, advocacy and humanitarian efforts in 40 countries, spending 10 years in Latin America alone. Now as a freelance photographer and communicator, Hawkey travels the globe documenting good works. Thanks to funding from Irish Aid, Hawkey, along with photographer James Rodriguez, traveled the whole of Central America making images and recording the stories of Fairtrade farmers. Hawkey has also made pictures of Fairtrade farmers and workers in Senegal and Peru. See more of Hawkey’s photos here.

You had an intense travel schedule throughout Central America, how did it go?

I drove over 50,000 kilometers going between Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador and about a third of the trip was in first gear because all of the roads were so rough. It was a long journey, but a fascinating one. I was able to take photos of most of the producer organizations and in many of them I’d visit several farms. We deliberately chose the harvest time for coffee, but also I covered cocoa, and honey. I’ve been stung by Africanized bees in the Peten jungle, made photos of sesame and peanut producers, cashews, cotton, and a variety of other products. 

What type of ground did you cover for the majority of that 50,000 km?

Coffee typically! For a good coffee - the best ground is high, so typically we’d be going up steep mountain roads that aren’t paved. They’re just dirt paths, no gravel or anything. They’re easily washed away. Need to be frequently repaired to get product out of the farm. Almost none of the producers are near the good paved roads.

Then for cocoa, going down into Wasalala in Nicaragua is the worst road I’ve ever been on. It’s like driving across ploughed fields and stone quarries. I had three punctures on the way down. When I got there, people said, “What? You only brought one spare tire?!”

As a photographer, what do you experience in the field?

There’s a necessary process of sitting down and talking to people. If they’re coffee producers, they always like you to taste their coffee, but it does take time to build up a bit of rapport with people. As a photographer what I want to do is make best use of the golden hour, which is when the sun is low in the morning and in the afternoon because that’s the nicest to shoot in. But it’s difficult to get the farmer to understand the necessities of a photographer <with all of the demands of daily work>.

But I also wanted to show, in a lot of the images, what normal life is. I think these are a connecting point, reference points, like showing a woman in her kitchen to spend some time if she’s cooking a meal - that’s what people can relate to. It’s those normal everyday things that give us reference points to identify with people in Fairtrade across the world.

How did you get into photography and storytelling?

I began visiting Latin America for aid and development work, so I have a background in rural development. The best development work is getting those long-term decisions right, the political decisions and structural things rather than giving out food to people. It’s these long-term things that are most significant.

Anywhere I go, when I ask what people are most proud of, it’s normally about long-term structural changes and there is a really important role for communications here. You need to convince people of the usefulness of any project you’re doing. It’s an absolutely key part of it.

We need to show people evidence of how Fairtrade is changing people’s lives – and it really is changing tens of thousands of people’s lives. So that’s how I got into the process of taking photographs.

What do you see as the benefits of Fairtrade?

I think the whole Fairtrade process of becoming certified and the regular audits encourages people to think strategically about how they’re using the benefits of Fairtrade – The Premium and so on. Typically the cooperatives are small enough that they have a really good sense of what the needs on the ground are.

And that contrasts with the way a lot of development organizations work, which they send someone in from the outside to come in and look at what the needs are, which may contrast with what the real needs and priorities are.

But the strength of the Fairtrade model is that co-ops really understand because they’re part of it. They’re not detached in any way from the reality on the ground. They understand what the needs are and they can prioritize how that money is used effectively.

You have visited much of the world. What is the most impressive thing you observed on your trips for Fairtrade?

The value of women in their communities and their co-ops has changed enormously. And I’ve seen situations where, for example in Senegal, women wouldn’t even be allowed to sit with the men, and when Fairtrade came they said, women have to sit with the men and they have to have power of decision-making exactly the same as the men. It’s radically changed. 

This isn’t one of the big selling points of Fairtrade, but in those villages in Senegal its greatest strength is that it completely changed the power of women in the community, dramatic change. Fairtrade demands it, so they have to change the structure of the cooperative, the way it’s managed.

Imelda Rojo, the vice president of Danilo Gonzalez Cooperative in Nicaragua, depulps coffee. Her cooperative is part of the CECOCAFEN Cooperative, which is made up of 10 cooperatives and two cooperative unions with a total of 2,600 producers, more than 700 of whom are women. 
Many Fairtrade coffee farmers, including representatives of Imelda&#8217;s cooperative, will flock to Seattle soon for the world&#8217;s largest specialty coffee conference, the SCAA 26-28 April. Fairtrade International and our members, Fairtrade America, the CLAC Network, Fairtrade Canada, and Fairtrade Africa will attend as well.
Photo by Sean Hawkey

Imelda Rojo, the vice president of Danilo Gonzalez Cooperative in Nicaragua, depulps coffee. Her cooperative is part of the CECOCAFEN Cooperative, which is made up of 10 cooperatives and two cooperative unions with a total of 2,600 producers, more than 700 of whom are women.

Many Fairtrade coffee farmers, including representatives of Imelda’s cooperative, will flock to Seattle soon for the world’s largest specialty coffee conference, the SCAA 26-28 April. Fairtrade International and our members, Fairtrade America, the CLAC Network, Fairtrade Canada, and Fairtrade Africa will attend as well.

Photo by Sean Hawkey

Now, in a price free-falling system, like the one we are in, Fairtrade generates a base price, which really helps us, especially in a time like now. It gives us stability for our families.

Fatima Ismael is the General Manager at Soppexcca, a Fairtrade cooperative in Nicaragua. Coffee prices have fallen over 65% from their peak in 2011 to just US$1.06/pound. Read more about the other benefits of Fairtrade that help farmers weather the price roller coaster.


We met Luis Marin Garcia while at the SCAA Expo in April. Luis is manager of UCASUMAN in Nicaragua, one of the first recipients of a Fairtrade Access Fund loan. The Fairtrade Access Fund helps Fairtrade certified producers in Latin America get access to affordable credit to improve their businesses. Read more about the Fund here.

Translation: My name is Luis Marin Garcia. I am the manager of UCASUMAN and I am a producer and member of the cooperative.

We are happy be here representing our organization that belongs to us and we are happy to be working together managing our resources and running our organization efficiently.

Within this current management we have secured a $350,000 loan from Incofin to secure the contracts of one of our major importers, which is Volcafe, whose three contracts helped us guarantee the loan. And this is important because it satisfies a major need for each member of our cooperative. So each member is more satisfied, more at peace, and content to know that by being certified Fairtrade, it helps us obtain resources and it can facilitate access to international markets.

With Volcafe we have a good project for financing and we export 23% of our coffee with them, which makes them one of our most important clients. And they pay well for the coffee meaning a higher income in the wallets of our producers, which allows them [the producer] to fulfil their obligations.

El trabajo es para aprender, no para ganar.

"Work is to learn, not to win (profit)."

Ervin Calixto Miranda Gonzalez, manager of COOMPROCOM, R.L., a Fairtrade certified cooperative in Matagalpa, Nicaragua. Stated during a discussion regarding some of the other benefits of Fairtrade, such as democratic decision-making and community organizing.

Ervin Calixto Miranda Gonzalez is the manager of COOMPROCOM, R.L., a Fairtrade certified Cooperative in Nicaragua. We met Ervin at the SCAE coffee event in Vienna where he was busy meeting with potential buyers and looking for new markets for the cooperative’s coffee.

Below is a transcript of our brief interview:

My name is Ervin Miranda, I’m the manager of COOMPROCOM, a cooperative of coffee farmers in Matagalpa, Nicaragua with 221 members – 40 of whom are women – and we are in 16 communities. Fairtrade for us has been a model for development where we have been able to transform the economic and social situation in small communities that other models cannot replicate. This has been important because it is a sustainable model and has also helped us find excellent markets for our coffee.

How have you dealt with the volatility of coffee prices?

There’s something to back us up, to know we always have the minimum price – that is very important. And the volatility, which we understand, many times we find solidarity with our market (partners). When the price is very high, it can be a problem. They have been good with us working to find a middle ground, both of us contributing.

**

Throughout the past year, coffee prices have been on a wild ride soaring to nearly $3 per pound last year and falling to below $1.60 one year later. While much is made of low or high prices in coffee and its impact on producers, it’s the volatility and market uncertainty that farmers often find most challenging. Fairtrade encourages long-term relationships between coffee producers and their buyers to help both weather volatile markets.

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