Article: Meeting Reflections from Maty de Barrios

Written by Cafe Campesino on Nov 1, 2007 in Article, NEWSLETTER |

Maty de Barrios is Café Campesino’s production supervisor. Last month, Maty traveled down to Nicaragua to represent Café Campesino at our Cooperative Coffees’ annual meeting. She spent the first part of the week attending producer workshops and visiting producer farms to see how their coffee is grown and produced. The following are Maty’s reflections on the time she spent with our producer partners in Nicaragua.

Maty and her new friends outside the hotel in Nicaragua. Standing L to R: Linda Ryan of Los Armadillos, Wilman Ernesto of Fondo Paez, Maty, Esperanza Dionisio Castillo of CAC Pangoa, Miguel Angel Martinez. Kneeling: Marcial Lazo Mucha

I know that my life is comfortable and good. I know that I have few worries and much to be thankful for. But the trip to Nicaragua made me learn to appreciate even more the comforts and luxuries in my life. When I come in to work, I know that I have all the resources I need to do my job, and I have pleasant working conditions as well. When the producers go out in the field to harvest this coffee, they don’t get to enjoy air conditioning. Some of them don’t even have all the equipment necessary to harvest and process the coffee, making their jobs much more time-consuming and difficult. They work hard for long hours in the heat, and even with the Fair Trade prices they receive, most producers don’t have any extra money to buy anything beyond covering their basic needs. But Fair Trade has benefited them tremendously, and I want to know that I had a part in that. I want to make the coffee the best I can — I want to sell as much as we can so that the farmers benefit more. I think it is the least I can do considering how much time and effort they put into the production.

I admire these producers for having the strength to work for eight hours a day, harvesting and cleaning coffee in the heat. They wait for organic certification, even though the process is long and expensive; they harvest and process the coffee largely by hand because the quality is so much better; they exchange ideas with one another about how to improve the coffee. The environment we have created by building these Fair Trade relationships is challenging, but each of us understands that is a collective challenge, and that the way to get through it is by tackling the issues together. Aside from the obvious benefits of this way of doing business, like the safer environment for children on the farms because of the lack of pesticides and other chemicals, the higher premiums they receive for their product, and the higher quality of the coffee they sell, other benefits are created – this relationship with other producers that provides a sounding-board for ideas, a place to turn for support, and a knowledge that they are making a difference in the world. I am impressed at their courage and resolution to do the job as well as they do.

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