A Costa Rican Coffee Coop Learns Lessons in Sustainability
Located in the Tarrazu coffee region of Costa Rica, the cooperative Coopedota R.L. (Cooperativa de Caficultores de Dota Responsabilidad Limitada) celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2010. To mark the event, the coop earned a top score at the Rainforest Alliance’s Cupping for Quality coffee tasting competition.
The coop has always paid great attention to sustainability and its impact on the environment. In 2007, over 100 of its member farmers earned the Rainforest Alliance Certified seal.
Four years ago, the coop began a recycling program to encourage members to keep their farms clean and not litter the environment. After initially resisting, farmers now embrace the program both on their farms and at the mill.
The recycling program has since expanded from the coop to the community. Santa Maria de Dota’s 5,000 residents have learned how to best segregate waste and all participate in the program.
On the farms, workers and farmers are taking greater care of their plants, focusing on soil management, water conservation and increased shade. Miguel Badilla owns a 25-acre (10-hectare) farm 5200 feet (1600m) above sea level that is shaded by cedar, dama and poro trees.
¨Tree cover and the resulting shade is now the most important factor for my productivity and coffee quality. It brings several benefits for me – shade for the beans, increased productivity, less soil erosion and more wildlife,” explains Miguel Badilla.
Not only does the tree cover reduce soil erosion, but Badilla has also seen a reduction in diseases on his coffee plants. He says the increased shade has also vastly reduced plant defects.
Coop workers and their families have access to free healthcare and education in Costa Rica. Both the clinic and the school are located in the town’s central plaza.
Safety signs have been placed around the coffee mill and workers wear protecting clothing.
The coop owns a café in the town, where a variety of coffee-based drinks are sold to locals and to tourists passing through. With a solid marketing system in place, the farmers have increased their sales.