Part 1: FEDECOVERA
Rooted in the rich Mayan Q’eqchi’ and Poqomchi’ Heritage, a resilient cooperative has been leading locally led development projects for more than 40 years, showing the development community how they can be an ideal partner to implement projects in Guatemala. The Federation of Cooperatives of Las Verapaces, or FEDECOVERA. R.L., is a second-level cooperative established in 1976, by small-scale producers who organized first-level cooperatives to bolster the economy and enhance living standards in the Las Verapaces communities. FEDECOVERA’s mission is to continue its trajectory as a nationally acclaimed cooperative and remain committed to delivering services that promote members’ sustainable development, governance, and profitability.
FEDECOVERA’s strong leadership and commitment to long-term local development makes them an ideal partner for USAID and others who seek to work directly with organizations in Guatemala. Stories of their growth and success have been highlighted by OCDC member Frontier Co-op, a 40,000 member-owned global cooperative offering natural and organic herbs and spices, and an implementer of USAID’s Cooperative Development Program. FEDECOVERA and Frontier Co-op both prioritize locally led development and sustainable agricultural and business practices. They formed a partnership in 2007 to source organic and conventionally-grown spices and, to date, have jointly undertaken more than $226,000 in development projects at source.
FEDECOVERA’s approach respects nature, traditional and organic agricultural practices. Its members consist of 42 first-level co-ops, 120 groups of small producers, representing more than 33,000 farming families who cultivate organic cardamom, allspice, turmeric, coffee, cocoa and more. FEDECOVERA’s objectives are to help farmers improve quality and quantity of products, build their capacity, and establish long-term partnerships with local and international customers who share their interests and values.
Today, FEDECOVERA’s operations have a significant emphasis on environmental sustainability, and thrives on showcasing the cooperative model as a catalyst to boost the local economy, while preserving and celebrating the cultural, social, and environmental wealth of a region.
This achievement is attributed to FEDECOVERA’s strong and visionary leadership who acknowledged the importance of continued improvement and began seeking financial assistance and technical support in the 1980s. With funding from bilateral partners like USAID, FEDECOVERA improved operations, implemented training and leadership programs, strengthened their ability to support and empower communities, and expanded to the international market.
In 1989, FEDECOVERA received USAID funding to implement the Cooperative Strengthening Project. This resulted in fundamental institutional development which focused on the importance of managing cooperatives as enterprises and commercializing agricultural production and practices. This laid the strong foundation to provide management assistance to members, along with permanent technical assistance in agriculture, social, economic, and environmental practices. This initial program became the roadmap for FEDECOVERA’s successful journey.
After many years of working on the Climate, Nature, and Communities project in partnership with USAID and The Rainforest Alliance, FEDECOVERA continued to be a valuable partner and participated in the third phase of this project in 2020. Under this agreement, FEDECOVERA helped support more than 23,000 families recover from Hurricane Eta and Iota.
In 2023, FEDECOVERA applied for, and received a $1 million grant from USAID’s Bureau of Humanitarian Affairs to implement PROGRESANDO, a project to support communities vulnerable to recent climate and economic crises. This will allow FEDECOVERA to continue its role in empowering and supporting the communities with the cooperative model.