Story

Member Spotlight: Frontier Co-op and a Story of Long-Standing Partnership

HISTORY OF FEDECOVERA

FEDECOVERA was founded in 1976 as a “second level” cooperative made up of 42 member co-ops and 120 organized small-scale growers’ groups. They represent nearly 100,000 indigenous Mayan Q’eqchi’ and Poqomchi’ growers, their families, and the community at large — all of whom benefit from the cooperative’s wide-reaching impact. FEDECOVERA’s goal is to build and support economic opportunities for its members by increasing access to life-changing health, educational, financial, legal, and agricultural services. These services, all 17 of them, are provided free of charge to all cooperative members.

Today, they focus on six key commodities: allspice, cardamom, cocoa, coffee, timber, and turmeric. In addition, they emphasize the importance of globally recognized certifications, such as Fairtrade and Organic, that help them be competitive in international markets. At the end of the day, increased competitiveness leads directly back to improved benefits for their co-op members. Throughout its history, FEDECOVERA has made strategic business decisions that help them to continue to grow and evolve their products, and to continue to provide best-in-class service to their members and to their customers. 

ENGAGING YOUTH

One of the most impressive elements of how FEDECOVERA operates is its commitment to engaging youth both as active members within the cooperative structure, but also as employees within the business. A few years ago, Frontier Co-op approached FEDECOVERA with an idea. Could they work with some of their growers to pilot turmeric, a newer product in Guatemala at the time, and one that Frontier was struggling to source from typical suppliers in India? After discussions with their agronomic team, FEDECOVERA moved forward with setting up some test plots with Coopsejove R.L., a cooperative that exclusively engages young men and women.

At inception, Coopsejove counted 27 young people as its members – today, they have grown to more than 271 members, almost half of whom are young women. In addition to turmeric, they also grow cardamom, serve as baristas and tour guides for Cooperativa Chicoj (one of FEDECOVERA’s coffee-producing cooperatives), and are in the early stages of rolling out a waste and recycling program in the community.

Coopsejove is an impressive example of what happens when youth are actively engaged in agriculture, are trusted to take on positions of leadership, and are true stewards of the land under their care. Because of their willingness to try something new, Frontier Co-op was able to successfully begin sourcing Guatemalan turmeric, grown exclusively by Coopsejove.

COMMITMENT TO INNOVATING

FEDECOVERA is committed to pushing the boundaries, all in service of their members. In the 1990s, during a particularly bleak time for the cooperative, they established an agroforestry program. The idea was that the newly planted trees would serve as a source of steady income 20 years down the road, when they were ready to be harvested. At the time, the cooperative members were unconvinced this was worth the upfront investment, the diversion of land, and the overall risk of such a long-term outlook. But now, these trees have served as a key resilience strategy in lean times, and are a steady source of diversified income for the members. Another example of this innovation is a new biofabrication facility that has been established with support from USAID CDP. This facility gives FEDECOVERA the ability to produce high quality plant protection inputs at low cost that help members to prevent and mitigate pests and diseases across crops, all while still meeting organic production requirements. Rebecca Skipp, Frontier Co-op’s Source Development Manager, and Ben Merritt, Quality Control Manager, recently visited FEDECOVERA and had the opportunity to spend time with members of two different cooperatives. Across the board, these homeopathic inputs – basically highly concentrated essential oils that are applied in coordination with liquid fertilizer – were praised for their benefits. Coopsejove shared a story about how the oils stopped the invasion of ‘blind chicken worms’ across their turmeric plantations – the worms feed on the turmeric rhizomes and cause coloration issues and wilting. This year, there was no evidence of the worms after application.

LONG-STANDING PARTNERSHIPS

Since 2007, Frontier Co-op has partnered with FEDECOVERA, a cooperative in Cobán, Guatemala, to source their organic turmeric, cardamom and allspice. More than a supplier, FEDECOVERA has been a vital partner as they work to expand economic opportunities and provide essential social services to indigenous farming communities in the surrounding area.

Through investments in both their business and their communities, they have helped FEDECOVERA’s cooperative members expand and add value to their production capabilities. They have also provided support for essential human services to more than 100,000 people in the region, proving that Doing Good, Works — both as a philosophy and a business model.