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PRODECOOP, coffee, Nicaragua (Producer)

According to Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), globally, women make up 43% of the agricultural labour force, yet they face significant discrimination when it comes to land ownership, equal pay, participation in decision-making entities and access to credit and financial services.

PRODECOOP (Promotora de Desarrollo Cooperativo de Las Segovias) coffee co-operative in Nicaragua is committed to raising awareness of women’s rights - not
just within the organisation itself but also throughout coffee-growing communities. Land ownership is an important factor in this work.

PRODECOOP was created in 1997 under the leadership of Merling Preza, now General Manager. Merling also sits on Fairtrade International’s General Assembly and Board and she is also Vice President of the Latin American and Caribbean Network of Fair Trade Small Producers and
Workers (CLAC).


Merling told us: “We work on the issue of the Land Fund - a fund that uses the Fairtrade Premium - with the aim that women can have greater access to land. That is one of the challenges we face, even though we do have 854 women, the majority of these women have less than two hectares. 

“Women have the smallest area of production in general. We have extended the Land Fund programme also for renovation of coffee plantations and for economic ventures for women to diversify their income.

“Women are trained directly in both the value chain of coffee and also on issues in leadership, finance, management of credit,
the whole issue of legalisation of land, access to resources etc., also with the aim that by developing their skills they can
access leadership roles.”

In 2006, Shared Interest provided finance to help the co-operative meet demand for their coffee and pay farmers at harvest time.
Merling said: “Without Shared Interest finance, a large proportion of our coffee producers would have been denied a good income - they would have sold their coffee on the local market at very low prices.”

Alongside gender and generational equality, PRODECOOP’s core values are centred on climate change adaptation, food security and a democratic leadership structure. Their vision includes the statement ‘work based in the family and for the family.’

Merling added: “You can’t talk about sustainability without the participation of the family and in particular without recognising the participation of women, respect for women’s rights, and also empowerment in all its aspects because of the large gap that exists.

“At the level of the crop and processing it, we’ve advanced a lot. In processing, I think we were one of the pioneers in including women in the coffee-drying process; no one used to include women.”

PRODECOOP also works in partnership with Grounds for Health, a not-for-profit organisation that exists to prevent cervical
cancer in coffee communities. Together, they aim to improve cervical cancer screening and provide therapy services at health centres. Merling told us: “It has expanded to cover a range of healthcare services, in collaboration now with the Ministry of Health, for healthcare in the communities.” 

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