• Bristol Fair Trade

Introducing Gloria Gonzalez: Nicaraguan Fairtrade Coffee Producer

Updated: Feb 18, 2020

The countdown is on until Fairtrade Fortnight 2020, back on 24th February, and as always there are events popping up in Bristol and the South West. It’s a fantastic time of year for local businesses and schools to show their support of Fairtrade by hosting events that highlight the importance of choosing products that are free from exploitation. This year, through a continued partnership between Bristol Link with Nicaragua, Bristol Fair Trade Network, and South Gloucestershire Fairtrade, local schools, businesses and the public will be able to hear first-hand the impact of choosing Fairtrade. Visiting Bristol and South Glos, for the entire fortnight, here we meet Gloria, a Nicaraguan Fairtrade producer.

My name is Gloria María Talavera González. I am 44 years old and am married to my husband Natividad de Jesús Chavarría. I have two daughters, Anabel who is 23 years old, and Andrea who is 6; and one son, Manuel de Jesús who is 24 years old. I am a member of the Julio Hernández cooperative, one of the UCA Soppexcca grassroots cooperatives, where I am responsible for Gender and for the Security Group. My children Anabel and Manuel are also promoters of Soppexcca. I started working in production at 12 years old, when I was still a child; because of war in that time there was no opportunity for me to study. I also come from a big family with seven other siblings, which was another reason for me to work, since my father’s salary was not sufficient for him to support our family.

I married my husband at the age of 19 and moved to the community of Corinto Finca to live in a house that was lent to us. In 1998, my husband was able to buy 2 hectares of land in payment for work. This land was registered in my name, including the house where we live. With the land in my name, I made the decision to start working with in an organised group; this makes it easier for producers like us, as the groups help with finance. After working with independent agencies, I decided to join the Julio Hernández cooperative, where I have been a member for 7 years.

Our main crop here is coffee. Working together in a cooperative offers many great opportunities: we can sell our coffee at a fair price, we are constantly provided with training in different areas, and not only do I participate as a member myself, but I am also able to include my family. My son Manuel has had the opportunity to travel to Germany to pursue a year of social work coordinated by one of the projects that supports our organisation, and my daughter has been awarded a scholarship to study Social Sciences at University.

The land is owned and worked on by women, which opens many opportunities for us and our community. We are always considering ways to diversify our crops so as not to depend on a single product. For this reason, I have diversified into cocoa, citrus and other crops. This has the additional benefit of giving our coffee a more pleasant flavour, contributing to a higher quality crop.

I am currently working on the diversification of my own crops. We are planting vegetables in our gardens, for which the project finances irrigation systems and seeds. It’s only a small project, but it means we can open a market stall in the UCA Soppexcca headquarters where we can sell fresh, organic produce.

The fact that our cooperative works through certification has been a great help, since we as producers know what the price of our coffee is, and the benefits we obtain are not only for the members of the cooperatives, but also for the inhabitants of the whole community. The results are very clear: our community now has electric power, roads and drinking water which we didn’t have before. Many other communities still are without these essentials.

Our plantations have often suffered problems due to diseases affecting coffee. This has been made worse by climate change. Within the cooperative we also have responsibilities as members that mean we must implement and maintain a plan for the protection of the environment: planting river areas and keeping our productive areas clean, whilst always planting water-retaining plants in between the coffee plants. This helps to combat coffee rust, a disease that can wipe out our crops.

In our country we have also suffered the repercussions of socio-political problems. These problems have caused the projects that finance and support our cooperative to withdraw, and these are issue that we are facing currently.

The things that I value the most in life are to have a united family and—having received my land—to work and progress. This is made possible by the support Fairtrade and my cooperative give me by not only ensuring that I receive a fair price for my crops with which I can support me and my family, but also through the Fairtrade premium; this helps my business develop and further supports my local community.

Gloria will be attending and speaking about her experiences at events throughout Bristol and South Gloucestershire during Fairtrade Fortnight 2020, including a public talk and Q&A hosted by Bristol Fair Trade Network. Keep updated through our events page via our website.

Don’t forget that you can track and log your Fair Trade actions through Bristol Going for Gold and help contribute to Bristol’s bid to be recognised as a Gold Sustainable Food City!

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