FEDECARES brings hope and change to DR
Tierramerica, a specialized information service produced by international news agency, IPS recently reported on the coffee market of the Dominican Republic. IPS correspondent Valeria Vilardo describes the country's severe poverty -- found principally in coffee-producing regions -- and introduces FEDECARES as offering small-scale producers a hopeful alternative. Read an excerpt below to see the impact our hard-working producer partner is making in the D.R.
By Valeria Vilardo
"The coffee plantations are found in the mountainous areas of this Caribbean country -- where poverty is also the most severe.
According to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), 74 percent of the mountain population is poor. The per capita income among small coffee growers is just 80 cents on the dollar per day, which puts them below the poverty line.
In recent years, the status of the international markets and pest problems have forced many Dominican growers to emigrate or replace their coffee plants with shorter cycle crops.
According to the governmental Dominican Coffee Council, around 25,000 families have left coffee production in the past 20 years and have migrated in search of better living conditions.
Faced with these challenges, the Federation of Coffee Growers of the Southern Region (Fedecares) is working to represent the small and medium producers in 10 provinces.
Made up of 7,500 coffee growers in 215 associations, Fedecares grows 10 to 12 percent of the country's total output.
The small growers of the south and of the north together produce 30 percent of the nation's coffee.
Fedecares is in charge of collecting green coffee (selected and shelled before toasting) to be sold largely to markets in Canada, France, Spain, and the United States.
"All of the production of our coffee is part of Fair Trade initiatives. Ninety percent of our output is organic and environmentally friendly," because it does not use synthetic chemical products for fertilizer or pesticides, Fedecares leader Refino Herrera tells Tierramérica.
The members of the federation produced between 20,000 and 25,000 quintales of coffee in 2008. The minimum wage in the sector -- for men and women alike -- is still low: equivalent to 185 dollars a month.
Improving their living conditions involves educational efforts. To promote university attendance of the children of the coffee-growing families, especially among the lowest incomes, Fedecares created a scholarship program financed by Dominican and Cuban universities.
In 2007, 10 scholarships were awarded for study in either of the two countries. Twenty-five percent of the scholarship recipients work in the coffee sector and in rural development."