Stronger than the Storm of Tourism

Santa Maria de Dota is a very small town located in the Tarrazú region.  According to Café Rey, the Tarrazú region produces the best quality coffee of the eight regions in Costa Rica due to the climate and altitude.  Throughout the region, there are many very small, family-owned coffee farms of about 3 hectors each.  Separately, their coffee farms would be too small and ineffective to use resources sustainably as independent companies.  In 1960, 96 families joined together to form Coopedota.  Today, the cooperative is 900 families strong.  The hierarchy of management is composed of an association of general admission that is represented by a member of every family in the cooperative.  The association of general admission appoints the board of directors that decide on the rules and norms for the cooperative.  The board appoints the general manager who then controls the day to day operations of the company.

The cooperative has many advantages and disadvantages.  An advantage includes training and sustainable practices.  Coopedota provides training to their farms where they send an engineer to the farms once a year to educate the farms about climate change and how to adjust, new products and what works and what doesn’t, and provide guidance in quality control.  Not only does it help the farms, it also makes their jobs easier.  The cooperative also is the face of all 900 farms, meaning the coop speaks to the health administration and government to maintain sustainable practices rather than the farms.  The coffee is transported to Coopedota headquarters where all of the processing, milling, and roasting is done in one place.  This leads to more sustainable practices, by doing all of this in one place rather than 900 separate places.  The cooperative is also carbon neutral, which may not be able to be achieved if they were not in partnership.  In the cooperative, all of the farms are treated equally.  For smaller farms, this would be seen as an advantage.  However, for larger companies, they see this as a disadvantage.  They ship more coffee to Coopedota but are treated the same and have as much say as farms that contribute a smaller amount of beans. Because of this, most larger farms choose not to be a member of the coop or join then leave.

Without a cooperative in the Santa Maria de Dota community, the farms would constantly be in competition with each other.  Most likely, the community, even with a large percentage exported, could not support 900 different brands of Tarrazú coffee, leading to a great deal of farms going out of business.  When Life Monteverde’s coop collapsed, most of the families that lost business turned to the tourism industry.  If Coopedota were to collapse then it is possible that Tarrazú may become a tourist town such as Monteverde. The transition period from coffee to tourism would probably be felt, but in the long run it would not necessarily hurt the local economy since tourism could attract as much tourists as coffee profits contribute, but the taste of Tarrazú coffee would be missed.

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