Today we toured Coopedota, which is a cooperative made up of small coffee farmers. The cooperative is made up of 900 families; all are considered owners. Annually, an assembly is held with all owners to make big decisions. At this assembly, a small council of 15 people is created from the votes of the 900 families. This council’s purpose is to make smaller decisions and thus shift the responsibility of every day decisions away from the large group. The council is also in charge of hiring a general manager and administrative duties. A cooperative is advantageous because one small farmer alone is a lot less powerful than a collective group of farmers. However, the large size of people who must cooperate can also be a disadvantage. This is where the representatives come in, helping to downsize the amount of opinions needed to make a decision. While this is useful for efficiency, removing people from the decision-making process can be frustrating.
The community of Santa Maria de Dota would be very different without a cooperative. The coffee milling process focuses on technology, research and development, and traceability, which are all helpful to the community. The cooperative is also very environmentally friendly, being a part of the Rain Forest Alliance and being carbon neutral certified. Coopedota also encourages higher quality coffee by having three distinguished labels for different categories of coffee. From worst to best the labels are Dota-Conventional, Dota-AA, and Dota-AAA. Cooperative members are paid more for the higher status coffee they supply. This leads to the best and most green coffee production.
Café Privilegios is an important part of the Santa Maria de Dota community. Its goal is to teach high school students about coffee and brewing. This education opens up possibilities for young people who may have not had many options. The training to become a barista and the opportunities that come along with the knowledge are why Café Privilegios is so important to the community.