Today I had the opportunity to visit Coopedota, or Dota, which is a different type of coffee company. Dota functions as a cooperative, meaning that it is made up of several small, individual coffee plantations-900 in Dota’s case. Having a cooperative system means a whole new system for growing, buying, and selling the product that offers several advantages, but it also has its downsides.
The main complication that comes with being a cooperative is logistical. How do you get the harvested beans from the 900 individual farmers to a location where they can all be roasted and packaged together? How do you communicate goals and expectations with over 4000 employees including coffee pickers? Dota has set up an effective system that has effectively solved these problems, contributing to their success in the international coffee market. For transporting the beans, Dota has one major facility that all the beans will end up in where they are roasted, but they have set up several intermediate collection facilities for farmers that are not in proximity to the main collection facility. For managing a large number of employees, Dota has set up a hierarchy where they communicate with the farmers, and then the farmers communicate with their workers to cut down on the number of lines of communication. Additionally, there is a board of directors for departments like finances, production and commercialization that make decisions on behalf of others. These positions are elected so that the farmers have a say in the decisions that are made. Lastly, there is a large assembly once a year that all the farmers are invited to so that they can voice their opinions before the harvest season.
Since they have created solutions for several common problems, the coopdedota offers several advantages over a traditional coffee company. First, there is a large variety of coffee for Dota to use because they do not source from just one plantation. Also, each individual producer still owns their plantation, meaning they can leave the coop at any time. They still have control over their practices as long as they meet the expectations laid out by Dota. Furthermore, there is a rewarding incentives system that encourages farmers to produce the highest quality of bean as well as be environmentally friendly. Dota has AA and AAA grades that they give to farmers for providing 100% Arabian coffee and 100% matured coffee respectively. These kinds of coffee require more investment from the farmer, so they see more of the profit by being paid more per fanega, a unit of coffee measurement. Creating a rewarding environment allows Dota to provide a better product to consumers.
The structure of Dota’s cooperative has also allowed local communities to remain intact. Instead of requiring workers to come to a central location where a major plantation is located to work, they can work at a local plantation that provides beans to Dota. This also means that farmers can hire workers from their local communities instead of near Dota’s plant. As I mentioned yesterday, I am all about supporting the small farmers in their attempt to make a living on their own.