We wrapped up our coffee tours today by visiting Dota, a coffee cooperative which has many special attributes unique to the other coffee companies we have visited. A cooperative is different from the typical organization in the sense that a cooperative pools from multiple separate organizations and combines their product into one final product in order to increase the efficiency for every party involved. In the case of Dota, around 900 different coffee farms send their beans to Dota in order to create one final product which has a higher quality and better production methods than if the farms were to sort, prepare, and roast the coffee on their own. There are both positives and negatives to being a cooperative organization. One positive to being a cooperative is the ability to provide smaller and less fortunate companies with the chance to succeed. Without the help of Dota, the other 900 coffee farms would be at a major disadvantage due to a lack resources and a lack of a market to sell their product to. Dota allows for these hundreds of farms to have a chance at success and obtain a consistent flow of income. Another positive to operating as a cooperative is the decrease in competition throughout the area. Another aspect of business which many times leads to the downfall of small coffee farms is the sheer size and market share possessed by other large organizations. With the help of Dota, competition is severely shortened and allows for the farms to focus more on their coffee production rather than innovation methods to push them ahead of the competition.
While a cooperative may appear to be an appealing way of doing business, there are a few drawbacks. For starters, Dota is putting all their eggs in one basket, so to speak, meaning that all of their efforts are focused on the coffee industry. While this may not typically be an issue, there are over 900 farms and families who are highly dependent on Dota to return a profit and to continue their success. If Dota were to experience a coffee market failure, there would be thousands of lives impacted rather than just those immediately associated with Dota. Another drawback to operating as a cooperative is the issue of leadership and decision making. When there are hundreds of coffee farms represented by one organization, there can be difficulty in determining the ladder of leadership which may therefore impact some of the important decisions which need to be made. Typically, a smaller committee of leadership leads to a more efficient decision making process, so a cooperative such as Dota may struggle to be decisive in its choices.
Cooperatives are not only beneficial to those immediately involved, rather they are beneficial to the entire local community. When considering the community of Santa Maria de Dota in particular, the Dota organization provides many advantages such as a fluid local economy and employment throughout the area. Without the cooperative, the flow of money and resources would be much more stagnant and the job market would be more likely to suffer. Café Privilegios, or Dota, is particularly important for the local economy because of the 900 or so farms which are in a sense carried by the cooperative. If these farms were truly independent in their selling endeavors, the community would not have a consistent source of revenue and many families would be left without jobs.