Today in Costa Rica we had the chance to tour the Dota Coffee Cooperative and understand the basics of how the company operates. A cooperative is different from others company – it is made up of many small participants that pool resources, information, and expertise to increase their presence in the market.
The cooperative business model comes with various advantages and disadvantages. Primarily, working together allows for the exchange of knowledge, the sharing of resources, and an increase in market presence. This is very helpful for small businesses that do not have the capital or capacity to enter and survive in a competitive market. Unfortunately though, cooperatives have a few drawbacks including group decision making and contractual obligations. Companies that want more control over their product may find cooperatives too restrictive. In a cooperative, decisions about product placement and other factors are made as a group. Not only that, but contracts define the amount of product that a participant has to contribute to the cooperative. Therefore companies trying to be more independent may feel the effects of the constraints in a cooperative partnership.
In terms of the Santa María community, the Dota Cooperative has been very beneficial. Without the cooperative, the small farmers in the area would likely be competitors in the coffee market, and would all be less successful. It is even possible that larger coffee producers would have pushed them out of the market. However, the partnerships have made the coffee growers of the community more connected and powerful in terms of market presence. Additionally, working together has boosted job opportunities and wealth within the area, and allowed for an increased focus on sustainability and environmental conservation.
Overall, the Dota Cooperative has had a beneficial effect on the small town coffee producers of the area. Similarly, Café Privilegios has given the community a sense of strength and directly displays the benefits of the cooperative to locals and tourists. Finally, after getting to try the different preparations of coffee at Dota, I might say that I enjoy cold coffees the most!