Unity is a beautiful thing when it benefits those involved, especially in the cooperatives we talked about today. It’s clear that it is beneficial for farmers to join a cooperative like the Dota organization because it offers them more resources and supplies. It also provides a network of other farmers who can help you adapt and overcome adversity which may be a disease ridden crop or loss of workers. One important aspect of a cooperative is establishing a piece of the market share that can draw attention and those large scale contracts from America and other international companies. On their own, a smaller 2 acre coffee farm would most likely not produce enough to ship out to Japan, however when there are 90 of those 2 acre farms exporting together they can pull in those massive deals. Our guide also mentioned how the coffee farms located at the highest elevations often have trouble transporting their beans all the way to the cooperative drop off location. To combat this issue, Dota has checkpoints setup in the mountains in which farmers can drop off product and a larger truck will come pick it up. It’s just another aspect of collaboration that allows every coffee farmer in the area to be involved and be assisted.
Compared to a regular company cooperatives do take away some of the operational control from any business owner. Our guide at Dota explained that every member of the cooperative gets to vote on major decisions regardless of their farm size, the process can be extremely time consuming and drawn out however it keeps things fair for the organization. Aside from the voting, there is also the aspect of fixed pricing as part of a cooperative. When they make deals ahead of harvest for a certain price, as a member of the group you can no longer decide to leave and sell your coffee somewhere else for a higher price. You already made that commitment and therefore are locked in regardless of whether the value of coffee rises or drops.
The community of Santa María would certainly change if Dota was not a part of it. Mr. Teeter explained at the end of our tour that the community benefits from a number of programs setup by Dota such as an elderly center and educational donations. Dota also brings a lot of interest for the areas coffee from large scale companies and consumers, for example we say some Japanese companies only want to buy from a specific farmer at the highest elevation. If not for Dota, I doubt that buyer would have ever heard of that extremely specific and small coffee plantation. Dota also offers an opportunity for the local children to become baristas or work in an office rather than to become coffee farmers if they don’t desire that lifestyle. I think it’s clear that Dota makes the Santa María community a better place is so many ways.