Sometimes when something happens that seems to be a terrible thing, it actually turns out to be a blessing in disguise. That is the case with our Coffee Farmer Cooperative.
When we began this project, Father Ignatius was the advisor to the cooperative and was the one who was responsible for mobilizing the farmers, but sometimes in this work of ours things do NOT go smoothly. That is the reality of this kind of work. Because of a series of events, he was shifted to another parish and the farmers were left without a proper handover and with unpaid debts, among other hurdles. The coffee processing plant was closed for lack of electricity and the harvest season is now about to be at its peak.
However, cooperative manager, Emma, along with the cooperative board approached us to say that they are still strong. In fact, they are stronger now than ever and they requested another grant from Pilot Light. After meeting with the board last night and today, we could easily understand that this is a very serious, hardworking group and we actually believe that they can be successful without the guidance of Father Ignatius, perhaps even more so. We agreed to support them in what we are calling an emergency fund to get the electricity back on and the factory working immediately, so this season is not a loss. We also agreed to help them pay off debts for unpaid rent that was no fault of their own. We will evaluate their progress in a few months to determine what will come next.
Today, we met with the board and the many of the farmers in a general assembly meeting. The meeting took place on the grass in the shade of a huge tree. It was sunny, warm and breezy and couldn’t have been more serene and beautiful. We had the chance to discuss the way forward and the members took the opportunity to ask us questions face to face. I truly believe that this incredible group of people will do whatever it takes to get past these hurdles and back on track.
After all business was discussed, there was group of young people from the farmer group that performed for us a song and dance about growing and processing coffee and sending the kids to school (it was translated a bit for me, so I am not sure what else they said…). I can sincerely say that these performers could be on any stage in the world. They were excellent!
Back at the hotel, we were visited by a brand new Pilot Light partner, which is a maize cooperative. We were unable to visit them this trip, due to logistics and the last minute partnership, but I can say that we are extremely excited to work with this group. They are already very well organized as a cooperative and together, as a cooperative built a basic processing plant. We are helping them to have a factory that will produce the highest quality maize flour. I am very sad not to be able to visit them this time around.
It was a really wonderful day.