Interviews with Manuel & Inocencio:

Manuel Gomez Aguilar, who has a 2.5 hectare coffee farm at an altitude of 1300 meters, was a founder of FUNDECASSA in 2003 with the company San Jose. Manuel and the 12 associates of San Jose started planning and investing in the foundation FUNDECASSA as far back as 2001. Inocencio Benitez, who has a 2 hectare coffee farm at an altitude of 1500 meters, was also a founder of FUNDECASSA in 2003 with the company Nuevo Esfuerza. Inocencio and the 8 associates of Nuevo Esfuerzo also started planning and investing in the foundation of FUNDECASSA as far back as 2001. The development organizations assisting our operations were International Coffee Partners (ICP) and the Gesellschaft Für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ). Their investments provided us with an opportunity to improve the abilities and income generation of the small united coffee producers through a development organization of their own making. Now the different companies are organized under FUNDECASSA with meetings, investment goals, and ideas to better the well being of all being an integral part of the organizations culture. For example San Jose has a board meeting every month, while Nuevo Esfuerza has 6 board meetings annually with fines if one does not attend.

Prior to being a part of FUNDECASSA:

Manuel and Inocencio told us that, prior to joining FUNDECASSA, they and their sons sold their coffee from their house, while drying it on plastic tarps on their grass in front of their house. They washed and peeled the fresh coffee in their homely “pillas” or washing cisterns. From there the coffee was sold to middle men, who decided on a “fair” price, as Manuel and Inocencio were unable to demand the market price due to a lack of knowledge & logistics. FUNDECASSA has provided more than a better price and access to a better market. For example FUNDECASSA has established an improved production process that quickly increased the quantity and quality of the coffee of Inocencio and Manuel.

The benefits of FUNDECASSA!

Both Manuel and Inocencio mentioned the improved earnings and premium for their coffee, as the most important benefit. The associates improved their lives markedly due to their selling as a group with FUNDECASSA and not merely to the middle man. Inocencio highlighted his problems acquiring loans to invest in his farm and equipment due to legal restrictions imposed on small scale farmers. This limitation was lifted with FUNDECASS’S micro credit organization and credit line for its associates. Manuel was very proud of his cement floor, which was financed by FUNDECASSA, so that his family would not have to live with dirt floors & the dangers those bring. Besides the financial benefits, Inocencio was happy to be able to send 4 of his 6 kids to school, instead of working the fields, with two more entering school soon. Manuel also was proud to b able to provide an education to his children.  They both were thrilled to spend more time diversifying their farms to include other staples like beans, corn, sugar cane, yucca, plantains, bananas, and trees, along with spending more time with their familes. Manuel had an impressive additional tree nursery from our reforestation program, along with the usual staples. Both are thankful to have received the chance to improve their farms and their lives through an organization furthering their interests and those of their community.

The training and the organization:

FUNDECASSA organized many training sessions during the first years so that the associates could run their individual companies with knowledge on accounting, administration and organization of a company, management of the farm, and the organization of FUNDECASSA itself. Manuel and Inocencio were proud to receive these capabilities and improve the return on their time through augmented effeciency of operations. There is a long list of benefits for associates, which includes investment and maintenance of machinery, the certification of their coffee, selling of the coffee directly to a buyer at a good price, the infrastructure for cleaning, peeling, and drying the coffee beans. The associates like Inocencio and Manuel invested their capital together to obtain these benefits. Thus, they both agreed that new associates should pay for new investments to improve the process, as well as a one time membership fee. During the next meetings the companies of FUNDECASSA will vote to admit new associates with an undecided membership cost or no cost.

The supporting Institutions, THANKS!

 UTZ and Rainforest Alliance have changed the farms of Manuel and Inocencio much. For example, their farms have trash bins for biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste, are clean, have signs with slogans to protect the environment and the fauna. They also reforest the trees cut down, use machetes to clear the underbrush instead of herbicides, pride themselves on their abundant wildlife, and take pride in the pristine nature of their new coffee farms. Each quintal of coffee sold has an additional cost being paid directly to the producers of 10 limperas (Inocencio) and 20L (manuel), which assists in the capitalization of their companies (19L=$1). Also IHCAFE assisted FUNDECASSA by introducing Manuel and Inocencio to the cupping of excellence competition, which provided them with the essential knowledge of the bouquet and aroma of their coffee, a caramelized orange chocolate flavor.  

 Plans for the future...!

Their objectives are to obtain better prices by selling certified quality coffee as a group, so that all can further improve their standard of living, as well as the standard of quality of cofee from San Juan. They both desire to sell their products more directly to foreign buyers and roasters. Also they desire to maintain and improve on their methods of perfecting and manipulating the flavors and aromas of their coffee. Therefore, FUNDECASSA is actively looking for direct buyers, who want to buy quality certified coffee with tangy caramel chocolaty flavor, have a love for quality coffee, and a desire to be a loyal customer of Manuel and Inocencio, amongst other micro coffee farmers of the Puca Opalaca mountains.