Staff Trip to Oaxaca, Mexico, Opens Eyes

In early December, Coffee Kids staff visited Oaxaca, Mexico, to learn about some of the programs supported by Coffee Kids partner, CAMPO, and a dry mill run by our partner, FomCafe.

imageThe visit included a tour of CAMPO's new educational center. Buildings are still under construction, but CAMPO is already using the installations to provide training to coffee farmers from around the state of Oaxaca. Demonstration projects include worm composting and standard composting; organic gardening and greehouse projects; fish, sheep, rabbit and chicken production; and responsible building techniques (Check out our programs page for more information on CAMPO).

CAMPO's offices are being constructed using a compacted earth technique, which is similar to adobe with a mix of soil, sand, lime and water optimized for local conditions and compacted into a sturdy wall.

The day after our visit to the center, we traveled two hours down windy roads into the mountains outside of Oaxaca, and then two more hours down a dirt road clinging to the side of said mountains. After four hours of stomach-turning travel, we arrived in Santa Cruz Tepetotutla, a small town clinging to the mountain.

The town is in the middle of a globally important bio-reserve. Jaguars and tepesquintle (similar to a giant spotted rat) maraud the area and lush forests hem the town in. Most families work in coffee and have struggled for years. Thanks to CAMPO's help many have begun working in other areas to supplement their income and provide a better quality of life for their families and improve their community.

imageThe organic coffee plot of Don Raymundo Osorio was a striking example of biodiversity and responsible management. His tall coffee bushes were ready for harvest and vanilla vines crawled up their stems providing two cash crops on the same shady plot. Raymundo showed us the beginnings of a greenhouse which will provide vegetables year round, part of a project the community is doing with CAMPO's support.

We returned to the town center to visit with local leaders and learn more about Santa Cruz's history. The town's commitment to protecting their forests, water supply and biodiversity has earned them financial incentives from the government for the maintenance of their resources. Their environmental vision and resources also attract a steady stream of students and researchers to the area and they are constructing a research center for these visitors to create additional income for the community.

Community leaders also told us about their struggle to build a road to their community. Until about four years ago, people from Santa Cruz had to walk hours to reach the nearest road. All supplies were packed in. But with a strong effort and support from CAMPO, determined community leaders navigated endless bureaucratic processes to build a road and connect their town with the outside world.

The following day we followed a steep footpath straight down the mountain to arrive at the neighboring community of San Antonio del Barrio, still inaccessible by road. We arrived sweaty and tired in this tiny town in the valley, where we were welcomed by local officials and a marimba band. We met with a group of women who, with CAMPO's help, have started selling their elaborate, hand-embroidered huipiles (traditional blouses) in Oaxaca City. After the visit, we made the long journey back to Oaxaca City.

The next morning we visited with Coffee Kids partner FomCafe and toured a dry mill, recently purchased by four Oaxacan coffee cooperatives to consolidate and gain control over their production process. We learned about the detailed steps of dry mill processing, but more importantly how the four cooperatives pooled their resources to purchase the mill. image

Like so much of what we saw on this trip, it was a reminder of just how enterprising people can be when they are determined to create a better life, and just how much impoverished communities can accomplish with a little bit of help.

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