Principle 6 in action: NCBA CLUSA links El Salvador coffee co-ops to U.S. buyers in Co-op to Co-op exchange trip

Coop trade el salvador cupping-web 6a5abCoop trade el salvador cupping-web 6a5abErika Tran-Hernandez, left, of InterAmerican Coffie and Mollie Moisan of Pachamama Coffee Co-op participate in a coffee quality cupping event on their tour of El Salvadoran coffee cooperatives.Bringing five U.S. buyers, roasters, importers and cooperators down to El Salvador last month, NCBA CLUSA reintroduced the U.S. co-op market to rehabilitated coffee cooperative farms, opening the possibility for trade.

Part of the Co-op to Co-op Trade Program, the group visited five El Salvadoran coffee cooperatives, all supported by NCBA CLUSA’s Coffee Rehabilitation Program, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Operating through 2019, the rehabilitation program aims to improve coffee quality for 7,500 producers and 50 cooperatives and to increase market access and links to export markets, such as co-op buyers in the U.S.

Over the past three years, the El Salvador coffee market has been hit hard by “rust,” a fungus that grows on coffee plants, causing as much as 80-100 percent harvest losses in some areas. NCBA CLUSA’s Coffee Rehabilitation Program, which began more than a year ago, has worked to introduce rust-resistant coffee plant strains to rebuild the sector.

“The trip allowed the buyers to establish initial relationships with the producers, learn about the challenges that they have experienced over the past couple years, and what they are doing to mitigate the impacts of the rust fungus and improve the overall quality of their coffees,” said Marcus Laws, NCBA CLUSA program associate and trip organizer. Some of the buyers, such as Ético Importers and InterAmerican Coffee, had bought from El Salvador in the past and were looking to reestablish relationships with co-ops with quality social programs and the potential for organic product.

As part of the trip, the U.S. buyers also participated in a coffee cupping, a way to judge quality through rounds of tasting. Facilitated by the Salvadoran Association of Coffee Cuppers (ASCAFE), the event brought in eight producer co-ops from the Chalatenango region as well as representatives from other co-ops in the broader region such as FECCEG of Guatemala, which recently introduced their fully integrated brand Kishe to U.S. markets through support from NCAB CLUSA’s Co-op to Co-op Trade Program. All the coffee presented for cupping scored at or above quality standards for the co-ops, and the importers expressed interest in getting current harvest samples when they are available in February.

The Co-op to Co-op Trade Program, funded by USAID, has facilitated more than 375 tons and $2.6 million dollars of trade from Latin American cooperatives to the U.S. since 2013. As part of the program, NCBA CLUSA member Pachamama, owned by producer cooperatives and farmers from around the world, had over 8,000 shipments of its fully-integrated supply chain product to U.S. grocery cooperatives. Mollie Moisan, director of outreach for Pachamama, was among delegates on the trip to El Salvador.

“I was delighted to be able to join this delegation to El Salvador. NCBA CLUSA does a great job of representing co-ops internationally, and designing an agenda that is mutually beneficial to farmer co-ops as well as attendees,” Moisan said. During the trip, Moisan also met with second tier co-op APECAFE, which represents more than 650 farmers, to discuss potential membership with Pachamama.

“There was genuine interest on both sides. We’re looking forward to future developments,” she said. 

Creating links between buyers, second tier membership co-ops and producers helps to facilitate the market access El Salvador needs since rust decimated past years’ harvests. Working with NCBA CLUSA’s rehabilitation program, many of these co-ops will be ready to trade in the upcoming seasons. In addition to importers and roasters, Grain Train, a local co-op grocery, also attended the trip, looking for new partners from which to buy full organic lines. Currently, Grain Train sells up to 10,000 lbs of organic, fair trade coffee per year.

The U.S. co-ops also saw opportunities to exercise Principle 6: Cooperation Among Cooperatives. Bringing these groups together highlighted where the U.S. co-ops were already working in tandem, leading to a continuing relationships in El Salvador. Delegates on the trip discovered that micro-roaster Elbow Room Coffee already purchased through Ético, which sourced from Pachamama co-ops in other Latin American countries.

Facilitating exposure trips for U.S. importers and buyers is part of the strategy both for the Co-op to Co-op Trade Program as well as for market links through the coffee rehabilitation program. Both programs in El Salvador are supported by NCBA CLUSA's local partner CLUSA El Salvador.

U.S. cooperative members’ role in international development highlighted at USAID’s Farmer-to-Farmer 30th anniversary event

JockRandy-F2F-VEGA-awards-web ae5baJockRandy-F2F-VEGA-awards-web ae5baNCBA CLUSA Farmer-to-Farmer volunteers Jock Brandis and Randy Shackelford, center, were among VEGA awardees recognized last week for their work with smallholder farmers.This year marks the 30th anniversary of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) program. Authorized under the 1985 Farm Bill, the program recruits U.S. farmers and agribusiness professionals to provide technical assistance to farmers in developing countries. Last week, USAID and Volunteers for Economic Growth Alliance (VEGA) hosted events to highlight the remarkable impact of the program and honor the volunteers who drive its success. 

Central to the discussion was the critical role that cooperatives and cooperative members have played over the years in achieving the program’s objectives of promoting sustainable economic growth, improving food security and fostering public diplomacy. Over the past 30 years, F2F volunteers have completed more than 16,000 assignments in over 110 countries and have helped more than 1.3 million farm families with capacity building, technology transfer and natural resources management. Many of those volunteers belong to cooperatives in the U.S. and have shared their expertise in cooperative development with the farmers they train during their assignments. In fact, many of the host organizations that volunteers work with are cooperatives.

During USAID’s volunteer panel discussion, panelist Brian Foster, an agronomist and agribusiness specialist from Minnesota, explained how the women’s soy cooperative in northern Ghana that he worked with has greatly increased members’ incomes by bulking their product to become more competitive on the market. By aggregating their resources through the cooperative, they’ve been able to purchase the inputs they need, like improved seed and fertilizer, at a much better price. Foster provided several examples of how cooperative development, including co-op policy development, has been a key component in many F2F assignments over the past 30 years.

“The co-op model fits all over the world," Foster said. "It’s a business model that works very well." 

Judy Moses, a sheep and goat producer and member of the Browse & Grass Growers Cooperative in Wisconsin, focused her F2F volunteer testimony on her experience as a cooperative member and, most recently, as a F2F project implementer. Since 2010, Moses has completed six volunteer assignments supporting farmer cooperatives in Mali and Guinea, and she realized through these experiences that cooperative members in the U.S. and in Africa share many of the same livestock-rearing challenges. The opportunity to learn from each other was so great that Browse and Grass Growers Cooperative recently applied for F2F funding and now manages a F2F project in Mali through a VEGA small grant award—a true example of Cooperative Principle 6 (cooperation among cooperatives) in action.

As part of the F2F 30th anniversary celebration, VEGA also hosted a panel discussion on volunteer impacts. NCBA CLUSA Senior Program Manager Jane Podolsky spoke about the unique technical assistance the F2F program offers. F2F is not a “voluntourism” program, Podolsky said, but one that focuses on careful volunteer recruitment and screening to make sure the volunteers possess the technical expertise that the host organizations request, whether it be in institutional capacity-building and cooperative development, conservation farming techniques that increase quality and quantity of crop yields, or very specific value chain interventions like aflatoxin management in peanuts to reduce contamination.

The day’s anniversary celebrations ended with VEGA presenting its F2F volunteer of the year awards. Two of NCBA CLUSA’s volunteers were among the awardees. Jock Brandis and Randy Shackelford, who traveled to Zambia in September to work with smallholder farmers on aflatoxin reduction in peanuts, were acknowledged for their tremendous impacts in technology transfer.

Funding for the F2F program recently increased by 50 percent in the reauthorization of the Farm Bill, a testament to the program’s impact. Former Congressman and President Emeritus of The Asia Foundation Douglas Bereuter, who championed the development of the F2F program, said it is the “best bang for its buck” among U.S. foreign assistance programs because of its low costs and quality volunteers. As USAID Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Bureau of Food Security Dr. Saharah Moon Chapotin added, the F2F program “puts a face to American foreign assistance.” F2F volunteers are true ambassadors of American generosity and goodwill, and as the last 30 years have demonstrated, are also ambassadors of the cooperative business model.

NCBA CLUSA has implemented F2F projects since 2010 and currently manages projects in Senegal and Zambia. For more information on F2F and to view open volunteer positions, click here.

Engage more co-op members through online voting!

vote-online-istock-web 18822vote-online-istock-web 18822Online voting dramatically increases member engagement, engages and enfranchises a younger demographic, reduces costs
 and time spent counting paper ballots and eliminates potential recounts and challenges. Not to mention, most people already use their computers to shop, bank and access information and entertainment. Voting online is a natural extension of this trend.

Today's families often have both parents working, with children involved in activities that require a large amount of parental time and commitment. Co-op members are often unable to attend the annual meeting because of family commitments or business travel—some may even be out of the country during the entire voting period. This doesn’t mean that your members aren’t committed to their co-op. It just means they require new ways of being engaged.

So, how can you, as a co-op manager, prepare for online voting? And what should you look for in an online voting service provider? Simply Voting is here to answer those questions.

Preparing for online voting

There are a couple of obstacles that may need to be addressed in order to ensure that each member has a positive online voting experience:

Bylaw changes Often bylaws were implemented before online voting existed, so it’s important to ensure that any changes required are brought up and voted on by the membership. This is a first step toward getting everyone on board.

Membership data The most cost-effective and time-efficient way to implement online voting is to have accurate information for all members. Now is a good time to set up an ongoing program to make sure you have the most up-to-date information possible. Email addresses for all members is the simplest way for both members and staff to strive toward that goal. If a complete email database is not achievable, then some members may need to be provided voting information and passwords by post-mail. Either way, make sure your membership data is current.

Informing your members

Members can be informed about online voting on your co-op website, at co-op meetings, via flyers and mail-outs, by running a mock election or by setting up a demonstration for concerned and interested members. Your online service provider should help you to engage your members according to your own particular requirements.

Once you are ready to run your first election, be sure and leave plenty of time for the online voting service you engage to brand the voting website, create the ballot, prepare and upload the list of electors, set opening and closing dates and have your staff preview the ballots so they can make any necessary changes. This should be done approximately two months ahead of the election, especially if a post-mailing is required.

What to look for in an online voting service provider

Secure Be sure the service provider ensures one voter/one vote and a secret ballot. The voting website must be encrypted and subjected to security scans and live penetration testing. Insist that your service provider send you comprehensive security information. If there’s anything you don’t understand, ask for clarification.

Reliable The voting system must be able to handle “the traffic” during peak voting periods. An availability guarantee should be included in the offering.

Auditable and transparent Members should be able to confirm that their vote has been counted and auditors must be able to certify the election results to avoid any challenges.

Easy to use Ensure that the system includes a responsive design. Mobile voters should have a smooth voting experience without the need to zoom in and out on their device to interact with the election ballot. The system should also be easy to use with a tablet and any other device that is connected to the web. Make sure the system is intuitive and that the service provider allows you to run a trial election so you can see exactly how it will look and work.

Flexible A robust voting system should allow for customizations to meet the particular requirements of your co-op. Segmented voting, weighted voting, candidates’ photos and bios on the ballot, links to YouTube videos, social media share features and various language options should be available as needed.

Third Party Certifications The online voting system should be approved and monitored by reputable third-party certification agencies for security, reliability, confidentiality, accessibility, data protection, identity verification, business practices and legal protection.

Finally, your service provider should guarantee that online voting will reduce your co-op’s election and referendum costs and ease staff workload. Make it easy on yourself and step into the 21st century!

—NCBA CLUSA Silver-Level Associate Member Simply Voting submitted this article on the benefits of online voting for both co-op members and co-op staff. Simply Voting provides a secure, cost-effective and environmentally responsible online platform for election services and handles NCBA CLUSA's online board of directors election. 

Engineer, economists say “science of cooperation” should guide Paris climate talks

coop-hands-world-web a48c8coop-hands-world-web a48c8In a recent issue of the journal Nature, a group of engineering and economics professors say the “science of cooperation” should inform the global approach to curbing carbon emissions. Click through to read Co-operative News' report on the article, published in light of this week's COP21 meetings in Paris. Also in Paris this week, academics and cooperators are saying that co-ops should have a bigger role in the climate change conversation. "Co-ops have been doing sustainability for 120 years, long before the rest of the world understood the concept," said Yuill Herbert of Sustainability Solutions Group, a worker co-op based in Canada. 

In the journal Nature, David J. C. MacKay, Peter Cramton, Axel Ockenfels and Steven Stoft say the current "pledge and review" approach to cutting carbon emissions should be replaced with a co-operative approach. Under "pledge and review," countries promise to reduce emissions by amounts that will be revised later enabling "an upward spiral of ambition over time."

“History and the science of co-operation predict that quite the opposite will happen,” MacKay and his colleagues said. “If some nations sit back and rely on others’ efforts, the incentives for anyone to act are weakened.

“A review of the first phase of the Kyoto Protocol at the 2012 UN climate meeting in Doha, for instance, resulted in Japan, Russia, Canada and New Zealand leaving the agreement, frustrating those who kept their promises. Success requires a common commitment, not a patchwork of individual ones.

“Negotiations need to be designed to realign self-interests and promote cooperation. A common commitment can assure participants that others will match their efforts and not free-ride.
“A strategy of ‘I will if you will’ stabilizes higher levels of cooperation. It is the most robust pattern of cooperation seen in laboratory and field studies of situations open to free-riding.”

MacKay and his colleagues said a global carbon price—so far excluded from international negotiations—would be the ideal basis for a common commitment. “A price is easy to agree and handle, relatively fair, less vulnerable to gaming than global cap-and-trade systems and consistent with climate policies already in place, such as fossil-fuel taxes and emissions cap-and-trade,” they said. 

“Forty years of empirical and theoretical literature on cooperation confirms that individual commitments do not deliver strong collective action. Cooperators find that defectors take advantage of them. Ambition declines when others are revealed to be free-riding.

“Enforcement is widely thought to be the missing ingredient in the Kyoto Protocol and crucial for the success of a Paris agreement… with individual commitments, there is nothing meaningful to enforce, whereas enforcement strengthens a common commitment.”

“A fresh approach is needed, one guided by the science of cooperation,” they said. “A common price commitment would harness self interest by aligning it with the common good. Nothing could be more fundamental.”

NCBA CLUSA congratulates new USAID Administrator Gayle Smith

smith-usaid-logo-web 27a68smith-usaid-logo-web 27a68NCBA CLUSA is pleased to congratulate Gayle E. Smith on her confirmation November 30 as head of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the federal agency responsible for overseeing aid and development projects around the world and a major funding partner of NCBA CLUSA.

Yesterday’s Senate vote was 79 to 7. Smith succeeds Dr. Rajiv Shah, who stepped down in February after five years on the job.

“We thank Dr. Shah for his leadership and congratulate Ms. Smith on her confirmation,” said Amy Coughenour, COO for International Development at NCBA CLUSA. “We look forward to this renewed dedication by the U.S. government to continue to provide the much needed aid and development that betters the lives of millions around the world.”

Earlier this year, NCBA CLUSA joined 100 other organizations and individuals in signing a letter delivered to the White House urging the Obama Administration to “act expeditiously” to nominate a permanent USAID administrator. Smith’s nomination came in late April, but her Senate confirmation was delayed until yesterday’s vote.

A former national security aide to President Obama responsible for global development, democracy and humanitarian aid, Smith’s career spans the Clinton Administration, USAID, the NGO community and the White House. In recent years, she was instrumental in driving such key initiatives as Power Africa, Feed the Future and the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the U.S. Department of State said in a press statement.

“She will bring to her new position a deeply-felt commitment to USAID’s mission of helping people to help themselves,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in the November 30 statement.

According to her White House biography, Smith was based in several African countries for more than 20 years as a journalist for the BBC, The Associated Press, Reuters and more covering the social, economic and political challenges facing the continent. She is also co-founder of the Enough Project, a nonprofit organization devoted to ending genocide.

NCBA CLUSA is currently implementing 10 projects funded by USAID, accounting for more than two-thirds of the organization’s development activities.

(December 1, 2015)


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