Café Orgánico Marcala (COMSA) was founded in December of 2001 with a vision of creating new and alternative development opportunities for small-scale coffee farmers in the region of Marcala, Honduras. The organization originally brought together 69 small-scale farmers of Lenca origin who were interested in selling their coffee collectively under the umbrella of a rural credit union.
At that time, the predominant production system in the region used conventional (chemical) practices and sold to the local coyotes, often at prices that did not even cover the farmers’ production costs. One of the primary founding objectives of COMSA was to seek out and promote new ways of thinking – both in production, moving from conventional to organic production; and in markets, moving from commercial to specialty buyers.
In the beginning the challenges were enormous, as transitioning from conventional to organic practices can cause dramatic drops in production yields. Many members became discouraged and dropped out of the organization. In response, the COMSA Board of Directors and technical team looked for new methods of intensive organics to support their transition and established a strategic alliance with the Corporación Educativa para el Desarrollo Costarricense – CEDECO. With CEDECO’s support, staff and members of COMSA learned new and innovative practices to transform their lands into integrated organic farms – promoting soil and water conservation, and the preservation of local plant and wildlife. Meanwhile, members began to see improvements in coffee yields, better family relationships and rapid growth in membership for COMSA.
With their initial successes, members became more and more open to experimentation with innovative organic practices. Since COMSA’s inception, it has developed its own approach to organic agriculture, adopting the five “Ms” of organic agriculture over time: in 2001 – use of organic Matter; 2006 – application of Micro-organisms in compost; 2010 – exploring the use of Minerals; 2012 – production of fermented live Molecules; 2013 – strengthening the grey Matter (brainpower) of their technical team, members, and strong educational program with their youth and women’s groups
Today, COMSA is 1,200 members strong, with a waiting list of producers still hoping to join the organization. Their lead farmers continue to demonstrate effective, regenerative organic practices that are both improving productivity and protecting their plants from common diseases.
Sidama Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union (SCFCU) was founded in 2001 to represent coffee producing cooperatives located throughout the Sidama Zone of southern Ethiopia both locally and in international markets. Today, SCFCU has grown to represent 51 cooperatives and more than 76,000 small-scale farmer families — making SCFCU the second largest Coffee Farmer Cooperative Union in Ethiopia.
Coffees produced by SCFCU member cooperatives are shade grown in low densities under the canopies of indigenous trees and enset (false banana), a staple food crop for Sidama families. The Sidama region stretches across the rugged mountains of Bensa to the valleys of Dale and Aleta Wendo – which provide a range of quality profiles that exemplify this wealth of production landscapes.
Sidama washed coffees show pronounced acidity, fruit flavors varying from red fruits to blueberry and sweet organic to tangy lemon aromas and flavors, medium body and a bitter cocoa finish. In Sidama regions of higher altitudes – often called “Yirgacheffe type” coffees – the coffee shows the characteristic and delicate flavors of bergamot and lemon zest.
Members of SCFCU have been growing and processing fine Sidamo type coffee for more than 30 years. Overall, Sidama Union produces some 10,000 tons of high quality Organic Arabica beans per year, of which nearly 95% is washed. SCFCU has been certified by Fair Trade Labeling Organizations International (FLO) since 2003, supporting their role as the bridge to develop producer-buyer relations and direct export OF members’ extraordinary, high quality coffee to international, gourmet markets.