Mexico: Cooperatives and the Covid-19 Response
This post was written by USAID Private Sector Engagement and was originally published on Exposure.
When COVID-19 spread to Chiapas, Mexico, traveling to the market became unsafe for community members. Commodity prices were rising as supply dropped and transportation costs increased. Coffee producers were in danger of becoming food insecure and lacked basic medical supplies to help treat family members who became sick. A local coffee-producing cooperative called Finca Triunfo Verde saw its opportunity to serve the community in new ways.
Globally, there are more than 3 million cooperatives and credit unions, representing over 1 billion members. Finca Triunfo Verde is one of several cooperatives partnering with USAID and Equal Exchange through USAID’s Cooperative Development Program. USAID provides flexible funding through a cooperative agreement award and co-creates activities to spur local ownership and foster stronger relationships with member farmers.
The ongoing partnership between USAID, Equal Exchange, and Finca Triunfo Verde allowed them to move quickly in response to the pandemic. As a result of the collaboration, cooperative leadership incorporated risk mitigation strategies into their planning processes. This strategic planning helped Finca Triunfo Verde adjust operations to provide members with much-needed food and medical supplies to support their families and avoid food insecurity.
Finca Triunfo Verde coordinated with the Government of Mexico's "Stay at Home" campaign to support its members during the pandemic. Using funds from the fair trade premium paid by Equal Exchange through a commercial relationship with Finca Triunfo Verde, the cooperative provided each of its 500 members with a two-week supply of food and essential goods for their households, as well as a medical supply kit to anyone experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.
Based on this additional support provided during the crisis, the cooperative has gained greater trust and loyalty from its members. Often, members join cooperatives for economic benefits, but they stay members for social reasons. Activities that support members’ wellbeing don’t just provide short-term support; they help build greater cohesion between members and the cooperative. This type of support promotes collaboration and participation within the cooperative business.
With support from USAID and Equal Exchange, cooperatives like Finca Triunfo Verde are responding quickly and effectively as the pandemic continues. They are also better equipped to establish preventative measures, like contingency funds and loan programs, to prepare for future crises.
Photo Credit: Equal Exchange