Farmers sell their coffee to their cooperative, which then has enough volume to enter the export market. But that is not what all cooperatives do. Something happens when people elect their leaders, one vote per member. The process of forming a cooperative, no less operating it, is one that is amazing especially for people with so few resources. The economic benefits have an effect. The cooperation has an effect. The security of having a secure market for their coffee has an effect. The kids in school have an effect. The village changes. It becomes stronger, more self-directed and confident. Because the community is far away from the urban centers, money coming into the community is spent in the community. Local economic development increases as local money is passed around.
Cooperatives begin to solve other problems as it becomes clear that they are the best institutions in the village to do so. Problems become issues, and in resolving them cooperatives strengthen the democratic process and empower people. What was once a hopelessly impoverished community, mired in subsistence and poor health, becomes a community with hope.
Cooperatives are an expression of the fighting spirit within us that says, “survive”, and the loving spirit within us that says, “cooperate”. This deserves our support.