Cooperation, Fair Trade, and the Development of Organic Coffee Growing in Chiapas (1980-2015)

Folch, Albert, Planas i Maresma, Jordi, 1963-
In present day Mexico, Chiapas is the state that produces the greatest amount of coffee, with both the highest number of producers and the largest cultivated area. A significant part of this production is organic coffee. Organic coffee growing emerged as an important alternative for small producers who previously devoted themselves to the production and commercialization of conventional coffee but found it increasingly difficult to make a living. The expansion of the cultivation of organic coffee was closely related to the processes of peasant mobilization that started in the 1970s when the agricultural model of the Green Revolution went into crisis. This article analyzes the expansion of organic coffee growing in Chiapas and its connection with the process of the collective organization of small coffee producers in cooperatives. In these cooperatives, an alternative model of production was established based on the peasants' traditional knowledge. We argue that the development of organic coffee growing was strongly linked to the long tradition of community life, communal management of land and natural resources, and collective action. We also underline the resilience of the peasants' traditional farming systems and their contribution to a more sustainable and environmentally respectful agriculture.
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